• Stoves must meet standards of reduced emission
• Work out price points that are viable for business scaling
• Financing options are critical for any stove program
• Essential to have participation of the government at the grassroot level to give scale to the awareness programs

The issues in changing over 2.6 billion people worldwide from traditional fuel stove to improved biomass cooking stoves lie as much in driving home the health message as ensuring that the process meets the demands of business viability, demographic reach, appropriate pricing and financing options, Shell Foundation India Country Head Anuradha Bhavnani said at the Technical Consultation on 'Advanced Cook Stoves for Improved Health of Women and Children' organized by USAID on December 10, 2009 in New Delhi.

Outlining the learnings from the ongoing Indoor Air Pollution awareness campaign in Shimoga District of Karnataka, Ms Bhavnani said the four cardinal requirements are that, First, stoves that meet standards of reduced emission; Second, price points that are viable for business scaling; third, financing options; and fourth, the participation of the government at the grassroot level to give scale to the awareness programs. Jeoren Blum, Deputy Director, Shell Foundation, presided over the session on Enterprise Solutions to Poverty.

Shell Foundation has undertaken a comprehensive program of engagement in 111 villages in Shimoga and is partnering with the district and state administration to drive awareness on the third largest killer in the country, Indoor Air Pollution (IAP).

“The Shell Foundation sees this awareness campaign as one of the most exciting and important developments in its Breathing Space program, which aims to achieve a significant long term reduction in IAP by designing so-called improved stoves that are more emission and fuel efficient - and by developing a sustainable way to get them in to people‘s homes,” said Mr Jeroen Blum, Deputy Director, Shell Foundation.

Shell Foundation has received support from the Chief Minister‘s office on its proposal to appoint an inter-ministerial committee with participation of IAP experts, stove manufacturers, MFIs, NGOs and others to develop a blueprint for State action. The State Government has positively viewed Shell Foundation‘s proposal to adopt a mission of turning Districts with high firewood usage into “IAP Free Districts”, starting with Shimoga as a model District. The campaign currently in operation in the Shimoga district in Karnataka has received the support of relevant officials of the State and District administration.

The campaign in Shimoga district is an initiative by Shell Foundation to focus on promoting the internationally-recognised, most effective and sustainable method for tackling IAP, namely ´improved stoves‘, which significantly reduce emissions and fuel use. At present, the program is taking the message to 111 villages in Shimoga district through a combination of on-ground static and interactive activities. The high intensity campaign is being conducted over a 90-day time period between October and January 2009.

The campaign is also being reached to the people through active support from the District Administration including the health and education infrastructure, village level health workers and demonstration of campaign for Gram Panchayats.

The current initiative follows a pilot campaign on IAP conducted by Shell Foundation in 2008 in the districts of Raichur, Koppal, Udupi and Mysore, which indicated that although small changes like ´keeping the kitchen windows open‘, ´installing a chimney or ventilator‘, ´keeping children away from smoke´or ´use of dry firewood‘ can make a big difference in reducing IAP, the final focus needs to be on motivating people to change behaviour, with a focus on improved stoves.

Shell Foundation has also developed the concept of ´standardization of stoves‘ to be able to directly connect the campaign with the improved stoves. The mark called ´Symbol of trust‘ will appear on the packaging and marketing materials of all improved stove manufacturers i.e. those that have passed rigorous tests on minimum emissions and fuel reduction standards as laid down by international bodies. At the local level, this mark will double-up as a ´standards mark‘ to indicate an improved stove that will reduce smoke levels by as much as 55%, while using at least 40% less fuel.

The campaign is being taken to the doorstep using the concept of Sustained Activist Householder who is an active local village lady visiting various households and informing the villagers about the problems of IAP and its solution use of improved stoves standardised with the ´mark of trust‘ through flipchart stories and distribution of leaflets. Smoke-less Stove demos being conducted at weekly markets will introduce villagers to the benefits and effective use of stoves by providing them with a first-hand experience of using the stove.

At present, the campaign by Shell Foundation will highlight to the villagers the presence of independent improved stove manufacturers like Envirofit and Selco who have launched a range of clean burning biomass cookstoves in the country designed by teams of globally recognized scientists and engineers.