Many thanks to Kip Patrick for sharing this
Hi Dan, forwarding this along in case it’s of interest…quite a few folks have been asking us about it
An opinion piece from freelance writer Marc Gunther in the Washington Post yesterday. While some of the challenges faced by the sector were correct, we believe that the piece failed to address and acknowledge the opportunity that the Alliance and the broader sector has to help families move away from cooking on open fires and transition to cleaner, healthier, and more efficient cookstoves and fuels.
In response, we have developed talking points (see below), submitted a letter to Post editors from Chef Jose Andres, posted a statement from Radha on our site, and are engaging in targeted pitching to correct the story and get our important message across. In addition, many friends of our market-based approach have written in to the Post to voice their support for the Alliance and our measured and impact-based approach to the issue overall which has been gratifying. We would encourage you and/or your supporters to do the same.
Feel free to share these messages with colleagues as you deem appropriate, and let us know if you have additional questions.
Statement from CEO of the Global Alliance Clean for Cookstoves Radha Muthiah in response to Washington Post Opinion Piece
Following Marc Gunther’s opinion piece in the Washington Post, Radha Muthiah, CEO of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves issued the following statement.
“Marc Gunther’s recent opinion piece missed the mark on the clean cookstoves story. As he acknowledges, changing the way nearly half the world cooks is not easy, and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves has accomplished a great deal since it was founded just five years ago. Given the complexity of the issue, we never promised nor expected sustainable results in just a few years. Yet his assumption that efforts to scale-up adoption of more efficient biomass stoves will not result in any benefits is wrong.
“While health outcomes are very important, our focus has never just been on health. Our mission statement addresses four areas, including improving health as well as providing climate and environment, gender, and livelihood benefits. While not all cookstoves save lives, efficient stoves can save millions of trees, prevent women and children from spending up to five hours every day collecting wood, and reduce massive amounts of the short-lived climate pollutants emitted by traditional stoves.
“The Alliance was created to transform a sector that had been struggling to meet the needs of users after three decades of well-intentioned work. In the five years since its launch, the Alliance has grown from 19 to more than 1300 partners, including clean fuels enterprises scaling up electric, gas, and solar cooking. The Alliance’s market-based approach has already strengthened the capacity of enterprises along the value chain, enabled 20 countries to participate in a global ISO standards process, enhanced awareness of clean solutions among consumers at the base of the pyramid, and supported research to demonstrate the benefits of cleaner and more efficient cookstoves and fuels. It is precisely because of this comprehensive approach that we have an ability to clearly distinguish between different stove and fuel combinations, and the benefits that each can provide.
“The Alliance and its partners have a deliberate and strategic plan for the sector. Our plan blends a long-term focus on clean cookstoves and fuels with the understanding that millions of people need cleaner and more efficient stoves at a price they can afford today as they transition to better cooking solutions.
“Let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. It is critical to provide better solutions to everyone today, while working to ensure that everyone has access to the best solutions in the future.”
Jose Andres’ letter to the editor
While I agree with Gunther's recent opinion piece [These cheap, clean stoves were supposed to save millions of lives. What happened?] that getting cleaner, more efficient cookstoves to 28 million households is an incredible accomplishment by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, I disagree with his premise that efficient biomass stoves don’t make a difference in people’s lives.
Yes, it’d be ideal to have every cookstove in the world running on electricity or gas, that’s not always possible. My organization, World Central Kitchen, has been working in the village of Palmiste Tempe, Haiti to improve livelihoods and introduce healthier ways of cooking for the last several years. It takes four hours to reach this community via steep, very remote roads. Since there is no way to get electricity or gas to this village in the near future, we are providing more efficient stoves that are burning less charcoal and wood. Women have told me directly that they are happier and healthier today because of these new stoves. And I hear these stories not only in Haiti, but in my travels around the world.
As an entrepreneur, I know success doesn’t come without many trials. Whether it’s technology, restaurants or development, the road to “best” travels through the path of “better”. While organizations like the Alliance and its partners make real, life-changing progress toward eliminating this devastating issue that impacts nearly 3 billion people, there is no reason to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Washington Post Opinion piece
*As of November 2
· About the Article: Marc Gunther’s recent Washington Post opinion piece missed the mark on the clean cookstoves story. (See full statement from Alliance CEO Radha Muthiah at top of this message for a more specific response to the piece).
· A fresh perspective on a deadly problem: Five years ago the global community came together with a common vision — to shine a light on and change the way millions of people in developing countries cook. While there had been decades of previous efforts to ensure the poorest among us no longer prepare their food as our ancestors did hundreds of years ago — over smoky, toxic fires — there was a growing consensus that in order to better address this silent killer, a fresh, comprehensive market-based approach was needed.
· Significant progress in a short amount of time: The Alliance and its partners have made significant strides in just five short years, as highlighted in the recent Five Years of Impact report. In the five years since its launch, the Alliance has grown from 19 to more than 1300 partners, including clean fuels enterprises scaling up electric, LPG, biogas, and solar cooking. The Alliance’s market-based approach has already strengthened the capacity of enterprises across the value chain, gathered 28 countries to participate in a global ISO standards process, enhanced awareness of clean solutions among consumers at the base of the pyramid, and supported more than 40 research studies to demonstrate the benefits of cleaner and more efficient cookstoves and fuels.
· All cookstoves are not created equal: Like any consumer product, the quality and performance of cookstoves can vary greatly. To provide dependable data on how stoves perform and on what benefits a stove or cooking fuel can deliver, the Alliance and its partners have created a global system of testing centers. Performance data from on 100+ different types of cookstoves is publicly available on a Clean Cookstoves Catalog. Based on this and other data, we can clearly delineate the type of impact that can be expected from each stove/fuel combination. This is critical if we want anyone and everyone from investors, donors, to users to know what types of benefits and performance each stove type will give them.
· We can’t let the perfect get in the way of the good; cookstoves deliver benefits far beyond health. We have to be realistic -- large segments of the population aren’t going to have access to the clean stoves and fuels that deliver the highest health benefits for another 10 years or more. But we can’t allow ourselves to wait for a perfect solution when high-quality affordable stoves exist that deliver significant impacts for people and the planet. Though not all of the more than 28 million cookstoves and fuels adopted in the last five years will save a life, they can prevent women and children from spending up to 5 hours every day collecting wood; they can prevent grave environmental impacts such as deforestation by saving millions of trees; and they can significantly reduce the massive amounts of short-lived climate pollutants emitted by traditional stoves and fires.
· A dual focus on stoves AND fuels is required: To solve this massive problem will require a focus not only on adoption of clean and efficient cookstoves but also on increasing access to the clean fuels, such as ethanol, LPG, and biogas, these cookstoves burn. While the Alliance’s focus has not been exclusively on health we have had an increasing focus on clean fuels precisely because we want to ensure as many health benefits as possible. The Alliance is supporting several ongoing studies focusing on children’s health to evaluate impacts of clean cooking fuels and their benefits. Preliminary results are promising, with complete reports expected beginning next spring.
· The Alliance is a global effort: Governments from around the world, led by Britain, the United States and Norway, provide about 65 percent of Alliance funding, with the rest coming from foundations and businesses working on six continents.
· Addressing this issue will take time: Changing the way millions of people in developing countries cook isn’t going to happen overnight. Through Phase I of the Alliance’s 10-year plan, we put a focus on the enabling factors that will effectively and sustainably develop a global market for cookstoves and fuels. We invested time and resources into research, establishing international standards to ensure quality, and identifying entrepreneurs, businesses, and technologies with promise to catalyze their development. Our goal is to ensure the best technologies are available to everyone at prices they can afford, but that will take time. Meanwhile, people need and deserve access to cookstoves and fuels that can have broad benefits for people and the planet. It would be unethical to ignore those who can get access to something better now even as we work to get the best to everyone.
· Momentum is building, but more work remains to be done: As former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan recently noted: “For too long, cooking has been a silent killer in developing countries around the world. Finally, we are seeing a growing momentum around this issue. Thanks to the Alliance and its many partners, millions more people are now using clean and efficient cookstoves and fuels. We must continue to build on this new momentum and ensure solving this global problem remains a global priority.” This issue needs more champions like Kofi Annan, Hillary Clinton, Jose Andres, Julia Roberts and others. This is an important and incredibly challenging issue, and it deserves a lot more resources. For an issue that kills more people than HIV, TB, and malaria combined, the sector does not have nearly enough resources. With more resources, we will realize the vision and ensure a world where cooking no longer kills.