Improved Stoves, Forests and Lives
“We had traditional stoves before, the odaans that used a lot of firewood and spouted smoke, leaving our walls and lungs blackened,” she continues. “And now look at us! We use less firewood and the stove directs all the smoke outside, so our inner walls stay clean. My eyes often watered up as I sat near the stove; now they no longer itch or sting. We collect and carry smaller bundles of firewood, meaning that our backs are saved, and so are our forests. Our children and their children can now enjoy the greenery!”
Other residents of the village, gathered in a circle around Bishnu, chuckle at her dynamic explanations. She adds, “Before, women had to get up at dawn and cook until 10 am. But now the morning meal is ready by 7 am, and we have plenty of time for other activities – to meet, to discuss our problems, to talk of conserving our forests – like we are doing now.” The financial burden of ICS installation has been manageable for most households, as the residents only had to pay Rs. 200, with the remaining cost supported by the local CFUG and the Hariyo Ban Program. In some cases, ultra-poor and poor households can install ICSs free of cost.
Ninety-two of the 143 households in Bhakarjung now use ICSs, and there are plans to install them in other households. The use of ICSs in this community has been underway since August 2013, and more than six months later locals continue to be enthusiastic about faster meal preparation, less work, better health, and the chance to conserve their community forest. Prior to this, around 32 bundles (approximately five cubic meters) of firewood were harvested from the community forest by each household per year. This has been significantly reduced; this year each household harvested around 25 bundles (approximately four cubic meters).
Across the courtyard from Bishnu is Durga Prasad Paudel, the Chairperson of Bhakharjung CFUG. Durga played an important role in the transformation in this community, as he was the first person in the village to install an ICS. “As soon as I knew of the plan for ICSs, I agreed to install one first in my home,” he explains. “I had seen ICSs functioning badly in some cases but I was ready to take that risk, and it has paid off well.”
The Bhakharjung CFUG is well on its way to emulating the success of Manaslu CFUG in Ghermu, Lamjung, which was declared a ‘Model Village with Improved Cooking Stoves’ in April 2013. There, 129 out of 131 households in Manaslu CFUG now use ICSs, 62 of which were supported by the Hariyo Ban Program. To date, Hariyo Ban has installed 3,877 ICSs across its working areas, benefitting 3,877 households and 22,211 people.
“If someone asks me whether or not they should install an ICS, I will tell them they should!” says Durga. “We understand the path to better forests and better lives, and we need to take it from here.”
The installation of ICSs is part of the Hariyo Ban Program’s efforts to promote alternative energy sources, reducing dependency on firewood and hence helping reduce deforestation and forest degradation. Healthier forests, in turn, are more resilient to climate change, and can help to reduce the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities. By the end of the third year in June 2014, the Hariyo Ban Program estimated that 47,050 people were directly benefitting from alternative energy sources through program support to ICSs, biogas units and metal stoves. The installation of a single ICS is estimated to save around 30 head loads (bhari) of firewood per year, thus avoiding the emission of 1.5 metric tons carbon. Hariyo Ban is promoting the use of ICS particularly in places where biogas is not suitable because of water scarcity, is a scarcity of water for biogas, cold temperatures at high altitudes, or when households cannot afford it.
By Richa Bhattarai, Communications Officer, WWF Nepal, Hariyo Ban Program
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Disclaimer: The Hariyo Ban Program is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this article are the responsibility of WWF and its consortium partners and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.