52 years old Ghuire Parki lives in Khanmara village in Dadeldhura district of Nepal with his wife and 5 children. He lost his vision last year. Albeit late, he has now realised that his smoky kitchen built in a corner of his single-room house led to such complete blindness.
Indoor air pollution is an acute problem in Khanmara village mainly due to rooms with low ceilings. Most kitchens consists of a traditional three stone stove, and families are dependent on firewood for cooking, which they collect walking around 7 kilometres into the forest. The average family is composed of 9 members, of which 6 are under 5 years. Sad to say, there are 32 households with only 12 toilets in this small village.
Igniting changes at this ‘bottom of the pyramid’ and introducing clean and energy efficient cooking technology is a BIG CHALLENGE.
Revolutionising ‘polluting kitchens’
Around 4.70 million households (83% of the total population) live in rural pockets of the country, of which 3.9 million households do not have access to any modern cooking energy and almost 3.2 million are operating in acute ‘polluting kitchens’, leading to health problems like pneumonia, chronic lung disease, and eye disorders. The problem is rampant in villages in the far-western part of Nepal where 45% of the total population lie below the poverty level.
In partnership with the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, SNV Netherlands Development Organisation in Nepal has taken the first step to revolutionise ‘polluting kitchens’ through the improved cookstoves programme in the seven remotest districts of the far west region.
With afocus on cluster approach, technological development, market led dissemination and carbon financing; this programme aims to reach out to 150,000 families in 5 years.
Improved Cookstoves Programme with Carbon Finance
Given SNV’s background in successfully implementing impact-oriented, large scale, multi-stakeholder renewable energy programmes like domestic biogas and Improved Water Mills, Improved Cookstoves has high leverage potential as it builds on the organisation’s proven capabilities, track-record and global network.
The programme is now well aligned with the framework of National Rural and Renewable Energy Programme (NRREP) and we have increased commitments from national and sub-national level NGOs, private sector—mainly technology providers and emission trading companies.
And, if we pair it up with sustainable financing, appropriate technology, best available channels (marketing, distribution and programme management) and a hi-fi (High fidelity) business model, it is possible to make all the aforementioned innovations in five years.
School and smoke-free kitchen
On 5th October, a team of SNV advisors, Eneco Energy Company, implementing partners–CRT/N and regional/local partners visited a few project villages where new cookstoves were being installed. 7 families of Khanmara (Ghuire Parki’s village) owned ‘real improved’ cookstoves that were efficient, easy to cook and affordable.
The families were elated as the new stoves cooked tasty food in less time (30-40) minutes, enabling women in particular to spend quality time with their kids. Also, it consumed less firewood (only ¾ than her previous requirement) and thus saved the total travel time (50-90 minutes) to the forest for firewood collection.
I had a long chat with Ghuire Parki about his lost eyesight, the future of his children, his dreams and aspirations for the coming years. I was touched when he told me that having a cookstove installed in the kitchen and raising his kids in a clean and smoke free kitchen is the best thing that has happened to him in the last couple of years.
Here is an exact translation of what Ghuire Parkhe told me: “my children are now going to school regularly and collection of firewood is no longer their responsibility. I want them to see the world and I dream to see it though their eyes!”
 SNV calculation based on census 2011 figures and data from different RE programmes in Nepal.