Lighting an improved cooking stove. Photo: Martin Wright

Cooking stoves don’t have to be difficult to build. Around the forest of Changa Manga in Pakistan stoves are being made of mud and straw. And they are making a big difference.

The Changa Manga forest covers an area of 5,000 hectares and is one of the largest man-made forests in Pakistan. Most people living near the forest use open fires for cooking, and for heating in winter.  There is enormous pressure on the forest to supply fuelwood, and extensive deforestation is taking place.

I was not able to get good grades in school because every other day I had to miss school to help my mother collect firewood. Since she got the stove I don’t miss so much school because she needs less firewood. I am now confident that I will pass my exams.

Saima, teenage girl

Changa Manga is a man-made forest of 5000 acres. Unfortunately most people living nearby use the forest’s wood for cooking on open fires and for heating. The result is deforestation, not to mention CO2 emissions and unhealthy family environments. The Escorts Foundation, a Lahore-based charity run by Pakistani women, wanted a solution that was simple and self-sustaining, an efficient wood-burning stove that local women could build and maintain themselves. So they developed the mud and straw-based stove – easy and, importantly, very cheap to build - and backed it up with training of village experts to help new users.

Between 1994 and 2009, Escorts worked with 56 villages and helped install more than 12,000 stoves, benefitting over 96,000 people. Improved stoves halve fuelwood consumption, with total estimated savings in 2009 of over 20,000 tonnes/year of wood, and 17,000 tonnes/year of CO2.

And the stoves bring wider benefits to the women. Not only are they equipped with new skills, but they are cooking in a safer environment and using less time to gather fuel. Time and money can now be spent on more profitable and fulfilling activities.

Stoves are often painted and decorated by their users. Photo: Martin Wright

Key points:

  • Stoves or ‘chullah’ made by the women who will use them, using local mud and straw.  Self-construction makes the financial cost minimal and also means that women have the skills to repair their stove. 
  • A metal chimney at one end draws air through combustion chamber, ensuring smoke is carried away from cook.  Stove designed so that two pots can be used at the same time. 
  • Stove plans are left with two women who become ‘village chullah mechanics’, who help other village women to construct their own stoves. 
  • Improved stove halves fuelwood consumption, with total estimated savings in 2009 of over 20,000 tonnes/year of wood, and 17,000 tonnes/year of CO2
  • Users benefit from a cleaner, safer cooking environment. Time spent gathering fuelwood and cooking is also greatly reduced.