Declining Wood Fuel and Implications for Household Cooking and Diets in Tigania Sub-county Kenya.
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Research on rural energy has in the past focussed on access and environmental effects. Little is however documented on the relationship between declining availability of wood fuel, household cooking and eating patterns, which ultimately impact people's nutritional status. A 2016-2017 cross-sectional survey in Tigania, Meru County in Kenya, targeting 239 respondents, showed that about 81% of the households respond to energy shortages by cooking composite meals instead of single meals, effectively reducing the number of cooking sessions per day. Further, cooking food that takes less time is preferred. Such foods, however, often have low nutritional value. Rich traditional foods that take longer to cook are soaked as an attempt to reduce their energy demand. While cooking composite meals and skipping meals saves energy and time, there are negative health impacts that can, however, be lessened by ensuring that one or two meals per day are balanced diets. Although firewood is the most important and popular energy source, it is becoming scarce. Integrated measures that guarantee a supply of wood fuel at the farm level while at the same building household capacities on energy use efficiency and balanced dieting demand national policy interventions. Ultimately, lasting solutions to declining wood fuel may lie in the adoption of energy-efficient cooking stoves and value addition on available energy options. Expanding income generation options at household levels will also make access to clean energy more possible and ultimately reduce the indignity of poor feeding habits caused by energy shortages within poor rural communities. Future research needs to also focus on increasing the shelf-life of cooked food types where households are too poor to afford refrigeration.