The Improved Cooking Stove Project

Try to Imagine

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The traditional cooking method which is used within most households in Nepal’s rural villages is similar to the one in this photo. Try to imagine a small campfire on the floor of a mud hut which fills the entire room with smoke. Now imagine squatting over it to cook everyday. The women and young girls spend an enormous amount of time cooking.

Little Helpers

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Many young children join their mothers in the smokey room while they prepare dinner and most older children, particularly girls, spend a lot of time cooking over the open flames.  

Many children are born with birth defects, caused by the smoke that mothers inhale during pregnancy. 

Burned Hands

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The exuberant amount of smoke causes many health issues for all family members. The most common health concerns from smoke inhalation include: respiratory problems, cancer, skin and eye irritations, as well as major and minor burns. Many families that live in the rural villages across Nepal suffer from one or many of these conditions.

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Improved Cooking Stoves

Important Steps

Back in April 2009, during the beginning of my trip, is when I first learned about the Improved Cooking Stoves. Various NGO’s have built them throughout different villages in Nepal for quite sometime now. We knew this project would decrease health risks immediately and we got very excited about getting started right away. However, due to the logistics, it took a while to finally get the ball rolling, which now I understand and I am glad it worked the way it did. It is extremely important to respect others culture and to do that properly it became clear that my opinion about what may be right, may not always be right or at least the only way. So, this is where we had to be careful, we did not want to pressure anyone into changing the way they live because we believed it was “better for them”. We wanted the villagers to want the stoves because they believed and understood the reasons for having them, not because we told them they needed them.

I was explaining the situation (and my uncertainty) to a friend one day, when she came up with this brilliant idea. We would have four stoves built, one in each caste (the village is segregated based on castes). We explained the immediate benefits of the stoves and provided the materials needed. In return we requested the four households chosen to inform their neighbors, family and friends about the stoves. We would wait and see if they wanted to move forward in the dissemination process. Within days villagers were coming to see us requesting the Improved Cooking Stoves. They “sold” themselves, just as we had hoped.

We scheduled a village meeting to discuss our plans in detail and hoped to find a few women interested in building them. Later that month, our long awaited goal was finally set in motion. We worked with a local NGO in another village which has built over 2,000 stoves and asked them to assist us with the project (they also built our first four stoves). They agreed to train the group selected from our village, meanwhile enabled us to provide future jobs and a trade for the two women and two men of Pumdi. We also thought it would be good to charge each household a small amount for each stove built, so that we weren’t just giving the stoves to them. People tend to have more respect and take better care of things when they’ve put something into it. Eighteen days later 57 stoves were built in Pumdi and the villagers were extremely happy with the outcome. The next year we built 40 more stoves in Kitumsa, a very remote village, where we also provide assistance.

The stoves are constructed out of locally collected mud, dung, wool and straw. The clay is then made into brick molds, which are plastered together to form the stove structure. Advantages of the newly designed stoves include: a closed fire chamber containing both the heat and flames, allowing more efficient cooking, and a flue (chimney) which removes smoke from the home. The stoves are more energy efficient and eco-friendly, as they require less fuel (wood) to run on. As family members participate in the construction of their new stove, they too, are taking the initiative to further improve the overall well being of their family and friends. This is an ongoing project for Sapana Nepal, as our goal is to continue to build these Improved Cooking Stoves throughout Nepal.

Using natural resources

The Improved Cooking Stoves (ICS) are constructed out of locally collected mud, dung, wool and straw. The clay is then made into brick molds, which are plastered together to form he stove structure. Advantages of the newly designed stoves include: a closed fire chamber containing both the heat and flames, allowing more efficient cooking and a flue (chimney) which removes smoke from the home. 

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