Energy Exchange Stove Program
Improved Cook Stoves
In June 2020, we started working on a pilot project to develop more efficient cook stoves for rural communities Nepal. We are working with community members in the villages of Shikhar Ambote and Kushadevi, which are located in the hilly Kavreplanchok District of Central Nepal.
A third of the population lives in the hilly and mountainous regions of Nepal that are at least four hours away from the nearest year-round road. As a result, many of these geographically remote communities do not have access to reliable sources of electricity or natural gas as an energy source. The majority of the population depends on biomass fuel, such as wood, to meet their daily cooking and heating needs.
The traditional Nepalese cook stove, or chulo, is a simple mud structure. Fuel is inserted horizontally and the flame rises through a hole in the top over which food is cooked. These stoves lead to detrimental chronic health problems related to smoke inhalation, which disproportionately affects women and girls.
Traditional cooking and wood gathering practices are also having severe environmental consequences as a result of deforestation and incomplete carbon combustion. The high demand for wood is leading to forest degradation, loss of biodiversity, increased risk of landslides, and low land flooding due to soil erosion.
Our goal is to work closely with community members to design culturally appropriate and affordable cook stoves that are more efficient than those traditionally in use. This will reduce the amount of wood needed for fuel and mitigate the severe health hazards associated with prolonged exposure to smoke inhalation.
The Human Health Impact
Household air pollution - air pollution from burning unprocessed fuels for cooking - is an enormous public health problem that does not get the attention it deserves. Inhaling smoke from cooking over an open fire indoors contributes to heart disease, strokes, chronic lung disease, respiratory infections, diabetes, and cataracts. Globally, household air pollution is responsible for over 1.5 million deaths and nearly 2.5% of the total disease burden annually [Dr. Ryan Allen, professor of environmental health in Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University].
Women and children are disproportionately affected by the consequences of cooking indoors. In Nepal, women are primarily responsible for domestic chores and spend hours a day near the fire inhaling the smoke that blackens the walls of their homes, often with young children near by.
The Environmental Impact
Wood gathering practices are having severe environmental consequences resulting in deforestation, loss of biodiversity, soil erosion, and landslides. Wood fuel supplies 80% of Nepal's total energy consumption, and over 15 million tonnes of wood are consumed annually. In high altitude regions, forests grow slowly and people need more fuel for cooking and heating because of the cold climate and thinner air.
This pilot project will initially focus on helping about 100 families. Engineers on the team are currently evaluating options for modifying current traditional stoves and various improved cook stove designs. The pandemic has limited access to communities, but our goal is to provide stoves to families by next spring and then assess our next steps...