Another epic month for the Himalayan Rocket Stove project in India. I’ll summarise the details in point form to keep things short and sweet.
1. Chetana and I moved down to Chandigarh around the 6th Nov, leaving the Ladakh production team in Tanzin’s capable hands. He has been continuing on with production in Leh, which is admittedly slower than I was hoping, but has been invaluable in terms of developing and testing the design in proper Himalayan conditions.
2. We came to Chandigarh to find a manufacturing partner for higher production volume and quality. I have located a partner for this who has a sheet metal factory just out of Chandigarh (in a small industrial town called Baddi, in HP).
3. I’m in the process of setting up a Pvt Ltd company in India so as to maintain as much control over the product as possible, and to allow for export to Nepal and to the various states of India. This is in process now while the manufacturing partner (Him Engineering) is putting together a production prototype and costing out the production process.
4. Meanwhile, in a parallel stream to the Himalayan Rocket Stove project, I’ve also initiated the ‘Smokeless Cookstove Revolution’ as a fully non-profit project aimed at training locals in the process we developed in Ladakh for creating low cost smokeless cookstoves out of clay. This came about as a side benefit of working on local options for burn tubes in Ladakh due to the lack of high tech materials.
5. The low cost insulated clay tubes (which we use as internal components in the Himalayan Rocket Stove in Ladakh) are perfect for making a replacement to the open cook fire that is still widely used throughout many parts of India and Nepal, as well as other parts of the world. Over 4 million people die each year as a result of Household Air Pollution (HAP) so I felt I had to dedicate some time and funds to getting this project off the ground. Although there are various other smokeless cookstove solutions, I have yet to see another project that is as easy and low cost to implement as this.
6. There is a crowdfunding site for this project (link below), with 100% of funds going towards training workshop leaders and employing them to go run workshops wherever we have requests. I have already started getting calls for these trainers from NGO’s in Nepal, Jharkand, Himachal and various other parts of India. This is a new project which is still in process of getting off the ground, but the first $200 raised is enough to get the first workshop happening in Chandigarh from 12 to 17 December.
The plan is to raise enough funds until it becomes its own self sustaining entity and spreads the ideas we’ve discovered about insulated clay tubes, thereby facilitating what I am idealistically calling a ‘Smokeless Cookstove Revolution’.
7. Meanwhile, back onto the Himalayan Rocket Stove project… I’ve committed to funding the Ladakh operation until the end of November by which time we will have exhausted the best part of the season up there. It was already getting cold when I left, and Tanzin tells me it is now getting hard to do any work outside (where the main folding machine is) due to the low temperatures. My plan of running a production unit up there through the winter is now highly unlikely, in which case we will pack up that operation by the end of the month. I had been planning to continue production with LEDeG managing the operation throughout the winter, but this now seems unrealistic.
8. The LEDeG experience has been invaluable as a prototyping and testing period which has brought forward the design by a full year. Had I gone through with the initial plan of making the 200 units in Chandigarh and waiting for feedback, I would be sitting around now waiting for next season to implement the improvements. As it is, I have been able to take real time feedback from the workshop team (who all had stoves at home) as well as my own experience of using one to survive the cold nights for about a month. This has allowed me to improve the design to the point where I now feel confident to put them into production in Chandigarh in a more significant way.
9. The stoves made through November in Ladakh have been given to locals who will be able to offer immediate and ongoing feedback, as well as some other groups. We have given stoves to poor and remote nunneries (one in Zanskar and one in Mulbeck near Kargil so far). One stove went to a very poor, old woman we found in the streets of Leh carrying a large pile of wood. We have units ready to an old people’s home at Choglamsar, and to the Tibetan nomad school at Puja (near Tso Moriri). Every unit is being tracked with a contact number and Tanzin will make follow up calls to get ongoing feedback over the winter months.
10. I have been in contact with 2 different NGO’s in Nepal, as well as a Nepali from Namche Bazaar, who are all keen to see the rocket stoves implemented there. I have requests and orders for stoves from Darjeeling, Shimla, Tabo, Manali, Kashmir and various parts of HP. It would appear that the demand is likely to outstrip our ability to supply in the short term. The plan is to make the smaller stove first (easier to make) in batches of about 25 units, and to truck them to various nodes of the Himalayas from where they can be dispersed. These initial units will mostly be sold so as create some cash flow for the production process.
11. Additional to the stoves we sell, we are committed to donating 200 units for needful situations in the Himalayas. Out of each production batch, a number of units will be given away to schools, nunneries, old people’s homes and poor people as part of our vision for sharing rocket stove technology widely throughout the Himalayas.
Thanks for your ongoing support!