Taking the pressure off forests with fuel efficient stoves
Pappati, a 40 year old woman from the Urali community of Makkampalayam, a hamlet in Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve, has a packed day which begins with fetching water from a nearby river, cooking, working on her farm, taking her cattle out to graze and collecting fuel wood and ends up in cooking dinner for the family. This routine would apply to most tribal women living along the fringe of Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve.
Given these women’s exposure to fuel wood and indoor air pollution as they cook for their families, WWF-India partnered with TIDE in 2016, a Bangalore based organisation which promotes fuel efficient and alternative energy options. As part of the partnership, women from the community were trained to construct improved cook stoves on the Sarala model, which are fuel efficient and produce less smoke. Ten tribal women including Pappatti from the village have now constructed 30 improved cook stoves under the supervision of TIDE trainers and installed improved cook stoves to reduce indoor air pollution in their kitchens!
The Gundri and Makkampalayam cluster of villages have 1556 households - a mix of Urali and Lingayat tribes. According to a study conducted by WWF-India, of the 1556 households, only 227 i.e., only 14 % of total households have LPG connections and most consume 12.5kg of fuel wood every day. Due to poor road connectivity, the households use LPG sparingly and do not refill the cylinder.
In 2016, WWF-India began looking at a strategy to tackle the multiple issues related to energy use in these villages. To introduce the concept of alternate energy, an exhibition for the community members was organised to showcase different models of alternate energy stoves which reduce fuel wood usage and cut indoor pollution. Six stoves were given to the women of the villages for their feedback to understand if the Sarala model were viable. A training program was thereby organised for the community members on construction of the improved cook stoves.
Owing to interests among the households, WWF-India set a target of constructing 250 improved cook stoves with the help of the ten trained women. With an earning of Rs.250 per cook stove, it is also a promising livelihood option for the women of the community. By the end of 2017, 300 improved cook stoves had already been constructed in 14 villages in Gundri and Makkampalayam.
With reduced smoke in the kitchen, it was also observed that the Sarala cook stove reduced fuel-wood use by up to 35 percent in the households. The aim of the intervention by WWF-India was not only to reduce the fuel-wood usage but also to demonstrate the benefits of a smoke free and hygienic kitchen. In addition to the improved cook stoves, WWF-India, with the help of Bharat Gas agency, has also leveraged the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana by organizing 650 applications from the village clusters. As of March 2018, 250 connections have been provided to the villages of Gundri and Makkampalayam.