Improving Livelihoods through Improved Cookstoves: Majhi Tole, Udaypur

ICS built and promoted under WEE-Nepal Project

Majhi Tole (English translation: Majhi = Fisherman; Tole = Hamlet) is a small village located in Katari Municipality, Ward no. 4 of Udayapur district. It is a poor community, members of which practice fishing as a seasonal occupation. The village, with a heterogeneous population of diverse ethnic backgrounds, consists of 58 households. This village is representative of economically marginalized groups of Nepal, which lack access to clean cooking solutions. This case presents itself as an example of a successful collaboration between the community, government and non-governmental entities to ensure access of poor households to improved cooking solutions. As of September 2016, all families in the village have fixed-type Rocket Stoves (see picture) installed in their kitchens. These units have been installed by women stove entrepreneurs trained within the WEE-Nepal Project.

This case study is based on the interactions of the Advocacy Team with community members of Majhi Tole in September 2016.

The Rocket Stove
The Rocket Stove is a composite system built with sun-baked mud-bricks, earth and metallic components (fire grate and a pot holder).

Majhi Tole energy profile

Firewood is predominantly a primary cooking fuel in the village. Although all houses in the village have access to grid-electricity through the Community Rural Electricity Entity (CREE), none of the households reported the use of electricity or LPG for cooking purpose. A productive use of energy is almost nil in the village. Other than cooking meals, alcohol brewing for their own consumption and preparation of animal feed seem to be the most energy-intensive activities they participate in on a daily-basis.

Process of implementation
The implementation of ICS project in this village is the result of the collaboration between the District Development Committee (DDC), the local CREE and the WEE-Nepal team. The WEE-Nepal team worked closely with the Environment Friendly Local Governance (EFLG) unit operating within the DDC throughout the planning and implementation processes of this project. WEE-Nepal was involved in sensitisation of the key stakeholders and capacity building of the women entrepreneurs on various components of the supply-demand chain of the ICS.

The CREE was responsible for identifying Majhi Tole as one of the project sites, for the execution of the ICS project under the WEE-Nepal project.  The CREE collaborated with the WEE-Nepal team to train and produce ICS Woman Entrepreneurs (WEs). It played a key role in the mobilization of WEs for creating demand within Majhi Tole. The CREE also supported them during the installation of stoves by lobbying for financial support to the stove project from the Municipality within EFLG framework.

The WEE-Nepal team provided technical support to the ICS project and has been overseeing the social mobilization part. It is involved also in the advocacy and lobbying for the accessibility of improved cook stoves to the residents of Majhi Tole. It also contributed to building a liaison between the CREE and national stove suppliers.

The municipality mobilised subsidy from the EFLG budget framework, while the CREE with support from WEE-Nepal selected potential entrepreneurs for stove master training. In case of subsidy from the municipality, the CREE should be acknowledged for their incessant lobbying for the allocation of EFLG budget for the project.

As the stove implementation is driven by a market approach, the users too shared the cost of ICS installed in their houses. Each household paid NRs. 1500 for the system. Total cost of the system is NRs. 2000. The municipality provided an incentive equivalent to NRs. 500, to cover the cost of a combustion chamber.

Here, it is important to acknowledge the role of the community leaders who dedicated their time and effort in raising awareness and encouraging stove adoptions at household levels.    

The perspective of the female member of the Community:
Dil Kumari Magar lives in Majhi Tole in a family of five. She has been using a Rocket stove for over a month. The stove was constructed by Meena Koirala, one of the WEs trained under the WEE-Nepal Project. Her old stove has been dismantled, and currently, she cooks all her meals on the newly installed ICS. According to her, ICS consumes more firewood but cooks fast and emits less smoke than her old stove. Consistent with her views, Bel Maya Magar (also a resident of Majhi Tole) suggested that Rocket stove had reduced smoke emission than did TCS. She cooks all her meal, and also brews alcohol on it. Like Dil Kumari Magar, it has been over a month since she got the ICS installed in her kitchen. Both stove users expressed their satisfaction with the stove performance.
Regarding information related to the stove, some claimed that they learned about ICS and its benefits through word-of-mouth while others credited it to representatives from the Municipality. A larger number accredited to Meena Koirala, a staff from the CREE as well as a WE trained under the WEE-Nepal Project.

According to these women, occasionally, men too participate in cooking and help in collecting firewood. Hence, we thought it would be interesting to hear a male perspective on ICS.

The perspective of the Male Members of the Community
Ganesh Bahadur Sunuwar, a leader of the community, played a crucial role in encouraging the community to adopt the technology.   According to him, ‘Previously, the Majhi Tole residents used three-stone cookstoves, which emitted a lot of smoke causing irritation to their eyes. We now have reduced smoke emission in the kitchen due to the ICS.  It is also better in terms of safety and improves cleanliness especially in the kitchen. The traditional cookstove (TCS) was unsafe because flame and charcoal would come out of the chamber and the user was often subject to burns. With this stove, we have also observed a reduction in the fuelwood consumption. Previously, one bhari (equivalent to approx. 35 kgs) of firewood lasted for about two to three days for cooking meals on traditional cookstoves (TCS), as opposed to about six days on this ICS”.

Ganesh explained that although ICS took too long to heat up, it consumed less firewood compared to TCS when used continuously without losing much time between consecutive cook-times when multiple dishes are to be cooked. He suggested that ICS took longer to cool down, as compared to TCS. While the perception of men and women varied with respect to the fuel efficiency of ICS versus TCS, they seem to agree on time -saving and reduced smoke emission from ICS.

Ram Kumar Burja Magar, another resident, stated ‘The fire once ignited in this stove does not require further tending (except for feeding firewood), whereas one had to frequently blow to keep the fire burning in TCS.’  

Nar Bahadur Majhi, stated ‘When the project was first introduced in the village I was sceptical of the ICS, but with time my interest and curiosity grew. I was hearing good reviews of the stove from multiple ICS users in the village. Each household had to pay NRs. 1500 to install the stove and I was not willing to pay for the ICS. Due to social pressure, I bought the stove. After using the ICS, my opinion about the stove has changed. ICS adds extra work, as firewood now needs to be cut into smaller pieces unlike in the TCS, where we just shoved in fuelwood of larger size and had large flames coming out from all sides of the potholder. However, with the ICS, we have less smoke emission and heat loss, and is safer to use for women, especially in the summer when the temperature in Udaypur soars.’ ‘One of the few disadvantages of ICS…’, he complained, ‘… is that it is not good for winter as it does not serve the purpose of space-heating. In case of TCS, family members gather around the three-stone stoves to keep themselves warm in the winter, but it is no longer possible with the ICS’.

It is safe to state that the project has been successful in bringing Government and private sector together to declare one of the poorest communities, as indoor air pollution-free within a market-driven approach. However, making a conclusion regarding ICS adoption in terms of sustained use entails a more systematic evaluation and a long -term monitoring of the community and their cooking behaviours.


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