How cook stoves help to fight deforestation and improve farmer livelihoods


How cook stoves help to fight deforestation and improve farmer livelihoods

Ghana: a cook stove might not seem the obvious tool for change to address health and deforestation issues. But ‘clean cooking’ is an important piece of the puzzle to protect forests, reduce harmful smoke emissions and improve women’s empowerment.
Constance Sarfoa, cocoa farmer
Constance Sarfoa, cocoa farmer and provisions store owner

Gyadam, which translates as “set on fire” or “lit” is the perfect place for a cooking stove story.

Gyadam is a little cocoa farming community in the belly of the Ashante Region of Ghana, a place plagued with illegal gold mines, deforestation and mass migration of young people to the capital Kumasi and Accra in search of greener pastures. But not everybody’s story is so bleak.

Constance Sarfoa is a contented woman.  At 48, her 28 year old son has acquired his Masters degree. Her second son is a student in the University of Cape Coast and the two younger daughters are also doing well in school. “Your children are very intelligent. Where do you think they got it from? You or your husband?” She smiled at the question, took one glance at her husband and said: “My husband”, and whispered under her breath with a big smile: “I don’t want trouble”. He played deaf at her little jab.

Constance and her husband, the man known by everyone as “Doctor” are cocoa farmers. He is not a doctor. He is the purchasing clerk for Nyonkopa and she has a provision store by the main road. She sells razor blades, biscuits, machetes, exercise books, slippers and pretty much anything one needs to survive in a little village.

I got my cooking stove sometime last year. I can tell you that it is so much better than cooking with charcoal or gas. The difference is night and day.

Barry Callebaut cook stove project
In 2019, Barry Callebaut commenced a program to subsidize cook stoves to communities in Ghana

“This stove has been very helpful. Since I opened the provision store, I don’t go to the farm as much as I used to, which means I don’t get to collect my own firewood so I have to buy. “

Domestic cooking - deforestation

Now, because of this stove, when I buy 5 cedis (US$1) worth of firewood I will use it to cook what I needed 20 cedis to cook. This has helped me save money.

Constance speaks so passionately about her new stove, you’d think she’s being paid to advertise it. As if to quell any such suspicion, she cooks some plantain for lunch. In fifteen minutes, it was all cooked.

“When you put food on the stove it cooks very quickly. It uses little firewood and hardly smokes.”

If more people start using these stoves, she believes firewood sellers will be compelled to cut less trees in the forest.

Did you see the skinny piece of firewood I just used to cook?

She asks excitedly and then continues before anyone gets to answer: “If I had cooked this same meal on a traditional stove, I would have had to use about ten pieces of firewood; and the smoke is horrible. It burns your eyes, your nose starts running and the food cooks slowly and you use a lot of firewood. We just cooked this meal in 15 minutes. That’s not possible with the old stove.“

Cook stove - Barry Callebaut
The new cook stoves requires less wood, creates less smoke and cooks food more quickly

Those who complain about the stove smoking don’t know how to light it. Because the stove is beautiful, some people buy it but only use it to decorate their home.

“My husband actually cooks more than I do. I spend a lot of time at the store and so he does the cooking since he works from home. If you look in my kitchen you will see a gas cylinder and stove. I have never lit it since it ran out last year. To fill the gas cylinder, you need about 100 cedis ($20) and it finishes quickly. To refill, my husband has to travel with the cylinder to another town. He has to pay for transportation to and from the gas station, and then it runs out quickly.”

“5 cedis worth of firewood now lasts me 2 weeks and a sack of charcoal sells for 25 cedis. I used to use a bag of charcoal every two weeks so this stove is even better than cooking with charcoal.”

Forever Chocolate

By 2025, Barry Callebaut has committed to be carbon and forest positive.  


Becoming forest positive

In order to become forest positive, we have to start by eliminating deforestation from our supply chain. In 2017, we signed the Cocoa and Forests Initiative (CFI), a multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to ending cocoa farming induced deforestation in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. It includes a commitment to deliver traceability in our direct cocoa supply chains in these two countries. In line with this commitment, we have already mapped 47,182 cocoa farms in our direct supply chain within 25 kilometers of a protected forest area in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.


Carbon reduction 

In 2019, due to our combined carbon reduction efforts, our corporate CO2 equivalent (CO2e) footprint decreased from 9.10 million tonnes to 8.49 million tonnes in fiscal year 2018/19. This represents a reduction of –6.7%, despite an increase in production. The main drivers of this achievement are the reduced CO2e emissions from land use change, reduced CO2e intensity in factories and the reduced COintensity in dairy products.

The CO2 intensity per tonne of product also decreased from 4.45 to 3.92, and with the additional contributions from scope 3 insetting projects, was further reduced to 3.88. This is a decrease of -12.8% compared to the previous fiscal year. The percentage of sourced raw materials demonstrated not to be contributing to deforestation is 37.6%. Looking ahead, we will continue to utilize our heat map to identify where the sourcing of agricultural raw materials poses a high risk of causing deforestation. This valuable data will help us to work with suppliers to improve traceability and support our partnerships.

Taryn Ridley

Taryn Ridley

Working as Lead, ESG Integration and Communications in the Corporate Communications team of Barry Callebaut. Native Australian, but loves living in the land of the Toblerone. Passionate about a range of sports, nature and travelling.

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