A Smokeless Cookstove Revolution for Indian Families

By Ashley Crowther

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Cookfire Smoke Kills... mostly women and children

According to World Health Organization estimates, and more than 800 million people are impacted by exposure to HAP (Household Air Pollution).


"Regular exposure to smoke from cooking and heating fires is directly linked to severe health impacts, with an estimated eight people per minute (some 4.3 million per year) dying globally from it, accounting for more deaths each year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined."


Due to their long exposures every day at the home's hearth, women and young children are particularly at risk!

The Problem...

  • Around 3 billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and simple stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal.
  • Over 4 million people die prematurely each year from illness attributable to the household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.
  • More than 50% of premature deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5 are caused by the particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.
  • 3.8 million premature deaths annually from noncommunicable diseases including stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer are attributed to exposure to household air pollution.
  • Link to Data: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs292/en...

What can be done about it

There are quite a few alternative smokeless cookstove options and programs attempting to share their solutions with varying degrees of success. Many of these stoves are manufactured products that cost significant amounts to produce, distribute, train to use, maintain and service. As a result, many fail or have limited ability to scale up to any significant degree.

Our idea is based on the simple premise...

"...give a woman a fish, her family eats for a day, teach her to fish and her family eats for life".

We have developed a smokeless cookstove that can be made by anyone with readily available materials (dirt, clay, straw, water and a puffed grain).

The trick is in the design and the addition of a puffed grain to the clay, such as puffed rice. In simple terms we are teaching people to make insulated burn tubes that are highly efficient as they get hot enough to burn smoke, resulting in a clean burn and requiring far less fuel.

We aim to train workshop leaders to train more workshop leaders who will take these skills back to their villages and teach anyone interested in how to make these stoves.

They are too simple and too effective to not be used. Not only are they relatively smokeless (about 90% less than usual), they are also highly efficient using about 25% of the fuel of a conventional cookstove.

The other advantage of people making their own stoves is they can be tailored to suit each family's particular situation and cultural context. One of the reasons many stove projects fail is that they try to implement a 'one size fits all' approach.

These stoves can be re-designed, re-shaped, adjusted, modified and adapted to suit countless situations. This is easily the simplest and most cost effective way to spread the smokeless cookstove concept to the largest amount of people.

What happens to the money?

All of the funds raised here will go directly towards training and employing trainers who will be sent out to their respective regions to train more people in making these stoves. The stoves themselves will cost almost nothing to make (perhaps $1 in materials if required to be purchased. In many cases the villagers will have access to all of the materials required).

Let us train the trainers and let them loose on the world. We aim to start a smokeless cookstove revolution by giving everyone the skills to make their own.

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Ashley Crowther