Nepal government has committed to make all Nepali homes indoor air pollution (smoke) free by 2017. RWSSP-WN II contributes to "Clean Cooking Solutions for All by 2017” as part of its environmental sanitation activities. Availability of improved cooking stove or bio-gas is one of the nine indicators for Total Sanitation situation within households, and is thus a part and parcel of the sanitation campaign in Nepal.
For Nepali households, this means investing in the construction of an improved cooking stove (ICS) with chimney for venting out the smoke. Improved indoor air quality is only one of the benefits; ICSs also cut down the fuel wood consumption by close to 50%, thus helping to save time in firewood collection. There is also an indirect link to water supply: ICSs help to reduce deforestation, which can help to balance the hydrological cycle and mitigate climate change through forests´ function as carbon sinks.
RWSSP-WN II promotes ICSs by supporting the training of masons. Trainings are arranged in coordination with the District Energy, Environment and Climate Change Section (DEECC), and NGOs are contracted to conduct the trainings. In a training held in Bhimal bazaar in Tanahun district, altogether 14 men and 4 women from over 10 Village Development Committees (VDCs) in Tanahun became skilled in the construction of ICS during a 7 day training.
Photo: A female mason and the ICS she has learnt to
When selecting the participants, men above 40 years of age and women are prioritized, as they are more likely to stay in the villages and practice their new skills.
Krishna Maya Sunuwar from Keshavtar VDC was one of the four female participants in the training. Her marketing strategy is to first construct a model stove in her house, then invite Mothers´ group members to observe the benefits of the stove and pursue them to make the investment. The challenging part however is that normally it is the women (who spend time in smoky kitchens and collecting firewood) who first realize the benefits of the ICS, but men in the households control the use of money. According to Ms. Sunuwar, women can seek financial support from Mothers' groups for construction of ICS.
Creating demand for the ICSs is critical for having more households invest in ICSs, as well as for the success of the trained masons in practicing their new business. The activity of the VDC and Village WASH Coordination Committee (V-WASH-CC) in the Total Sanitation movement is a key factor, and is also advocated by RWSSP-WN. Once the masons return to their home villages, the V-WASH-CC is expected to hold a mass meeting on the benefits of the ICS, thus creating demand.
The standard ICS has two fire openings for cooking pots. The masons were also trained in fabrications of tiles that are used in the construction. The materials required for the construction, such as mud/clay, straw/husk and animal dung, are locally available, and usually the only material cost is for the iron rods (and optionally a fire gate). Construction of a stove takes about one day. Standard price of a stove is about 800 Nepali Rupees, including the mason´s salary (500 NPR) and cost of the iron rods (300 NPR).
Sanitation movement is thriving in Nepal, and it is likely that inclusion of ICSs within the Total Sanitation concept, launched in the Sanitation and Hygiene Master Plan in 2011, has also accelerated the ICS adaptation rate. Promotion of ICSs is not a new thing in Nepal, as different programs have been developing them since the 1950s. After the establishment in 1996, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), functioning under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, became the main government body for the promotion of ICSs.
According to the Tanahun DEECC statistics, 18% of the households in Tanahun are using an ICS, while over 65,000 households are still using the traditional cooking stoves. There is a long way to go until all Nepali households are indoor pllution free. This also means that there are plenty of potential customers for Ms. Sunuwar and other trained masons to build their businesses.