Project 1: Improved cooking stoves & forest conservation

Programme Summary

Partners: Practical Action; EcoHimal

A typical Nepali kitchen ceiling. Cooking on an open fire causes eye infections and respiratory diseases.

A typical Nepali kitchen ceiling. Cooking on an open fire causes eye infections and respiratory diseases.

Location: Bakachol (Khotang district) & Pawai (Solukhumbu district) VDCs (completed projects); Chepuwa & Kimathanka (Sankhuwasabha district) VDCs (project in the pipeline).

Problems: The problems are three-fold:

(i) Open hearth fires: Traditional cooking takes place on an open hearth (without chimney). This requires the use of a large amount of wood, which is taken from the surrounding forests. Ambient household smoke causes respiratory problems, particularly for women and children, whose time is more closely associated with the hearth. Results include premature death, eye infections and child safety hazards. 

(ii) Firewood demand: Almost all rural household fuel requirements are met by firewood, most of which is derived from forests and used for cooking. Increased population and tourism are among the impacts placing heavier demands on forest timber, particularly in the higher forests which may regenerate slowly because of their altitude. These forests have vital roles in Nepal’s agricultural terraced field agricultural system, biodiversity, climate amelioration and as carbon sinks.

(iii) Landsliding: a forests' importance in preventing the landsliding of terraced slopes cannot be overstated. The causes of slope failure in Nepal’s mountainous and dynamic hill farming regions have been debated since the early 1970s. However it is now becoming clearer that the IPCC predicted climate change scenarios for part of this region (longer periods of drought and fewer, but heavier, rainfall events) is rapidly becoming, or has already become, the reality. Soil, dried out after a protracted drought, becomes friable and has the propensity for mass slope failure when inundated by increasingly intense monsoons. Failures of terraced slopes are now being observed annually, often by the end of the second month of the three month monsoon period. There are no indications that this situation will stabilise. Instead, with predicted further increases in temperature, it is likely to become more severe.

Trainees learning to install a ventilated stove.

Trainees learning to install a ventilated stove.

Solutions:

(i) Improved Cooking Stoves (ICS) improve burning efficiency and dramatically reduce fume inhalation. This includes the introduction of ventilated stoves and smoke hoods. Initially, TGT supported a programme introduced by Nepal’s Council for Rural Technology to promote fuel known as the biomass briquette. However tests undertaken for the Trust at Nottingham University revealed higher than acceptable yields of carbon monoxide when the briquettes are burnt (See report). So the focus is now on more efficient ventilated stoves.

(ii) Conservation of high forest and associated ground cover is seen as increasingly important in maintaining slope stability for the future and maintaining the forest's ecosystem services. Decisions also have to be made by the local communities and forest user groups about which additional areas to bring back under forestation (in order to protect the slopes from heavier rainfall). This type of forestry conservation and development project is intended to improve slope stability and promote education in sustainable exploitation of this resource.

Focus group discussion in the school at Bakachol.

Focus group discussion in the school at Bakachol.

Sustainability & Assessment:

The introduction of a new technology in any developing country is no guarantee that it will be adopted long term. It is essential to embed a sustained educational and capacity building programme into the project. An 18-month monitoring period is key both to its successful long term adaptation and to ensure the transfer of learnt skills to other communities.

Our completed projects in this area will guide our upcoming project in the northern Bhotkhola region of Nepal in the Sankhuwasabha district neat the border with Tibet/China.

Read the full project: Forest conservation and improved cooking stoves (2009)