LPG Supply and Demand for Cooking in Northern Ghana


Like many other countries, Ghana relies on biomass (mainly wood and charcoal) for most of its cooking needs. A national action plan aims to expand liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) access to 50% of the country’s population by 2020. While the country’s southern urban areas have made progress toward this goal, LPG use for cooking remains low in the north. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to characterize the current state of the LPG market in this area and examine opportunities and barriers to scale up LPG adoption. We interviewed 16 LPG suppliers (stove, cylinder, and fuel vendors) as well as 592 households in the Kassena-Nankana Districts (KND) of Ghana. We find large rural–urban differences in LPG uptake: less than 10% of rural households own LPG stoves compared with over half of urban households. Awareness of LPG is high across the region, but accessibility of fuel supply is highly limited, with just one refilling station located in the KND. Affordability is perceived as the main barrier to LPG adoption, and acceptability is also limited by widespread concerns about the safety of cooking with LPG. Transitioning to a cylinder recirculation model, and providing more targeted subsidies and credit options, should be explored to expand access to cleaner cooking in this region.


In Northern Ghana, the majority of households continue to use biomass (wood or charcoal) to meet their cooking needs. This practice has well-documented impacts on health outcomes and environmental quality, and a national and global push is underway to enable transitions toward cleaner cooking. Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is widely advocated as one of the cleanest options to achieve both health and climate change mitigation goals (Rosenthal et al. 2018).

At the national level, Ghana aims to expand LPG access to 50% of the country’s population by 2020 (Ghana Energy Commission 2012). Between 2005 and 2013, the share of households cooking with modern fuels such as LPG and electricity increased from 10.8 to 23.6% (Mensah and Adu 2015). However, most of this progress occurred in urban areas. As of 2014, only 5.5% of rural households used LPG as their main cooking fuel (Ghana Statistical Service 2014). This rural–urban disparity has inspired national policies to expand LPG access and use, most notably through the Rural LPG Promotion Program (RLP) (Modern Ghana 2014).

Exemplifying Ghana’s LPG access challenges, the Kassena-Nankana Districts (KND) are located in Ghana’s Upper East region along the country’s northern border, in one of the country’s poorest regions (Ghana Statistical Service 2014). According to 2011–2013 data, only 7% of households in these districts used LPG as their main cooking fuel, while 74% relied on fuelwood or crop residue and 18% mainly used charcoal (Oduro et al. 2012). Use of LPG was concentrated in the central urban areas around Navrongo town, where about a third of households reported LPG as their main fuel, while 60% relied primarily on charcoal. Outside of the central area, only 3% of the population used LPG as their main fuel.

There is limited knowledge about why LPG usage is low in Northern Ghana. Furthermore, studies on cleaner cooking have focused on household-level adoption decisions and, to a lesser extent, national policies, with less attention to local-level supply-side factors. This paper aims to fill this gap by examining both supply- and demand-side factors affecting LPG adoption in the KND.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) Distribution System in Ghana

In the current distribution model for LPG throughout Ghana, customers purchase LPG stoves and cylinders from retail shops and then refill cylinders at filling stations. International guidelines recommend cylinder recirculation, in which marketers purchase cylinders, and customers pay a deposit and exchange empty cylinders for full ones at dispersed distribution locations (Ghana Energy Commission 2012; Evans et al. 2013). Cylinder recirculation can avoid some safety problems relating to the use of old cylinders since households do not have an incentive to continue using older cylinders. Shortly after an explosion at a natural gas station in Accra in October 2017, the President of Ghana declared that cylinder recirculation would be implemented throughout the country within a year (Adogla-Bessa 2017). Implementation of this policy has previously been delayed by opposition from the LPG Marketers Association and the Association of Gas Tanker Drivers. However, the recent explosion may provide momentum toward this policy. To our knowledge, LPG cylinder recirculation has not yet been tested in Northern Ghana.

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Published: 14 August 2018

Dalaba, M., Alirigia, R., Mesenbring, E. et al. Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) Supply and Demand for Cooking in Northern Ghana. EcoHealth 15, 716–728 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-018-1351-4