Choden in her kitchen of 12 years. The SBRE Project will soon replace the traditional stoves like these with a smokeless version. Photo by Sonam Tsoki Tenzin

Bhutan has one of the highest per capita consumption of fuel wood in the world at almost 1.3 tonnes per person.The Sustainable Rural Biomass Energy (SBRE) Project was initiated to reduce the fuel wood consumption and GHG emissions in Bhutan. Close to 70% of Bhutanese who live in rural areas use fuel wood as a main source of energy. The SRBE Project proposes to reduce the annual natural energy consumption and GHG emissions through the promotion and dissemination of efficient cook stoves in the rural Bhutan, and the implementation of demonstration biomass energy technologies in relevant industries.

Choden is 30 years old, her face is covered in soot and scorched from the heat in her small kitchen. Tears stream down her eyes as she strains while feeding the fire. She has been using the traditional stove for cooking and feeding her family for the last twelve years of her life. Her typical day starts by collecting firewood from the forest. This takes up a good two hours of her day and is no easy task.

 

Choden says, “Collecting wood is very hard work, we spend two hours a day in the forests. The stove takes an hour to heat up and preparing meals take another hour. It would be easier if there was another way to cook our meals.”

 

Soon, Choden’s old stove will become passé with UNDP’s Sustainable Rural Biomass Energy (SRBE) Project that is taking place in select districts in Bhutan. The project is overseen by the Department of Renewable Energy and the Department of Forests and Park Services.

 

The SRBE is specifically designed to counter greenhouse gas emissions, promote efficient use of energy and reduce the consumption of fuel wood in Bhutan. The traditional stove has been improved to prevent indoor pollution and reduce related health hazards like respiratory and eye problems for people like Choden who spend hours in their kitchens.

 

Mewang Gyeltshen, SRBE Project Director says, “The SRBE project will definitely improve rural lives and reduce the usage of natural resources like fuel wood.” He also added that the initial success of the project is attributed to engagement of non-formal education instructors as trainers in the construction of the efficient stoves in the four districts of Trashigang, Mongar, Lhuentse and Trashi Yangtse.

 

The new improved stove has already been installed in seventeen homes in Khaling. Another thirteen residents are in the process of completing construction and they are proving to very popular. Kitchens are cleaner, the usage of wood is less and the stove heats up in less than thirty minutes.

It may not be too long before Choden is also a recipient of the smokeless stove.