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North East India’s Smoke-free Kitchen Brings a Ray of Hope

Mousumi Singh Ghatowar in her kitchen located in the Balijan Tea Garden in the Dibrugarh District of Assam. Photo credit: Noni Gopal Dutta

North East India’s Smoke-free Kitchen Brings a Ray of Hope

Kitchens in rural India have been using mud stoves to prepare their meals for many decades now. Things are no different in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts of Assam, where mud stoves are used extensively. Women in households face numerous problems, from inhaling huge amounts of smoke while cooking to blackening of the kitchen walls.

To address these issues, ICCo India, Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) and Oil India joined hands to provide 3000 tea garden workers households with energy efficient alternates to prepare meals. The key aim was to introduce a fuel efficient and relatively eco-friendly cook stove, which reduces firewood consumption and thereby also lowers carbon emissions significantly.

The project covered six tea gardens from Dibrugarh and Tinsukia, focussing mainly women workers in the tea gardens. Those who followed the rules of using the cook-stove meticulously benefitted the most, both in terms of time and cost of firewood. Elimination of ambient air pollution in the kitchen has also been a boon for the health of women.

Alay Barah, Executive Director, ICCo India said ‘It’s been an honour to work with organisations, such as Oil India and IIE. ICCo has always been at the forefront of making a lasting impact at the grassroots level. A project of this magnitude comes with its own challenges, particularly when we are trying to reach geographically diverse rural areas and convincing people to change the way they have cooked for decades.  With consistent efforts, we were able to change this mind-set and convinced 92% of the households to adopt the improved technology”.

Within eight months, we saw some concrete results. The economic impact of reduced firewood requirements was approximately INR 380,0000 and reduction in CO2 emissions was nearly 890 tonnes. We want to build on the successes of this project and scale up our activities in the future’’, he added.

The social benefits are clearly visible. Take the case of Mousumi Singh Ghatowar, who is one of 3000 beneficiaries directly impacted by our interventions. She is a 36 year old woman, hailing from the Balijan Tea Garden of Dibrugarh. Her yearly expenditure on firewood was between INR 7200 to 8400.  The cost of adoption of the new stove resulted in savings of approx. INR 2400 per year, while the total time saved on cooking now is two and a half hours per day.

Speaking about the benefits, Moushimi said ‘With this new cook stove, I am able to save time and tutor children from my neighbourhood. This also enables me to earn an additional income of INR 7200 per year. Now, I want to buy another stove for my mother’’.

To ensure sustainability of the initiative, ICCo and IIE have been involved in training 20 youth, including 16 men and 4 women, to become local entrepreneurs who would not only build and install these stoves, but also guide the users and provide repair and maintenance services over the years.

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