What Have We Learned about Household Biomass Cooking in Central America?
Twenty million people (about half of Central America´s population) cook primarily with biomass using open fires or rudimentary stoves. Approximately 86 percent of the biomass users are concentrated in Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, including both urban and rural areas. However, less than 10 percent of the biomass users use improved cooking devices. Burning biomass in inefficient cookstoves is associated with adverse impacts on health, primarily among women and children, and with environment and climate change impacts. In Central America 37,000 premature deaths per year are estimated to be associated with household air pollution from smoke due to wood burning. Household air pollution is linked to pneumonia in children, and low birth weight, impaired cognitive ability, and chronic lung disease in women. It is one of the top 5 risk factors contributing to mortality and morbidity in three of the Central American countries (Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua).
This study finds that the use of biomass for cooking in the region will likely continue to be significant for a long time due to population growth, high incidence of poverty, high prices for household gas (LPG) coupled with unsustainable LPG subsidies, as well as relatively easy access to fuelwood in the region.