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Biomass Fuel Efficiency – Bhutan

This initiative has activated rural women to use and promote more efficient cook stoves made of locally available materials and designed to match local needs. Biomass Fuel Efficiency in Bhutan trains women in stove-making and community mobilization, enhancing their understanding of the environmental problems associated with inefficient cook stoves and improving quality of life.

Fast facts:

  • 1,000 households in Bhutan benefitted
  • 50 per cent reduction in fuel wood consumption
  • 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent reductions annually

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The problem

Although some villages in rural Bhutan are connected to the electrical grid, firewood still supplies 75 per cent of energy for cooking and heating there. In 2005, for example, Bhutan was estimated to have consumed 725,000 tons of firewood.

Mud stoves traditionally used in rural Bhutan are largely inefficient, requiring women to travel long distances and spend many hours collecting fuel wood from national forests. Women and children, in particular, suffer from eye and respiratory problems caused by prolonged exposure to smoke and indoor pollution. Outdoor wood-gathering contributes to deforestation, and burning of biomass releases greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

The solution

Supported by the GEF Small Grants Programme, the Biomass Fuel Efficiency project is working with the government and villages in rural Bhutan to train women on how to build, maintain and repair efficient cook stoves designed for local needs and made out of locally available materials.

The 14 women initially trained have in turn trained 700 other women, creating a ripple effect of empowerment through knowledge. All these women not only encourage villagers to use efficient stoves, they also spread environmental awareness.

Helping the planet

Use of improved cook stoves has reduced consumption of wood by 50 percent in the 1,000 households that have participated in this project. This has resulted in a net reduction of almost 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. The project thus addresses the dual problems of deforestation and burning biomass emissions, which are contributing to climate change.

Helping people

Women in rural Bhutan have been directly benefitted in that they spend less time collecting firewood – time which they are now able to devote to other endeavours. The project also improves women’s health, as they are exposed to less indoor pollution. Women’s lives have been made easier, as cooking time is reduced by almost one-third, kitchens remain cleaner, and food can be kept warm longer. In addition, the project has empowered women by bolstering their organizational and planning skills, increasing their position within the community.

Spillover effect

The initial Biomass Fuel Efficiency project was replicated by the Tsirang Women Group, which has installed the improved stoves in an additional 1,500 households. The Small Grants Programme has conducted in-country study tours to share the success of the initiative with other projects, showcasing its success and enabling  further growth.

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