Life Hacks

Alternative Cooking Fuel Sources

Cooking fuel is just as important as the food itself; without it the peoples of the world would not be able to prepare their food, leading to the same problems that arise from food insecurity; hunger and starvation.

In developed countries some have no idea how to cook during a power outage, and yet they have it easy. It is the poorest people in the world who have to worry about fuel with which to cook their food. They often have to travel great distances, and face great dangers just to get wood for cooking.

But it does not have to be like that – there are alternative fuels which are often overlooked.

Popular Cooking Fuels

Before discussing alternative cooking fuels, it is important to elaborate the mainstream cooking fuels that are most popular around the world, and then talk about why it is necessary to find alternative sources of cooking fuel. Some of the popular ones are:

Firewood

Coal

Charcoal

Kerosene

Biogas

Natural Gas

Electricity

Electricity can be obtained from a variety of sources such as Hydroelectric Plants, Nuclear Reactors, Solar and Wind Power. Most people have no idea where the electricity they use in their homes is sourced from, as a result, electricity is electricity and this article will stop there.

Sometimes, cooking fuel can be too expensive for the world’s poorest; and other times cooking fuels can become scarce, or simply unavailable. This is can arise from several reasons; politics, economics of demand and supply, deforestation, and some of the mines and oil wells can run dry.

When any of the above happens, people, especially those resident in poorest countries are forced to seek alternative sources of fuel with which to cook for their families. The following cooking fuels can be used in place of the more traditional kinds, and they may even be abundant in certain areas, where they may just be wasting away.

What Are Alternative Cooking Fuels? 

Saw Dust

Saw Dust can be a great source of fuel; it burns slowly, and is inexpensive. Saw Dust has minimal impact on the environment because it is a by product of the timber/furniture industry. Saw Dust can be obtained from timber processing plants, furniture shops, and logging yards.

Saw Dust is abundant in the above mentioned places; it can even be obtained for free because the operators of said plants may be looking for ways to dispose of it.

Saw Dust became popular as a cooking fuel in Nigeria during the late 90’s when despite vast oil resources, the country was plagued by a terrible shortage of petroleum products. Saw Dust stoves were then called ‘Abacha Stoves’. Since then, the use of saw dust has become somewhat popular in West Africa; although it is somewhat a third choice fuel.

Cattle or Horse Dung

Cattle and Horse Dung can be very good cooking fuels; it is just as carbon based as firewood or coal because as herbivores cattle and horses consume grass. While grass burns quickly, Dung burns slowly because it has passed through the digestive systems of these animals. Think of it like compressed grass.

Cattle or Horse Dung has to be properly dried before it can be used as a fuel; the absence of moisture allows it to burn slowly, and with the absence of moisture it becomes surprisingly smell-free.

Dung is used as a fuel in Mongolia, where it is flattened into round cakes. There is no reason why it cannot be used in other places across the world. It is efficient, and poses little or no threat to the environment.

Salvaged Wood

Salvaged Wood is a great source of fuel; however, its biggest advantage comes from the fact no forests have to be cut down before it can become available. Salvaged Wood is another by product of the timber and furniture industry; it is what remains after the specified wood needed for furniture works have been cut.

Wood can be salvaged from timber yards, furniture workshops or even  construction sites; while it may be unrealistic for rural families to travel the long distances needed to get this wood; Salvaged wood can represent a business opportunity for young enterprising people- get the wood, and ship it to the rural areas where it is needed as fuel.

Recycled or Salvaged Paper          

One single piece of paper can burn in seconds, but thick blocks of this same substance can burn very slowly; thus representing a viable option for cooking food or heating homes. Of course paper takes some cost to process, and it comes from trees. If people wanted fuel they would have just burned the wood rather than go through the considerable expense involved in turning it into paper.

However, after the original use of the paper (writing, printing, packaging and so on) has been achieved, the waste can be a great source of fuel which can be used in combination of other fuels, or entirely alone.

Again this may represent another business opportunity; rather than the rural people travelling great distances to find these fuels at the factories, and packing stores, enterprising businessmen can fetch it, and then transport it to the people for sale as cheap, alternative fuel.

Palm Oil Fruit Residue

Palm Oil Fruit Residue is what remains after palm oil has been processed (squeezed) from the fruit. It is usually compressed into round fibrous cakes, and is quite combustible after being dried in the sun. This material has been used as cooking fuel for centuries, although it is mostly used as a catalyst, in combination with wood.

It is mostly used by the coastal peoples of West Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. Unfortunately, many people in the arid parts of the sub region have still not come to know of the potential of this material as a cooking fuel.

Solar Cooking Stoves

There are various solar cooking stoves in the market; they may operate on different principles, but have the common goal of harnessing the energy produced by the sun.

Some use solar panels which convert the energy to electricity, while others use the direct heat of the sun which is magnified with lenses and reflection, and then focused on the cooking pot- usually located below.

These stoves can help people cut down on the money they spend on energy for cooking, although they require lots of sunlight, and they may not be efficient at night.

Coconut Husk

Coconut Husk or Coir is primary used as a textile material, or in the furniture industry. However, it can also be an excellent cooking fuel. The problem is that most of this material is allowed to go to waste after the oil and meat have been extracted from the coconut, therefore allowing great potential to go unrealized.

Coconut Husks can be acquired cheaply from large farms and processing plants, and transported to rural areas for use as cooking fuel.

Cooking fuel alternatives are not the only problems facing Africa and the world in general. Africa seriously needs development in technology as the link below will show.

Further Reading:

Closing

Cooking fuel shortages remain a concern mostly for poor peoples of Africa and Asia. However, these poor have their woes compounded by the lack of exposure and enlightenment. Many are only familiar with a single kind of cooking fuel, and have no knowledge that other sources of fuel exist. When theses traditional fuel sources run short they are then faced with untold hardships; having to travel long distances to find them.

Governments and NGOs can help them by going to the rural areas and demonstrating to the people how alternative fuel sources (which are sometimes right under the peoples’ noses) can be harnessed.

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