©Hadijah Nabbale UNDP Uganda Accelerator Lab: Ms. Shamim cooking with an installed mud stove


The saying “save the Earth, it’s the only planet with Coffee” compelled United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Uganda Accelerator Lab team, to dig deep into the challenge of deforestation and depletion of forests in Uganda.  As referenced in the previous blogs on this issue, the forest cover is alarmingly reducing and that by the year 2040, the Pearl of Africa’s forests will be no more if nothing is done.

This is according to the study by the National Forests Authority and Ministry of Water and Environment. No wonder the issues mapping  with various stakeholders revealed that, lack of affordable and effective clean cooking energy as one of the drivers exacerbating this problem  . Now, here we are, desirous to save the Earth but also want to enjoy the coffee and the local food!


Biomass energy threatens forests

Concerned by the situation, the Acc Lab team commissioned an Energy Audit to identify energy solutions that could help reduce the consumption of biomass (organic matter used as fuel) and in turn protect Uganda’s forests.

The Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) 2014 Census reports that most Ugandan households (71%) use wood as the main source of fuel for cooking. With that figure rising to 85% in rural areas and dropping to 15% in urban areas.

The 2015 National Charcoal Survey for Uganda also established that a total of 101 tree and shrub species are used to produce charcoal. The study revealed that, without dedicated forest plantations for charcoal production in Uganda, the main sources of wood used for charcoal production are privately owned forests (43%), central forest reserves (22%), and farmland trees (20%).  

It has become evident that the extensive production of charcoal and firewood continues to threaten Uganda’s forests, requiring an urgent shift to adopting improved cooking technologies and clean fuels. 

Image: 1) ceramic stove, 2) mud stove, 3) 3-stones, 4) Ugastove, 5) electric hotplate, 6) LPG.
Image: 1) briquettes, 2) charcoal, 3) firewood

Improved cooking technologies vs. Traditional cooking technologies 

© Hadijah Nabbale UNDP Uganda Accelerator Lab: Lab Technician testing the mud stove.


The Energy Audit applied the Controlled Cooking Tests (CCT) method, performed in accordance with a set of guidelines, data sheets, and evaluation procedures as established under the Controlled Cooking Test Protocol v.2.0. The CCTs were designed to determine fuel consumption and time taken to cook same quantity of food.

Specifically, the CCTs compared the improved cooking technologies that included 1) the Liquified Patroleum Gas (LPG) stoves, 2) electric stoves/hotplates, 3) improved mobile stoves (Ugastove that uses charcoal or briquettes) 4) improved installed stove (household & institutional that use wood as fuel) against the ceramic stove, and the 3-stones cooking stoves as baseline technologies. ; Each stove sample was tested three times by two cooks and thus a total of 36 tests were conducted for all the stove models. Digital tools were used throughout testing to ensure reduced contact between researchers and study participants. The results as pictured below reveal lower consumption of fuels by improved cooking technologies and reduced cooking time as compared to traditional technologies.

For detailed analysis of results, access the draft Energy Audit Report here.

Affordability of cooking technologies is a key factor 

© Hadijah Nabbale UNDP Uganda Accelerator Lab: Ms. Shamim cutting ingredients for her meal


Though it was found that improved cooking technologies available to consumers perform better than traditional cooking technologies, a big portion of the population still prefer using traditional technologies at home especially due to 1) perceived importance of traditional technologies, 2) the misconception that improved technologies cannot prepare staple foods as the traditional ones and 3) the general perception that improved technologies are very costly.

Of course, there are multiple factors that determine which cooking technology is implemented in each household.

We spoke with Ms. Shamim, a Nansana resident who cooks for an extended family of 16 people (6 adults and 10 children), who explained that transitioning from the 3-stones cooking method to mud stove technology enabled heat to be preserved and energy to be utilized more efficiently. Ms. Shamim noted that this is her family’s only option for cooking, as using an electric hotplate would result in heightened electricity bills.

We also spoke with Ms. Nassaka, a Bugoloobi resident who cooks using different technologies including LPG, an electric hotplate, and a ceramic stove. Depending on the situation, the availability of multiple technologies allows Ms. Nassaka to cook a meal quickly using electricity or to take more time to cook a traditional meal over the ceramic stove.

Findings from our Energy Audit indicate that there are multiple factors influencing people’s choice of cooking technology, including distance to the source, expected performance efficiency, affordability and compatibility with the social cultural norms. Therefore, a portfolio of experiments will offer us a good space to test more than one intervention to solve this problem. In turn, this may allow us to tackle deforestation in Uganda while also ensuring food stays on the table.

By Hadijah Nabbale Head of Solutions Mapping, Deborah Naatujuna Head of Exploration, Berna Mugema Head of Experimentation

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