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Improved cookstoves change women's lives in Bhutan

The Poverty-Environment Initiative

Choden is 30 years old. She has been using a traditional stove for cooking and feeding her family for the last twelve years of her life.


She starts her day by collecting firewood from the forest.  


Like Choden, thousands of women all over Bhutan use traditional stoves for cooking which require high volumes of firewood and generate high amounts of smoke. Every day, they spend long hours in kitchens full of smoke exposing themselves to respiratory diseases and eyes infections. It is estimated that around 70% of the rural population of Bhutan uses traditional stoves.


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. Funded by the Global Environmental Facility it has been working to introduce an improved variety of cooking stoves in Trashigang; Mongar; Lhuentse and Trashi Yangtse.

Overseen by the Department of Renewable Energy and the Department of Forests and Park Services this project is the biggest project of its kind in the country.


To reach communities, the project is making use of existing networks of Non Formal Educators.

Present in almost every district of Bhutan, the Non Formal Educators, better known as NFE instructors are in charge of teaching basic education to adults that were not able to attend school.


NFE Instructors are given a weeklong training in the construction of a variety of energy efficient stove that prevents indoor air pollution and reduces the use of firewood. After completing the training, the NFE instructors are ready to help households to build their own. To make the stoves affordable to rural people the government is subsidizing the metallic elements.   


Pema Chuki is a non Formal Educator in Khaling, in Trashigang dzongkhag. She attended a training to construct Improved Cook stoves.  


In Khaling, seventeen homes have already built an improved stove. Another thirteen residents are in the process of completing construction and they are proving to be very popular.


Kitchens free of smoke, having a stove that heats up in less than 30 minutes, saving heat or time collecting firewood are some of the benefits of the new stoves.


Pema Chuki helped Rinzin Wangmo (60) and Karma Lhamo (34) to built their new stove.



The engagement of Non Formal Educators has been key to reach households and create demand for improved stoves.


By 2015, 14.600 energy efficient stoves will be constructed all over Bhutan under the Sustainable Rural Biomass Project. Improving lives of women like Choden, Karma or Rinzin, countering greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the use of firewood and increasing energy efficiency.

Directed by Marta Baraibar.

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