Publication - Clean Cooking is Heading for Failure: Why the Sector Needs a Real Strategy Not Just a List of Ideas

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Clean Cooking is Heading for Failure: Why the Sector Needs a Real Strategy Not Just a List of Ideas
Next Billion
Phil Larocco
Published in
July 2021
The clean cooking sector needs help. The smoke and particles emitted by inefficient, dirty cooking fuels affect 3.83 billion people in 71 countries and kill over four million people annually — mostly women. The social and environmental cost of continued inaction reaches trillions of dollars annually. Yet even well before the pandemic, progress toward addressing this long-standing global crisis had stalled, and it was clear that business-as-usual was insignificant when compared to the scale of the problem.

The key stakeholders in the sector know all this, as do the governments, donors and financial institutions that support their work. But instead of significantly altering their approach, they’ve tried to get by on slivers of good news, soft commitments and get-togethers.

However, recent developments suggest that this may be changing. For more than a year the Clean Cooking Alliance (CCA), arguably the most influential NGO in the sector, and the global consulting firm Dalberg have been leading an effort to formulate a “Systems Strategy” for the entire clean cooking ecosystem. To that end, they have conducted interviews and gathered insights and recommendations, which they’ve summarized and presented as a set of principles, pathways and enablers. Based on this research, they’ve proposed 19 possible initiatives, with three called out as early action items (a Results-Based Finance (RBF) Accelerator, Delivery Units Network and User Insights Lab). They’ve announced that the final phase of this process will consist of co-creating and launching specific initiatives with other interested collaborators.

The CCA-Dalberg effort represents a formidable body of work — it’s recommended reading for anyone who wishes to climb the cooking sector learning curve. Unfortunately, it is not the ecosystem-wide strategy that is badly needed, and it won’t change the sector’s current trajectory which, make no mistake, is going to end in failure. The article below explores where the current strategy goes wrong and proposes a better way forward.