Why cook stoves are changing rural women’s lives

Indians have grown up with images of squatting rural women working wood sticks in their chulhas (cook stoves) to make food for their families. This image often has a rustic feel to it and many of us dismiss it without giving it a second thought.

The cook stove is most often fueled with wood, coal or dung and generates a lot of smoke. Most of these women die every year due to indoor air pollution (IAP). As per a World Health Organization (WHO) report (2006), 1.5 million people die because of IAP annually. Though, IAP has been an old phenomenon, it did not feature in most development budgets across the world. Only in recent years, has the WHO declared IAP has one of the 10 most global health risks.


The burning of solid fuels in the cook stove generates poisonous fumes which are health-damaging and can potentially cause pneumonia among children and chronic respiratory disorders among adults. A positive trend since 1940’s has been the invention of smokeless cook stoves using different technologies to replace the traditional cook stoves. As the traditional cook stoves burn a vast amount of wood affecting climate change, in recent times, several agencies are distributing and producing improved cook stoves to village households as a movement to curb climate change. These cook stoves are not only energy efficient but have improved lives of several women and children across India. Carbon offsetting funding like what atmosfair provides in Lesotho for their efficient wood stove project can be used to reach out to more lives. For more information on different cookstove projects, visit Partnership on Clean Indoor Air.

Other related links: Better burning, better breathing: Improving health with cleaner cook stoves, Environmental Health Perspectives Vol: 18 Issue: 3 pp: A124-A129

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