Smoke hoods

Smoke hoods save lives

In communities where people lack any access to grid electricity, wood and dung (biomass) is the main source of energy. ‘Clean’ fuel to cook food, light for study and power to run tools for earning a living is almost non-existent – and burning wood creates toxic smoke, which kills.

More than 3 million people worldwide depend on fuel such as wood and coal for cooking and heating. Burning these fuels creates a dangerous cocktail of pollutants. It is the poor who rely on the lowest grades  of fuel, and each year more than 4 million people die from in haling lethal smoke from kitchen stoves and fires.

But solutions are available. By working with women battling the extreme problem of indoor air pollution in their homes, Practical Action has developed a simple smoke hood, which reduces indoor smoke levels by up to 80%.

Working with communities in the developing world, Practical Action created a special smoke hood which is simple, cost effective and efficient, and is already helping to save lives. The sheet metal smoke hood sits over the fire, drawing smoke straight out through the roof.

Writer and broadcaster Adam Hart-Davis visited Kenya to see the problem for himself, and to raise awareness of one of the biggest killers in the developing world.

A simple technology makes a difference

In the Rasuwa district of Nepal, Practical Action has been helping families eradicate indoor smoke.

Life is hard for Sonam and Nima. Sonam works in his 16 ropani (about 2 acres) of land all day and Nima works round the clock cooking and taking care of their children and cattle. Their kitchen is also their bedroom – a refuge for indoor smoke.

Nima’s kitchen is poorly ventilated and the indoor smoke caused Nima’s health to ail. Due to improper combustion, she tired easily and complained of chest pains, headaches and eye irritation.

Sonam on the other hand could not understand his wife's complaints and had not paid much attention to his wife’s deteriorating health. “I talked to my friend, Bhume Lama, about my problems who happened to be a smoke hood manufacturer promoted by Practical Action. After listening to my problems and considering the fact that our kitchen is also our bedroom he advised me to install a smoke hood,” he says.

He talked to his wife about the benefits of smoke hood and agreed to install it but the cost of installation would amount to NRs. 5,000. “I had to install it for the benefit of my family,” he says. “I paid NRs. 1,000 as a down payment and obtained NRs. 4,000 as a loan from the village revolving fund." He pays NRs. 150 per month to the revolving fund to repay his loan.

After installation of the smoke hood Nima already feels the difference. Her eyes no longer waters and she no longer has headaches or chest pains. She spends more time outdoors as the cooking time has decreased significantly due to stove improvement leading to efficiency.

Sonam recently formed a group of 20 households to share his knowledge and experiences. Practical Action provided seed money to start a village revolving fund for the sole purpose of smoke hood installation. All the members from Sonam’s group have installed smoke hoods in their homes. “People now come to me seeking information on IAP and smoke hood, I am happy to share my knowledge and experience with them,” he says.

Energy for All – Make Your Point

The scale of the problem is immense. However, there are solutions - and they need not cost the earth. Practical Action has worked with communities in Kenya, Sudan and Nepal to develop improved stoves, smoke hoods, chimneys and improved ventilation.

You can read about our work in these countries, and see how simple technology - affordable, accessible and appropriate - can make a real difference to people's lives.

Smoke and health in Kenya Smoke and health in Kenya
In the Kajiado region of Kenya, Practical Action has been working with Maasai women to develop a simple smoke hood, which has reduced smoke levels by up to 80%.
Smoke and health in Sudan Smoke and health in Sudan
In Kassala, eastern Sudan, a Practical Action project is working with households to develop solutions to indoor air pollution, including a switch to LPG.
Smoke and health in Nepal Smoke and health in Nepal
In Nepal Practical Action has been working with the community to develop improvements in home insulation and stove design to reduce fuel use.

Smoke, health and household energy

Volume 1: Participatory methods for design, installation, monitoring and assessment of smoke alleviation technologies
Volume 2: Researching pathways to scaling up sustainable and effective kitchen smoke alleviation

These publications describe a UK-Government funded research project done by Practical Action in three very different communities. The project has worked with around 30 households in each country, comprising:

  • a peri-urban district in Kenya
  • a village community in a high cold region in Nepal
  • a community of displaced persons around Kassala in Sudan.

The two books tell the story of how the project is working with communities and what it has achieved.

Read summary and download publication ...

Chimney Stoves and Smoke Hoods

Nearly half the world cooks on three-stone fires or basic stoves causing indoor air pollution. This brief looks at ways to reduce pollution.

Monitoring Indoor Air Pollution

Smoke from cooking with wood, dung and crop residues is the fourth greatest risk for death and disease in the world's poorest countries.


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