Many rural agriculture and tea estate workers in India lead a fragile existence. Wages are low with often poor working conditions. Tea estate workers depend heavily on wood as their main source of energy with an average household using around 600 kg of firewood per month. Most cannot afford the cleaner, but more expensive options. Mercy Corps’s intention is to address fuel poverty with the aim of improving livelihoods and quality of life.
With firewood in short supply, many tea estates have stopped providing firewood quotas to laborers, and instead provide the cash equivalent to meet their legal obligations. Consequently many communities are resorting to illegal felling in government supervised forest reserves, causing widespread deforestation.
An associated problem is of food preparation and the care of siblings frequently taking place in and around the kitchen area, in the vicinity of these traditional clay wood-burning stoves. They emit large amounts of smoke, exacerbating risks from smoke particles and chemicals.
In addition women and young adults spend up to 18 hours per week collecting firewood, taking time away from other activities that would contribute to household income. The firewood required denudes the forest cover limiting the amount of fodder available for animals. Raising cows and goats historically has been one of the major sources of income, now threatened.
Reducing firewood consumption with fuel efficient stoves would simultaneously improve health, reduce deforestation and reduce costs for marginal communities.
Mercy Corps will achieve this through a community awareness campaign, training communities to encourage installation of the stoves, and developing microenterprise in stove installation.
Each household that uses a fuel efficient stove and ultimately replaces the fuel by a renewable resource could reduce their emissions by 12 tons of CO2 per year, equivalent to the yearly emissions of one US household.
Each stove costs £10 ($16), including installation and training.