Seventy percent of Nepal's 25m population are living in rural areas and nearly 100% utilize traditional energy sources. Of the traditional energy consumption in 2002/03, the share of fuel wood alone was as much as 78%. Nearly 10% of the rural population used cattle/buffalo dung and agricultural residues. In the last couple of years the rise in petroleum prices had pushed middle class petroleum based fuel users back to traditional energy sources. This increased reliance on traditional energy sources is putting increased pressure on forests.

In the 1990's there were two small government initiatives to promote rice husk stoves, initially designed by International Rice Research Institute, by Nepal Academy of Science and Technology and the Agricultural Engineering Division of Nepal Agricultural Research Institute. Each met with little or no success. In 2000 after seeing the technology demonstrated at the Agricultural Engineering Division, the National Agriculture and Environment Forum (NAEF)and AED decided to test market the technology in Rupandehi District, Nepal. NAEF fabricated 25 pieces it its workshop for training, demonstrations, and sales using the heavy duty design from the Agricultural Engineering Division. Initial reaction of farmers was very positive but nearly everyone complained that the costs (approximately $12.00 - 13.00) of the heavy duty stove was too high. The project stalled soon after in 2003 due to the increasing conflict in Nepal.

After peace broke out in summer 2006 NAEF reentered these areas and found that adoption of the stove in several village development committees where we had concentrated our work had gone as high a 200 pieces. Upon investigation we found that several blacksmiths in the area had reduced the costs by changing to a lighter duty design (Vietnamese Lo Trau ) that one of them had seen at a nearby industrial fair and by using scrap sheet metal reducing the cost by half. In spring of 2007 a small workshop had begun making them even cheaper ($5.00 — $6.00) and selling 10 - 15 pieces per day. After training another manufacturer in December of 2007 NAEF estimated that total manufacturing (including the blacksmiths) and demand had grown to over 50 units per day. In December 2008 one of the manufacturers scaled up their production to over 300 units per day and as of March 2009 were planning on producing a similar amount in nearby Gorakpur India. NAEF conservatively estimates that current numbers of agricultural biomass stoves at nearly 30,000 pieces. Recent reports from two other districts in Nepal have report there are other NGOs and manufacturers promoting and making stoves in eastern Nepal. We conservatively estimate that the number of stoves in March 2009 to have grown to over 30,000.

NAEF used to refer to the agricultural biomass stove as its traditional name, rice husk stove (also known as rice hull stove), but found that once the previously free rice husk from the villages' surrounding rice mills (mills now sell what husk they have but most is carted away along with the milled rice by the owners) users especially the poorer members of the communities began to innovate through the mixing with or 100% substitution of rice husk with biomass/straw from field crops such as wheat and rice. They have found that as long as the straw is less than 2mm it can easily be used and burns as efficiently and cleanly as rice husk.

Benefits

  • Agrobiomass residues are inexpensive as compared to petroleum fuels or fuelwood.
  • Womens' drudgery and time saved by not having to visit the forest every 3-4 days for wood cutting thereby
  • Reduces cutting of trees for fuel
  • Cleaner burning stove has as yet undefined respiratory health benefits for women
  • Saves cow dung for fertilizer use
  • Clean burning has yet defined women health aspects
  • Expensive and cost increasing densification technologies are not necessary
  • Agricultural residue fuels are 100% carbon neutral
  • Agricultural residue fuels reduce the need for expensive imported petroleum based fuels- implications for carbon offsetting and trading for Nepal

Further reading

Justice, S. E., Chaudhary, A., Shreshta, S., & Morf, O., 2009. 'The recent spread of agricultural biomass stoves in Nepal.' Paper prepared for the third International Conference on Renewable Energy Technology for Rural development (RETRUD-08), 12-14 April, 2009, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Contact

Ashok Chaudhari ashoknaef at ntc.net.np
and Scott Justice sejustice at gmail.com

National Agricultural and Environmental Forum
PO Box 2673
Kathmandu,
Nepal

Landline (977) 1427 4170
Mobile: (977) 98510 27678
Fax: (977)1422 9804

Website: http://www.naef-nepal.org/