HOME: Nari Jagran Manch / DWP

Smokeless Chulas and Pressure Cookers

Bihar is one of the most severly deforested states in India. Only 7% of the original forstest cover is left. There is virtually no fire wood available for the poor. Dried cow dung mixed with straw, dried leaves and twigs are used for fuel. The meals are cooked on simple stoves that are made from the clay-rich soil.

Women and children spend hours every day collecting fire wood and preparing the cow dung patties. The traditional chulas (stoves) are inefficient and produce much smoke. Often the stoves are inside the house with no chimney. Th smoke lingers in the house and poses serious health risks to the families.

In the summer of 2005, a few women of DWP and Sister Mary went to a training at SEVA, a small NGO in West Begal. At SEVA we learned how to build 'smokeless chulas.' These stoves look very much like the traditional ovens but they burn fuel more efficiently. They also have a chimney, so the smoke is vented outside which greatly improves indoor air quality.

One of the problems in Bihar is that it is so dry. Most of the original forest has been cut down. Everything is used: cow dung and dry leaves as fuel for cooking, straw and left over vegetables are fed to the animals. With the new chulas and pressure cookers the women can save fuel and hopefully use more of the cow dung for composting and fertilizing their fields.

Sister Mary writes:

The training program at SEVA Calcutta at the end of August 2005 – has had a very beneficial impact in the villages. The women who participated were very enthusiastic about implementing what they had learnt and sharing their knowledge with the others.

During September and October 2005 at 10 nodal villages we have had “cluster level” one–day training programs for our women’s groups. Around 80-100 women participated in each of these nodal training programs.

This year the main topic was organic farming, smokeless chulas and pressure cookers. The methodology was as follows :

* The staff went as a team equipped with charts, designs of the smokeless chulas, and a pressure cooker.
* The other women who came along with us to Calcutta and who live in far off villages – also acted as “resource persons”.
* There were lively sessions and interaction and a lot of interest and questions about organic farming: the preparation of compost, pesticides and the use of the chulas and pressure cookers

Twelve smokeless chulas have been put up in different villages. All the chulas are functioning well. Unfortunately in Maunia village there was a small problem. Skakuntala’s smokeles chula was being used the whole day long – cooking for some guests who had come to the house. The cement pipe got overheated and the straw roof got slightly burnt – in one corner. The people got disturbed and the news went around and this has slowed down the process in Maunia and the nearby villages.

However – in Kajichak and Jindapur – the work is picking up. Pipes for 10 more chulas are ready and this time the design is a little different – with a bent pipe – which goes out through the wall and not through the straw roof.

There is quite a demand for the pressure cookers. We have made it a policy that only those who have the chulas will get the cookers – so this will help in the co-ordination of the work - besides giving an incentive to the women.

We have got 30 big cookers at a wholesale rate – from Patna. The cookers cost Rs.275 each only. We will pay half (subsidy) and the women will pay the other half. We can plan for upto 150-200 cookers in this scheme. After this we expect the women to pay the full amount as by then everyone will realise the benefit of the pressure cooker.

The pictures were taken during the smokeless chula training at SEVA in West Bengal.

back to the top
back to the homepage