Bioenergy use and food preparation practices of two communities in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa
A study was undertaken in two communities that use firewood in the Keiskammahoek area of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa to understand their behaviour with regard to energy use during food preparation as well as the extent of practising efficient cooking habits. The results showed that despite the high level of electrification, firewood was used in most households (B 60%) for cooking while electricity was mostly used (B 90%) for lighting. Firewood is also preferred for cooking food that takes a long time to prepare, while more convenient sources of energy such as electricity is used for short periods of cooking and re-heating of food. Secondary sources of energy used for cooking included paraffin, dung, leaves and twigs. The study found that there was some deliberate use of energy saving techniques in both communities, although limited and not necessarily practiced with a view to saving energy. Less than half of the respondents soaked hard grains and beans before cooking; while all of them cut food into smaller pieces before cooking commenced. A third of respondents had utensils ready before cooking commenced in one village while two thirds placed utensils and food together before they commenced food preparations in the other village. Pots were covered with lids and water was added in small amounts as required. The heat from fire was not monitored, but fires were extinguished after use. The greatest potential for improvement exists around cooking appliances; where all households were found to be using threelegged pots on open fires when cooking with biomass energy. Open fires are highly inefficient and the use of efficient biomass cook stoves would increase efficiency. It is recommended that in order to reduce the use of biomass-derived energy consumption and expenditure in low-income households, the use of multiple energy sources and portable energy efficient firewood stoves should be promoted. In addition, there should be an aggressive dissemination of information on further processing of fuelwood into forms that can easily be stored and used; and various forms of pre-treatment of hard foods.