Improving health and halting deforestation in Sankhuwasabha

Sankhuwasabha is the most remote community we support, it is close to the Nepal/Tibet border at an altitude of approximately 4,000 metres. The two village districts we support, Chepuwa and Hatiya, are at least four days walk from the nearest road. Due to its remoteness and the severity of the winter weather, we can only reach this district in the summer months. 

Households here require year-round fuel to heat homes, warm water and cook food. Traditionally, families gather around an open hearth in their main living space. This causes two problems, firstly the smoke from the fire stays in the room escaping only through small cracks around doors and in the roof. The negative health effects are obvious, many people suffer from debilitating respiratory illnesses.

The environmental impacts are also profound. Chepuwa and Hatiya are located in the Makalu Barun National Park, home to the Red Panda and many other rare animal and plant species. Traditional open hearth fires are incredibly inefficient, it takes a lot of wood to keep the fire burning. This means that a lot of wood needs to be collected, leading to excessive deforestation. If nothing is done here deforestation will lead to the complete destruction of unique habitats and ecological systems.

Red Panda. Source: Wikimedia Commons 

We have worked with our partners, Eco Himal, to find a solution that will work in this unique environment. In Spring 2017 thirty brand new cooking stoves were transported to Sankhuwasabha. They are being tested during the summer months in thirty homes across Chepuwa and Hatiya. The stoves, if they work, will bring three key benefits:

(1) Healthier homes, free from smoke thanks to the introduction of a chimney;
(2) Improved ecology, the stoves burn wood a lot more efficiently the amount of wood needed will therefore fall significantly – this will help preserve habitats and endangered animal and plant life;
(3) More time, it takes families a long time to collect wood for the hearth, with less wood needed family members (usually women and children) will have more time for other activities, including education.
Eco Himal will revisit Sankhuwasabha in the autumn to assess how the stoves are working and report back to us. We are keen to learn if the families are comfortable using their new improved stoves, if homes are indeed healthier and if there has been a decrease in deforesting activities. We hope to extend the pilot and help fund the installation of more stoves in the future.

This is an article from our Summer 2017 newsletter. If you would like to receive a hard copy of our newsletter, please get in touch with us via our contact pages. Thank you for your support.