Our first project: Improved Cooking Stoves for households in the Arun Valley
The region to which our first project relates is located in the Sankhuwasabha district in eastern Nepal. The villages belong to the Arun Valley, which lies between the two eight-thousand-meter peaks of Makalu in the west and Kanchenjunga in the east. People of different ethnic groups live there, the majority of whom are Buddhist. The villages are extremely remote and can only be reached on foot. Many of them are several days’ walk from the nearest road. As in all mountainous regions of Nepal, wood is the predominant fuel for heating and cooking in the Arun Valley. Especially poor households cannot afford gas cookers and it is also very difficult and costly to transport gas cartridges to these remote places. Therefore, most households either use open fires or simple stoves. Both open fireplaces and basic stoves have massive disadvantages. For example, the immense smoke emissions lead to great health problems and many people in the villages suffer from respiratory diseases and eye problems. This affects the whole family, but especially women and children. It is the women who cook by the fire in the house and are thus exposed to the smoke intensively and for a long time. Especially smaller children are often bound to their mothers and thus to the house as well. In addition to this, the time-consuming collection of the firewood is traditionally the task of the women. Therefore, optimising the efficiency of wood consumption reduces the workload of women.
There is also an ecological problem: the simple stoves burn very inefficiently. The wood consumption is very high due to unfavorable burning and heating performance and this increases the pressure on the forest resources of the Arun valley.
Our project aims at a sustainable improvement of this situation in the Arun Valley. Improved, tried and tested stoves, so-called improved cooking stoves (ICS), are to be purchased and installed initially for the most needy households of a village in the Arun Valley. These stoves have been specially developed for the needs in the Himalayas. They are used since the 1990s and are highly appreciated by the people. Ecohimal Nepal itself was involved in the development and has first used them in the Khumbu region and in recent years has already equipped 160 households in the Arun Valley with such stoves.
The advantages of the improved cooking stoves:
- Health: A chimney and a closed burning chamber in the stove minimises in-house emissions and thus greatly reduces air pollution in the room. This benefits all members of the household but especially women and children.
- Ecology and sustainability: Thanks to more efficient combustion, the ICS require up to 60 percent less firewood. This conserves the natural resources of the mountain forests. Moreover, it has an enormous impact on the workload of the women, who therefore have to spend less time collecting wood, as the time-consuming collection of the firewood is traditionally the task of the women.
- Functionality: It is possible to cook on several fields, there is a hot water tank and a drying chamber where meat can be dried hygienically, for example to produce sukuti (dried meat). The warm water tank can be used to maintain better hygiene especially in the cold months.
- Local production: The ICS are built in Nepal itself. By purchasing them in Kathmandu, local business is supported which eventually creates employment opportunities.
Each ICS costs 25 000 Nepalese Rupees (around 190€), which is beyond what most households in the Arun valley can afford.
Also the transport of the ICS is tedious and requires good planning. At first the stoves are loaded on a truck which brings them to the end point of the road. From there, porters carry the stoves to the villages which are up to two days of walking away from the road. In the villages they are installed in the households together with experts from Kathmandu who explain the functionality and proper use to the families. The installation of the stoves is accompanied by trainings on the sustainable use of forest resources and ecological sensitization for the whole community.
In a nutshell: with 200€ (purchase and transport of one ICS) we together can make a difference for the life of a household! The people in the Arun Valley have a demand for the ICS since they have proven to improve their living conditions. 160 household have already been equipped with an ICS and the advantages are immense.
Thanks to your donations and the tremendous work of our partners in Nepal, we were able to implement this project despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the early onset of monsoon rains!