Like in many Africa cities, the commercial activity of Maputo happens outside of the modern shopping centres and road side stores. Households in their majority, regularly visit the bustling informal market places spread across the city. Maputo city hosts 40 large market areas, characterised by passing crowds, narrow passages and a network of tightly packed stalls either sheltered with corrugated iron roofs or simply in the open air. One can purchase almost anything in these markets, starting from the common vegetables, food products, traditional medicines, kitchen accessories, live animals and a growing supply of Chinese manufactured goods.
Another common sight at the Maputo market places, are cooked food kiosks, catering warm meals to the many lower income workers employed in the city. It is estimated that there are over 2000 officially registered cooked food establishments and several more unregistered. On average, each major market has around 30 such kiosks, preparing a meal for an estimated 50 customers each. Cooked food vendors are on the largest part female entrepreneurs, whom dedicate themselves to this work for 10 hours per day, 6 days per week all year around. With the lack of space in the markets, cooking generally occurs indoors within badly ventilated locations.
From a sample of 430 cooked food vendors within 32 markets across Maputo city, it was estimated that 96% of them use charcoal as their primary cooking energy source. The results show that on average, the vendors use 10.5 kg of charcoal per day, which makes them per capita the largest consumers of this biomass fuel. The data further reveals that the charcoal stoves are kept alight for an average of 8 hours per day as a means to continuously cook food as well as keep the food warm. These long cooking hours coupled with inadequate ventilation are a serious health threat to the vendors.
The data shows that 85% of the cooked food vendors prepare the food in closed spaces; 49% suffer from chronic eyesight irritation; 49% report having persistent headaches; and 35% suffer from respiratory illnesses. These are all symptoms associated with indoor air pollution
► More information about Indoor Air Pollution (IAP)
Improving the Working Conditions of Cooked Food Vendors Across the City
As a means to improve the working conditions of the cooked food vendors, SNV in partnership with the Municipal Council of Maputo and Cleanstar Mozambique have joined forces to provide a solution – Ethanol cookstoves and cooking fuel – Cleanstar has pioneered the sale of ethanol as a modern, affordable and clean cooking solution within the household markets in Maputo and Matola cities. The technology comes as a welcomed relief to many whom in the past have had to depend on charcoal. The project is the first commercial-scale introduction of ethanol for cooking in Africa. As such it was decided to explore the institutional use of this technology. 18 cooked food vendors within three markets of Maputo were selected to participate in a pilot project. The vendors, whom in the past cooked all their meals with charcoal, replaced this fuel with ethanol for the duration of four weeks. The results were very promising, and scale up is on its way.
The user experience shows that the vendors are able to prepare all their usual dishes using the current ethanol stove model. Typically, they cook a variety of curries; meat stews; fried foods and soups. These are nearly always accompanied by a side dish of either rice, maize porridge, pasta or fried potatoes.
The vendors perceived the ethanol stoves as being safe, clean, smoke free, fast to light, fast to cook, and convenient to use. The participants consumed on average 2.3 litres of ethanol per day. Each litre of ethanol displaces 4 kg’s of charcoal – leading to immense carbon savings and clean indoor air.
Cooking time for main dishes is also reduced by over 30% when using ethanol compared to charcoal. Furthermore, participants no longer need to keep charcoal alight all day as a means to keep food warm. They now quickly reheat food with ethanol when customers arrive. It is estimated that just this practice saves on average 2.5 kg of charcoal per day or US$ 1.5 dollars.
Meet the Ladies
Dona (madam) Filomena
runs her little establishment in the Museau market for 10 years now.
She has two workers which help her cook and serve the food to around 25 clients per day. Dona Filomena has always used charcoal to prepare her food. She cooks indoors and frequently complains of the smoke created by her stoves. Normally, three charcoal stoves cook the food simultaneously. One stove is to prepare the stew, the other is to prepare the rice while the third stove is to keep food warm.
What do you like about your charcoal stove?
And what don’t you like about your charcoal stove?
“Using charcoal to cook makes a lot of smoke and dirt in the room”
What would you like to improve on your current stove?
“I would like a stove which does not make smoke”
During the pilot project, Dona Filomena shifted all her cooking to ethanol. She uses on average 2 litres of fuel per day, and a total of 12 litres per week. On average she uses her stove 10 times per day. This includes the times when she reheats the meal for incoming clients.
“It is fast to light and fast to cook the food.”
“I have nothing bad to say as for me this is an effective and efficient stove”
“It would be ideal to also be able to cook with the bigger pots”
Dona Aida is a worker at the kiosk in Malhazine market. She has been working there for 2 years. Aida cooks indoors with charcoal in a space with little ventilation. She constantly complains of headaches and eye irritation. Aida is able to prepare warm food for 20 clients within an average day. She works 13 hours a day and 7 days a week. The kiosk needs 11 kg’s of charcoal per day to prepare food for sale.
“I use this stove due to habit. There is no other option at the moment”
“The stove emits a lot of heat when in use. It causes smoke and dirt inside the cooking area”
“I would like to cook with a faster stove which emits less heat”
Since dona Aida has received her ethanol stove, she has replaced the use of charcoal for most of her meals. She only uses charcoal to grill meat as well as to cook rice in her larger pots. Dona Aida would prefer if the ethanol stove was a little bigger as to support larger pots.
“The stove is fast and easy to use. When clients come, I can quickly light the stove and reheat food. There is no smoke and does not dirty the pots.”
“I like everything. There is nothing which I don’t like.”
“Perhaps for it to be larger to hold some of my big pots. The flame should spread more under the larger pots.”
is the owner of a kiosk in Xipamanini market. She has been preparing warm meals there for over 12 years. Dona Fatima caters for around 30 people on a daily basis. She works 10 hours a day, Monday to Saturday.
Before the introduction of the ethanol stove, dona Fatima was satisfied with her charcoal stove. She had become accustomed to it and believed that food tastes better cooked with charcoal. She however admits that cooking with charcoal increase the room temperature to an uncomfortable level.
“I like this stove because it’s become a habit to use. The food has a better taste and cooks quickly. I can also use my big pots on this stove. ”
“Cooking with charcoal indoors creates a lot of heat. This I think gives me health problems such as high pressure.”
With the introduction of the ethanol stove, dona Fatima immediately noticed the benefits. She now cooks most of her meals with ethanol with the exception of rice and maize porridge. For this she continues to use charcoal due to the larger pot sizes the food is cooked in.
“It is simple to use and efficient. The stove is also clean. However I most like that the stove does not heat up the room too much.”
“It cooks some foods more slowly compared to charcoal. It’s best to use for curries and stews”
“To increase the height of the stove.”
All the other participants were also satisfied with this new cooking solution. The true testament to their approval was their willingness to buy the stoves from the project at market price. The ladies continue to cook with ethanol, and are currently influencing other cooked food vendors to purchase the stoves. Through 2013, SNV and Clean Star will expand the current testing outreach, covering other municipal markets in an attempt to test BOP marketing models and consolidate a Proof of Concept that could leverage a wider intervention in Mozambique.
The alternatives to charcoal for cooking market in Maputo municipal markets is estimated in US$ 3.2 million dollar market. Through this initiative we expect to provide food vendors access to a more clean fuel alternative that will have direct benefits to the health of thousands of woman and children, as it will contribute substantially to the reduction of deforestation, avoiding over 239 tons of wood to be harvested for charcoal production.
To get further information about this initiative please contact the authors: