Kitchen Life: Towards Clean Cooking Services in Bangladesh and Malawi’

Kitchen Life: Towards Clean Cooking Services in Bangladesh and Malawi was an interdisciplinary pilot project funded by the Scottish Funding Council’s Global Challenges Research Fund. The work was designed to explore the cultural aspects of everyday cooking practices that underpin the interrelated topics of sustainable cooking, clean energy, air pollution, health and wellbeing.

Ensuring access to sustainable and clean cooking is a global concern. According to the 2019 International Energy Agency report, one-third of the world’s population (around 2.6 billion people) do not have access to clean cooking facilities. Daily exposure to toxic smoke from traditional cooking practices is one of the world’s major yet least understood killers, causing 2.5 million premature deaths annually. Millions more fall sick, and thousands of people suffer burns and injuries every year due to insufficient access to clean and sustainable energy supplies. These ill-effects tend to be concentrated and heightened in poorer regions of the world, where reliance on biomass for cooking leads to environmental degradation; exposure to smoke contributes to a range of health issues; and the daily work of women and children (usually girls) to gather fuel, increases their vulnerability to sexual and other forms of violence.

Reducing the household energy access gap is a priority for Sustainable Development (SDG7).

To this end a number of initiatives have been undertaken by governments and organisations around the world. As isolated measures, however, such initiatives have tended to ignore relationships between people; and peoples’ relations to their kitchen ‘things’, including the material, embedded and profoundly cultural practices of cooking and energy use. Indeed, the 2019 International Energy Agency report identified that inattention to social and cultural contexts was a leading cause of previous attempts’ failure to address the issue of clean cooking facilities.

Conducted in Malawi and Bangladesh, two regions which exemplify the current crisis, this project took the ‘kitchen’ as the central unit of analysis in order to explore the interconnected relations between people and the things that make up their kitchen lives. The work piloted a novel methodological approach combining visual ethnography, energy life history, and biographies of kitchen things and practices, in order to explore everyday kitchen life at these sites. The knowledge gained will not only to deepen understandings of kitchen life in these areas, but piloting the methods can support the longer-term vision of this project to secure funding for a larger, interdisciplinary project aimed to respond and inform initiatives relating to SGD7. Final research outputs of this current phase of work include a visual documentary film, dissemination workshops, academic papers and policy briefings.

PI and Co-Is - International Collaborators


Dr Lisa Bradley – University of Glasgow, School of Education



Dr Raihana Ferdous – University of Glasgow, School of Education

Prof Manosh Paul – University of Glasgow, James Watt School of Engineering

Dr Deepa Pullanikkatil – Co-Director of the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network, and Founder of Abundance Worldwide, Eswatini.

Prof Mazharul Islam – Director of the Institute of Applied Anthropology, Dhaka and Professor at Department of Anthropology, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology, Sylhet, Bangladesh

Ms Meghna Gupta – Visual Ethnographer and Filmmaker (based in the UK).


Project Manager

Vanessa Duclos – University of Glasgow, School of Education

Start and End date

January 2021 – July 2021

Funder and Funding amount

Global Challenges Research Fund – Scottish Funding Council

£ 73,234.52