TIDE – Conserving Forests, Empowering People With Clean Cook-Stoves

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Decentralized Renewable Energy (DRE) Technologies have a considerable impact on the environment. Not only do they contribute to the sustainability of our planet, but they further help in generating employment and provide access to better health.

Here is a story about a CLEAN Network member named TIDE (Technology Informatics Design Endeavour), which is working in the remote villages of Tamilnadu to create smoke-free kitchens and also is generating employment. Technology Informatics Design Endeavour (TIDE), is a Bangalore-based development organization that leverages appropriate clean technology for conserving the environment. Creating livelihoods, and addressing societal issues.

TIDE mainly implements projects related to biomass products and clean technologies in Karnataka, Tamilnadu and Assam. It collaborates with partner organizations to ensure wide dissemination among remote and marginalized communities, forest fringe areas, and tribal communities. WWF India (World Wide Fund), through its Western Ghats Nilgiris Landscape division, partnered with TIDE to promote the Sarala improved cook-stove in remote villages inside Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR) in Erode district, Tamilnadu.

This partnership helps convert dark and smoky kitchens among households in forest fringes into clean & smoke-free ones by training locals in stove construction. The unique aspect here is the households contribute the construction process and as such local employment is created through the stove construction training.

R. Sekar, a former census enumerator, is a beneficiary of this program. He got himself certified as an improved cook-stove installer by Skill Council for Green Jobs and has constructed more than 120 stoves in the Nilgiris region. He has led the organization of clean cookstove building projects during the agricultural off-season when casual laborers don’t find work on farms.

In 2019, Sekar witnessed a sea change in his fortunes after getting trained by TIDE in Sarala improved stove construction. The 36-year-old father is now proud of his newly acquired skill and says, “I have been able to make monthly savings of INR2,000, which I have invested in gold for my daughter’s higher education”.

Sekar also trained many other stove builders, helping them improve their income, effectively. Today, there are 15 such certified stove-builders in Erode district trained by TIDE in improved low-cost cook-stove construction. After getting trained, these skilled stove builders have constructed Sarala stoves in many small hamlets located on the Tamilnadu-Karnataka border. A stove builder can make about INR300-500 per day if they build 3-5 stoves a day. The end beneficiary of these improved cook-stoves is also happy that their kitchens are finally smoke-free and are no longer spending their time foraging for firewood in the forest.

RJA Steffan Ajay, Senior Program Officer in WWF-India, WGNL says, “This skill training partnership between TIDE and WWF-India has effectively reduced the consumption of forest firewood in STR region as more than 1000-plus Sarala stoves have been built during the last three years in this sparsely-populated forest belt. The pilot project of 1,000 stoves has prevented more than 1,440 tons of forest firewood from being consumed annually in the kitchens of the STR belt. Further, there is a large potential to scale up this activity as we have mapped out about 9,000 potential beneficiaries of the Sarala stove for the future”.

Going forward, TIDE would be training few more selected stove builders like Sekar in the STR region on the construction of institutional cook-stoves for dhabhas and hotels. This would not only increase their income but also create a business plan for DRE solutions such as commercial cook-stoves that have the potential to mitigate at least 2.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide per unit installation.

Future augurs well for both the community and wildlife of the STR belt as TIDE ensures there is a sustainable DRE solution for cooking that can conserve the forest area and improve the lives of tribal communities.

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