Revisiting the Cookstove Project

In the summer of 2015, UCLA Project RISHI members conducted surveys to understand the status of their previously implemented cookstoves in Vadamanappakkam.

In 2014, the UCLA Project RISHI chapter crowdfunded the implementation of a new cookstove in Vadamanappakkam, its village in Tamil Nadu. Leading the causes for this implementation included a large number of lung and eye related health issues in the village. The RISHI members pinpointed the inciting factor for these problems to be the open fire cookstoves in the village. To combat the lung and eye related health issues, the UCLA Chapter decided to sell a safer alternative cook stove in the village — the Greenway Smart Stove Biomass cookstove. This cookstove had reduced smoke emissions and ran off of biomass from the community. This cookstove was a success in the village. To follow up on the project, the members conducted surveys to further analyze the impact on the villagers during the summer of 2015.

A woman stands besides the open-fire cookstoves, which are responsible for lung and eye problems.
Project RISHI members conduct surveys in the India trip during summer of 2015.

At the start of the 2015–2016 school year, the Women’s Empowerment Committee members decided to address the responses obtained from the cookstove surveys they had administered during the India trip. The surveys reported impressive health benefit statistics: 83% of the recipients said their breathing had improved and 88.9% stated that their eye health had improved due to the cookstoves. However, the villagers’ primary concerns with the cookstoves were that they were too small and too expensive. Taking these responses into account, the committee researched larger cookstoves and decided on the Greenway Jumbo Stove. The committee chose this cookstove for two primary reasons: it was significantly larger than the original stove and it was manufactured by Greenway, the provider of the previously used cookstoves.

At the end of March of 2016, the Women’s Empowerment Committee ordered 5 cookstoves and sent them to the village in order to administer a trial run. This trial run ran for approximately 4 weeks. After considerable deliberation, the larger cookstove was priced at Rs. 750 for the villagers, in comparison with the original Rs. 2499. This price was selected with the villagers’ income in mind, as the members wanted the stoves to be affordable. Selvi, the Women’s Self-Help Group leader, has been the chapter’s main point of contact for the cookstove project. She distributed the 5 new cookstoves to women in the self-help group and oversaw the trial run for its duration. At the end of the trial, Selvi recorded general sentiments about the new cookstoves. Selvi has been an integral part of the Cookstove Project and its continued success.

When the committee communicated with Selvi regarding the villagers’ opinions on the new, larger cookstove, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Accordingly, the committee members decided to order 25 Greenway Jumbo Stoves following the largely positive response. The cookstoves have improved the overall lung and eye health of the villagers and the new, larger cookstove will continue this legacy.

Authors: Geeth Kondaveeti and Roshni Desai