Woman cooks on cookstove in India

everything is connected

Blog – 10 April 2018

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of the moment. Fortunately we can do something about this, but we have to take action now!

Your company can reduce CO₂ emissions and compensate for the remaining emissions with projects that invest in cleaner cooking methods. FairClimateFund invests in two projects in India: a biogas project and a project which distributes efficient cookstoves. The projects offer many advantages. CO₂ emissions are significantly reduced and reduced smoke development leads to an improved indoor living environment. There is also 70% -100% less wood consumption which protects forest areas and women spend less time gathering wood.

From a balcony I look out over a street in Bangalore. We have just returned from our visit to Samuha, the parent organization of one of our local partners in India: JSMBT. It is my first working visit as a new fund manager for FairClimateFund. Arrived early this morning in Bangalore with the night train from Raichur, it takes some getting used to being back in the city. I think back to Raichur, a beautiful region with green rice fields, red fields with chili peppers that are drying in the sun and the beautifully decorated Indian trucks packed with freshly harvested cotton.

The words of TP, founder of Samuha, reverberate through my mind: "In the 27 years that Samuha has worked in the region we have done little harm." This says the man who has done such a great job with Samuha in the area where our cooking stove project runs. Working in these areas is complicated, the diversity of problems is great, the culture complex, especially for an outsider. Poverty, caste discrimination, the deprived position of women and lack of knowledge about basic things such as hygiene and health. But also an erratic climate, which makes the cultivation of crops more difficult. The rice actually needs to grow until April, but the water supply stops already in mid-March. Samuha has been working on these problems for almost 30 years. How does the cooking stove project contributes exactly to this?

The Chulika traditionally and spiritually embraced
During our field visits we come to people's homes and it becomes clear to me how much the women appreciate the Chulika (name of the cooking stoves). The collection of wood needed for cooking normally takes a lot of time and is hard work, with women often being harassed by men. In addition, cooking takes a long time and women sometimes spend a few hours in a smoky kitchen with coughing and burning eyes as a result. The Chulika greatly reduces wood consumption, cooking is faster and there is much less smoke. The advantages are evident.

Cooking plays such a central role in the lives of women and I find it special to see how the women have embraced cooking on the Chulika. Nagaraj, an employee of JSMBT, tells me how the ovens are installed. A Puja, a Hindu ritual, is performed where the traditional oven is banished and the Chulika is initiated. The Chulika is hereafter the new central point in the house for the woman. The white stripes on the side of the Chulika symbolize followers of Shiva: the symbol within Hinduism for the promotion of well-being. The red dot is the Tilika which many Hindus carry on their foreheads. The application of this dot symbolizes a warm welcome and expression of reverence.

The rituals mean that the Chulika is culturally and spiritually embraced by the women and that is quite special. During a meeting with Chulika users, one of the women told me that she even changed the format of her chapati – Indian bread – which she adjusted to the size of the Chulika.

A meeting that I will not soon forget was the community meeting in Huligudda on the square in front of the school. Through role play and theatre, the people of JSMBT provide information about climate change in a playful and interactive way, but also in the field of health by providing information about hygiene. The five-year anniversary of the cooking stove project was also celebrated. Working in this way on community building is successful, with feeling and respect for local culture, traditions and relationships. People not only learn from the project staff, but also from each other.
Do we make a difference? The modest attitude of TP might be in place. Much still needs to be done to improve the living conditions of women in particular. What I do see is that women are genuinely happy with their Chulika and that daily life is a bit more pleasant. If this is the case for a large proportion of the 18,000 women we reach here, then that is quite a lot.

Gert Crielaard, Fund Manager

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