eCooking for Sustainable Development: Experimental Evidence from Eastern Congo

Around 2.6 billion people remain dependent on biomass fuel for cooking. This has severe environmental and health consequences. Electric cooking is a greener and healthier alternative. It has also become a feasible and cheaper one, given the recent improvements in reliable electricity access and electric cooking devices. But, while both public and private actors are seeking to untap the potential of eCooking, very little is known about barriers to its adoption, and whether it can deliver on its promises. The researchers study the uptake and impact of Electric Pressure Cookers (EPCs) in the city of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where people’s reliance on charcoal entails huge individual and social costs. To co-create the first experimental evidence on EPC uptake and livelihood impact, the researchers will team up with a private green electricity provider and randomly distribute 1,000 EPCs. They include different treatment arms to learn about factors affecting adoption, including financial and informational constraints and social learning.

For the experiment, the private green electricity partner, Virunga Energies, will randomly distribute 1,000 fully subsidised EPCs among its clients in Goma. Demonstration sessions will be hosted to show beneficiaries the different EPC functionalities and highlight individual-level benefits of EPCs (in terms of energy-efficiency, timesaving, and health). These sessions will also be attended by ambassadors (selected among the early adopters from the pilot project), who will also conduct follow-up visits. There will be two experimental treatments. Firstly, a random subgroup of beneficiaries will receive a free electricity bundle, which is hypothesised to help overcome initial uncertainty about EPC costs. Secondly, in a random half of demonstrations, to highlight the social benefits of EPCs, rangers from the local national park will provide a presentation on how switching to EPCs may help promote peace and environmental conservation.

Both for environmental and human development reasons, it is vital that cost-effective alternatives to polluting cooking fuels find their way into people’s homes. The collaboration with Virunga Energies ensures that the results of the study will directly feed into future projects they undertake, including upscaling the EPC distribution to their other clients – with a potential catchment area of 1.5 million people. Additionally, this project will provide the first experimental evidence assessing the optimal delivery mechanism to maximise the adoption and use of EPCs.



Mathieu Couttenier

Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon

Sébastien Desbureaux

Center for Environmental Economics

Nik Stoop

University of Antwerp

Marijke Verpoorten

University of Antwerp