Outline treatment for documentary-style video

 [DRAFT – Version 1.0]

Target audience:

  • Professionals from sectors contributing to household energy policy, technology and services in project countries
  • International agencies addressing health, energy, climate and economic development.
  • Informed general public in sub-Sahara Africa and internationally

Potential broadcasters and broadcast opportunities:

  • BBC, BBC4, BBC Discovery, BBC World Service
  • National Geographic
  • Channel 4
  • YouTube

Outline of idea

A traditional 3-stone wood fire in the San Marcos region of western Guatemala

Levels of household air pollution from solid fuels burned in traditional stoves can be very high

Some 3 billion people worldwide, most of whom live in developing countries, still rely on solid fuels (wood, dung, charcoal, crop wastes) and kerosene. These fuels are typical burned in inadequately ventilated, inefficient and polluting 3-stone fires and simple stoves.

The resulting ‘Household Air Pollution’ (HAP) causes nearly 4 million premature deaths annually, and the simple stoves and lamps also pose a high risk of burns, scalds (and also in the case of kerosene) poisoning of children who drink fuel stored in inappropriate (e.g. soft drink) containers. The mortality rate from HAP exposure is highest in the African Region, where increasing population but slow transition to clean fuels demand new approaches.

This issue has been extensively researched, so we know what needs doing to reduce this huge health burden. The challenge has been to put the knowledge into practice. In 2014, WHO published detailed Guidelines on dealing with household air pollution, which recommended prioritising clean fuels, ensuring that intermediate steps on the transition to clean fuels (e.g. improved biomass cookstoves) were tested for emissions and safety, and avoiding kerosene and unprocessed coal.

One of the most innovative new approaches, currently in development, is to mobilise and train Community Health Workers (CHWs) to convey the evidence in appropriately crafted messages in their work with households. CHWs are widely employed across Sub-Saharan Africa, although Kenya is taking a lead on this new initiative on cleaner and safer household energy through its Universal Healthcare Coverage programme, being rolled-out in January 2020.

The CHW training will be informed by evidence, and designed to impart knowledge on HAP and health/safety impacts, incorporate advice based on standardized testing (ISO) and provide tools to take households through cost comparisons so they can understand and consider the true costs of alternative, cleaner and safer fuel/device options compared with what they are accustomed to.

Following pilot training in four of Kenya’s counties, the scheme will be scaled-up across the country, with all 47 counties covered by August 2022. During that time, work will be in progress to transfer the Kenyan training programme to Cameroon and Ghana.

Evaluation is being conducted to see how effectively CHWs can encourage households to start making the transition to cleaner fuels. Of particular interest are the interactions between CHWs and households; for example, how well can they address the questions that we know families have about costs of fuels such as LPG, its availability near their homes, safety (many people fear fires and explosions), and whether they can cook traditional foods on gas?

Other questions that need to be looked into are:

    • Can policy makers across sectors (energy, health, education, finance, etc.) respond with policy that support households in making these changes, and CHWs in this new role?
    • How transferable is the Kenyan programme, including the actual materials, to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa? The film will look at initial efforts to do so in Cameroon and Ghana.

This examination of the challenge of implementing policy on clean household energy will convey the progress with and success of the CHW initiative in Kenya, the prospects for scaling up across that country and others, and the extent to which policy makers can respond to the challenges that arise from promoting these major shifts in fuel and energy use among the continent’s poorest people.

Notes on development of idea:

Links through the Clean Air (Africa) (CAA) Project taking place to September 2021 in Kenya, Ghana and Cameroon (and in particular the Health System Capacity Building component of that project and related Public Engagement work) will facilitate planning, logistics and contacts required to develop this documentary, making it easier to obtain the specially shot film, interviews and still photographs, while keeping costs as low as possible.

Commissioning opportunities, including at the BBC will be explored to gauge the potential for additional support in the development of this documentary film idea.


30+ minute documentary style combining interviews (around 7-10 key experts and stakeholders, as well as in homes), on-site film (homes, markets/sales of fuels and services, laboratory testing, etc.), infographics. Narration mainly by voice-over (narrator to be identified).

Opening scene:

  • Scenes of household cooking with woman talking about what is involved in obtaining fuel, practicalities of cooking with solid fuels and kerosene, irritation and symptoms from smoke (e.g. sore eyes, coughs, headaches), supervising safety of children, etc.
  • B-roll film covering fuel collection/purchase, cooking, pollution, children nearby, etc.
  • Obtain this material from two countries to give variety and breadth in trms of settings, household needs, fuels and technologies (although not all will be used in this first scene)

The public health impacts:

  • Interview(s) (WHO): Maria Neira (+ one other WHO officer, or external scientist), numbers affected, links with ambient air pollution, impact on public health and what needed (Guidelines) – especially prioritising clean fuels and ensuring testing, and development of the ‘Clean Household Energy Solutions Toolkit’ (CHEST).
  • Narration on development of ISO standards for testing (covering emissions, efficiency, safety and durability), informed by WHO Guidelines.
  • Graphics of maps and key statistics/trends, ISO Standards and performance tiers.
  • B-roll film scenes to illustrate, e.g. health impacts.

What is happening in countries?

  • Narration on how main focus of international development community, NGOs, etc., remains on improved biomass stoves, rather than supporting government initiatives to expand access to and use of clean fuels, mainly LPG.
  • B-roll film scenes to illustrate range of ‘improved stoves’ in use, covering rocket type, fan-assisted, pellet, etc.
  • Interview on government policy, e.g. Ministry of Energy, Kenya and Ministry of Energy/NPA Ghana, covering the reasons for promoting LPG, actions being taken in countries and the challenges faced.

Community Health Worker training – Kenya:

  • Narration on how working with the CHW programme offers a radically new and potentially effective approach that can reach every home – Kenya leading the way.
  • Interview with MoH/CHW programme lead on training programme and how part of UHC, key aspects of the module on HAP: aims, what covered, job-aids, etc.
  • B-roll film illustrating training, job-aids, CHWs at work in community and in homes, etc.

How effective is working with CHWs in this way?

  • Narration – need to evaluate training, household interactions and whether CHWs can successfully encourage households to change. What issues do households face, e.g. costs, access, safety fears, etc., and can they overcome these with the help of CHWs, or is something more needed in terms of policy, financial assistance, etc.?
  • Interview with research team (CAA) on how these questions can be answered, and what such enquiries have found (so far).
  • B-roll film to illustrate the barriers and issues raised by households, and by CHWs from their interactions with households.
  • Infographics on comparative costs of solid vs. clean fuel (e.g. LPG) and how these are changing with policies such as VAT, etc., in Kenya, plus examples from Cameroon and Ghana.

Transfer to other countries – Cameroon and Ghana:

  • Narration – transfer of Kenyan curriculum to Cameroon through a training course to ‘train the trainers’ of CHWs in that country and exploring whether the same would work in Ghana.
  • Film of workshop in Cameroon, with interview material from trainer(s) and Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW) being trained.
  • Narration and/or interview with research team on what found from evaluation of this process in Cameroon after 3 and 6 months.
  • Interview material from assessment of transferability to Ghana CHW system, Ministry of Health, other.
  • Narration – initial conclusions on how well the Kenyan approach would work, and what issues have arisen, potentially including the same challenges seen in the CHW-household interactions in Kenya.

Can policy makers and the international community respond?

  • Narration – the ‘story’ at this point will depend on what emerges from the process so far, but it can be anticipated that, effective though the trained CHWs are in raising awareness, connecting with the aspirations of households to change, and providing them with well-founded advice and information on the cleaner/safer options available, there will need to be substantive developments in policy to support LPG (and other clean options) market development, improved access, financing (e.g. loans, pay as you go), etc.
  • Example of Paygo Energy, Nairobi. Small scale so far. Interview of CEO(s) and staff. B-roll film of technology, how run in practice and use in homes comparing charcoal/kerosene users and (new) LPG users. Interview with research team on evaluation results, with graphics of key findings, costs, etc.
  • Example of microloans scheme. Narration on what this offers for start-up costs (e.g. LPG cooker, full cylinder, valve and hose), and interview with scheme leads, users in homes, B-roll film to show aspects of the scheme in action. Interview with research team on evaluation results, with graphics over interview.
  • Interview(s) with two or three key actors in international household energy development community (e.g. Global LPG Partnership, World Bank, Clean Cooking Alliance, etc) on extent to which policy and investments needs are recognised, perspectives on these and action being taken.


  • Narration – to be developed as progress with and success of the CHW programme is assessed and documented, and the perspectives of the policy communities within the countries and internationally are better understood and reported (i.e. in interview material).
  • Final interview material to reinforce conclusions.
  • B-roll film illustrating the main conclusions and issues for the future.

© Nigel Bruce (July 2019)