The Dunga Beach pilot programme – supporting environmental and respiratory health in Kenya
Bringing clean fuel to the community to impact the negative effects of burning solid fuels for cooking
Launched in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), AstraZeneca’s Dunga Beach project saw the introduction of biogas technology to the Dunga Beach region in Kisumu county, enabling the local community to process waste into clean energy. The aim was to improve respiratory health in the community by reducing exposure to smoke from cooking over wood-burning fires, as well as reducing the time spent by villagers, particularly women and children collecting firewood for cooking, allowing for other activities such as schooling or income generation. The project provides households with domestic bio-digestors that provide enough energy to meet the needs of a typical home for a day. The CISL report of the pilot stage of the project showed multiple health, environmental and social benefits from the switch to biogas.
Indoor pollution: A major environmental and health challenge
- Indoor air pollution prematurely kills 4.3 million people annually1 whilst firewood collection and burning deprives families of valuable productive time and locks them into an unhealthy, polluting cycle of poverty and vulnerability.
- Over 14,000 people are reported to die in Kenya every year due to health conditions traceable to indoor pollution.2 Considering that chronic respiratory diseases are an area of core specialty for AstraZeneca, we felt compelled to help address this challenge.
- In sub-Saharan Africa around 63 per cent of households are in rural areas3, where the large majority rely on burning solid fuels. The use of kerosene as a lighting fuel, often burned on a naked wick, is a major driver of respiratory ill-health.
- Virtually every low-income rural farm and home relies on wood fuel for cooking, bathing water, house warming and other heating purposes.
- The traditional fireplace emits toxic smoke, especially during rainy seasons when wood is damp, with women and children left most exposed through their domestic roles.
- The cost of firewood has increased across Kenya recently due to government restrictions on felling trees for charcoal, which is putting increased financial strain on the local community.
An opportunity identified through AstraZeneca’s well-established Healthy Heart Africa programme, this pilot will study the impact on the environment and local economy, and provide potential insight into the effect of clean cooking on respiratory health.
The innovative project uses local technology supplied by Kenyan firm, Biogas International Ltd. The process involves feeding waste materials, together with water hyacinth – a local invasive weed known to clog the lake at Dunga Beach – into digesters that can then produce gas that is cleaner and safer than current alternatives. The biogas itself can be used for a variety of purposes from fueling cooking equipment to incubating chicks and purifying water.
Drawing on the experience gained through Healthy Heart Africa, we will be working with respiratory healthcare professionals to put in place training and disease awareness education. As a result, the local community will have access to respiratory health screening, advice and the opportunity to be referred for formal diagnosis.
1. WHO: Indoor air pollution. Available at: https://www.who.int/features/qa/indoor-air-pollution/en/. Last Accessed October 2018.
2. Daily Nation. 14,000 die annually in Kenya due to air pollution: report. Available at: https://www.nation.co.ke/news/-air-pollution-kenya/1056-3217116-jbb1psz/index.html Last Accessed October 2018. Last Accessed October 2018.
3. Global Glowing. Available at: http://global-growing.org/en/content/fact-1-majority-sub-saharan-africans-live-rural-areas-europeans-predominantly-cities. Last Accessed October 2018.