“I didn’t realize the real importance of clean cookstoves until I began visiting the families in the project area,” says Bambie Panta, the Project Director of The Cookstove Project in Nepal.  “I couldn’t believe that the children could tolerate the smoke in their homes all day when I couldn’t even stand it for a few minutes without feeling the effects. Inhaling the smoke and seeing the red eyes of the moms and their children as they were cooking in a home filled with smoke made me determined to make more people aware about the effects of indoor air pollution on their health.”

In the three years since that experience, Bambie and her staff have made remarkable progress. Since the inception of The Cookstove Project in Nepal in 2013, over one thousand families in the villages of Chhaimale, Baadbhanjyang, Bharat Pokhari and Talkududechour (Talku) have changed from using the traditional open fire cooking method to implementing the use of clean cookstoves in their homes.

 “I can see that the impact of clean cookstoves is really tangible,” reports Bambie. “It has already improved the health of our cookstove beneficiaries and reduced the time families spend collecting firewood, cooking, and even cleaning their homes. Many women remarked that the clean cookstoves don’t leave black soot on their walls and ceilings like the use of traditional three stone fires did.”  “The environmental impact is also important to me. The use of these stoves reduces both carbon emissions and de-forestation in these rural areas.”

Building Cookstoves in Nepal - June 2016

The women we meet are eager to tell us what they like most about this new way of cooking and all the other ways that their family life has been impacted by their clean cookstoves. In those homes where clean cook stoves are now in use, the before and after is quite dramatic. Several women personally shared their happiness that their own children and grandchildren will no longer have to cook over the open fires because they have now experienced a better alternative.

It is their inspiration and gratitude that keep us moving forward in our efforts in Nepal.

Currently the focus of our work is in Talku Village, a district which is about 25 kilometers outside of central Kathmandu. This village was also deeply affected by the earthquake and many people there still live in semi-permanent shelters. For those families, we have started installing rocket stoves. This stove is portable and therefore designed differently than the stoves which we have been installing in permanent homes.  To date, we have constructed more than 270 clean cookstoves in Talku with less than one-third of those being rocket stoves.

We plan to continue to work in this area for the remainder of this year with a goal of ensuring that each family in the village has the opportunity to have a clean cookstove for their home. 

The situation in Nepal became even more critical. Five months after the earthquake, Nepal faced yet another crisis when an undeclared blockade was imposed in the areas bordering India due to political unrest in the region. The blockade, which lasted for over 5 months, led to serious gas shortages and now far greater numbers of people were forced to use firewood for everyday cooking.

During this period, most of the people living in urban areas who did not usually cook over open fires were forced to resort to their use as it was nearly impossible to obtain gas fuel. Even restaurants in Kathmandu were forced to cook meals over traditional open fire stoves.  This compounded the existing problem; adding to the scarcity of available firewood and increasing the price of firewood everywhere. In the face of this, the clean cookstoves that had been installed in the villages were of even greater benefit to the families using them, because they are efficient and effectively burn less wood to produce heat. Overall in the face of the scarcity, with clean cookstoves, less wood is actually needed.

In April of 2015 Nepal was struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake.  At that time representatives of The Cookstove Project were working outside of Kathmandu in the rural villages of Chhaimale and Baadbhanjyang. Both villages were badly affected by the earthquake. Out of the households where we had already installed clean cookstoves, 448 homes were destroyed. The earthquake and its aftermath leveled a devastating blow to these communities.

In the face of incredibly difficult circumstances The Cookstove Project continued its work in Nepal although we were temporarily forced to relocate our efforts to Bharat Pokhari, an area farther away from the central impact of earthquake devastation.   However, our hearts were still with the families in Chhaimale and Baddbhanjyang and we worked with another local organization to support the construction of semi-permanent shelters for those that had lost their homes.