Household Energy, Coping Strategies and Health Effects in the Bongo District of Ghana

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Currently millions of people around the globe rely on wood as a source of fuel for cooking. Although this situation not only pertains to impoverished rural communities, it is within these communities and in developing countries like Ghana that this is occurring the most. The burning of wood in open fires is causing a number of health problems but is also deteriorating for the rural household economy as well as for the local and global environment. Women and children are the main groups exposed to the indoor smoke produced while cooking. Illnesses as a result of this exposure take millions of lives every year. This thesis looks into the relationship between rural household energy consumption patterns, coping strategies and health effects for domestic cooking in the Bongo district in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Several methods including household survey; focus group discussion and key informant interviews were employed to collect data at household and individual levels. The methods involved queries on several aspects of household energy consumption. The survey of household energy consumption pattern was carried out in fifteen communities comprising of 625 households between January-April 2006. The households surveyed covered heterogeneous population belonging to different income, educational and social groups. Daily average concentrations of respirable particulates and carbon monoxide from woodsmoke in 45 rural homes selected through stratified random sampling from the Bongo district in Ghana was also quantified using UCB Particle Monitors. CO was measured with Onset HOBO Loggers. Graphical, cross-tabulation and multinomial logistic regression methods are applied to data drawn from Household Survey. The results indicated that there was more availability and utilization of solid biomass fuels as energy resources in domestic sector as compared to the commercial fuels. Crop residues, firewood and Charcoal were found to be the three main fuels used for cooking, though LPG was also used along with biomass fuels. But complete conversion to cleaner fuels has not taken place yet even in households that has been using LPG for many years. Income was an important factor determining the choice of fuel for cooking, but there were some socio-cultural factors which were equally important in making fuel preferences at household level. The use of biomass fuels; from it collection to combustion also has impacts on the health of the user. Result from the woodsmoke monitoring shows that the values of respirable particles (PM2.5) ranged from 0.05–6 _g.39mg/m3 and 2.90- 45.60ppm for CO. Both PM2.5 and CO concentrations were well above both the World Health Organisation 24-hour Guideline and Interim Targets. Observed health effects from the collection and use of biofuels included eye discomfort, headache, backache, coughing, skin irritation, stiff necks and chest pains. Extrapolation of diseases with PM concentration showed that households were in a higher risk of being infected with respiratory diseases from the use of biomass fuels. This observation confirms with the self-reported symptoms associated with biomass fuel use where respiratory diseases dominated (cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, eye irritation). Considering that traditional biomass will likely continue to be the most popular cooking fuel in rural areas of the district in the near future, and that households can achieve considerable welfare gains from improvement in stoves and kitchen ventilation, the analysis suggests that the government should consider reviving the improved stove program with a new advanced stove strategy coupled with conducting advocacy campaigns on how to improve kitchen ventilation.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Planning Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY , May.