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Projects: Projects for Investigator
Reference Number ES/P002617/1
Title Biomass Fuel at the Nexus: Policy Lessons from Bottom-Up Perspectives in Urban Ghana
Status Completed
Energy Categories Renewable Energy Sources(Bio-Energy, Applications for heat and electricity) 50%;
Other Cross-Cutting Technologies or Research(Environmental, social and economic impacts) 50%;
Research Types Basic and strategic applied research 100%
Science and Technology Fields SOCIAL SCIENCES (Sociology) 50%;
SOCIAL SCIENCES (Development Studies) 25%;
AREA STUDIES (Middle Eastern and African Studies) 25%;
UKERC Cross Cutting Characterisation Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Consumer attitudes and behaviour) 30%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Environmental dimensions) 30%;
Sociological economical and environmental impact of energy (Policy and regulation) 40%;
Principal Investigator Dr S Raman
No email address given
Sociology and Social Policy
University of Nottingham
Award Type Standard
Funding Source ESRC
Start Date 01 October 2016
End Date 30 September 2017
Duration 12 months
Total Grant Value £55,753
Industrial Sectors
Region East Midlands
Programme Global Challenges Research Fund
Investigators Principal Investigator Dr S Raman , Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham (99.999%)
  Other Investigator Dr MJ (Mike ) Clifford , Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering, University of Nottingham (0.001%)
Web Site
Abstract 80 percent of sub-Saharan households are estimated to rely on solid biomass as fuel for cooking. Worldwide, biomass fuel use is disproportionately rural. But in sub-Saharan Africa, the International Energy Agency estimates that 60 percent of urban dwellers use wood or wood-based products (charcoal). Biomass fuel use is linked to premature death from pollution, environmental problems of deforestation and emissions linked to climate change. Hence, the Sustainable Development Goal 7 promises to "ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all" by 2030.Policy initiatives have tended to take a siloed approach to this problem, targeting 'clean energy' from specific artefacts (improved cookstoves, biogas digesters) or cleaner fuels. In 2010, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves set a target for take-up of cleaner stoves and fuels in a "100 million households by 2020". Yet, improved stove designs have been promoted since the late 1940s with limited success. Where biomass fuel has been considered within a wider nexus, a top-down approach has led to misleading assumptions. In the 1970s, fuelwood gathering was equated with deforestation; no consideration was given to whether rural dwellers managed the process in harmonious ways as social scientists discovered in some cases. Studies of local attitudes to policy-defined problems are now common, but results of structured questionnaires are open to question with poorer householders likely to feel constrained to answer in ways 'expected' of them. Qualitative researchers have highlighted unexpected findings from a more open-ended approach focusing on the tensions and harmonies constituting the daily hum of life in households.Three factors point to the value of a bottom-up nexus approach to biomass fuel policies. First, designers associate the stove with cooking food and aim to optimise the use of wood or charcoal. Yet, in practice, lighting, heating, water purification, food preparation, and food waste management are all potentially relevant. Rather than focus on 'clean energy' or even food, understanding how households manage the nexus between food, fuel and waste is important. Second, this nexus must be placed in the context of other household realities. Our previous work shows that the ability to adopt cleaner fuels/stoves is shaped by competing priorities, aspirations and constraints that cut across livelihoods, income and social structures (notably, gender). Third, policies targeting fuels (as opposed to stoves or digesters) would also benefit from a bottom-up perspective on the nexus between how fuel production and management, and the environment. For example, some charcoal producers contest that wood-clearing necessarily leads to deforestation.We will address these challenges by co-creating and disseminating a policy-relevant nexus-based understanding through a partnership between the University of Nottingham team leading the projectand academics and stakeholders in West Africa. The research will focus on urban Ghana where there is a resurgence of policy interest in cleaner stoves and fuels. Our partners include the University of Ibadan, Ho Polytechnic, the Ghana Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GHACCO) and Gyapa, a social enterprise working across the sustainable energy supply chain. We will explore a.) how householders view clean energy in relation to other aspects of resource management, and what their choices reveal about their priorities and aspirations; b.) how charcoal producers and retailers manage priorities of forest conservation, fuel-users and others along the supply chain; and c.) how insights from this analysis might be used to refine national- and global-level policies targeting cleaner stoves and fuels.
Publications (none)
Final Report (none)
Added to Database 05/12/17