Nav Durga’s rice husk-based clean cookstoves save lives and money

About 400 million Indians — of which 90 per cent are women — suffer the consequences of being exposed to dangerous emissions discharged from the usage of inefficient cookstoves. They cause respiratory, pulmonary and vision problems. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.3 million people in India die due to indoor pollution. Most of these deaths can be attributed to toxic emissions from the use of solid fuels like firewood and cow-dung cakes, burnt in inefficient cookstoves.

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Besides the negative health effects of inefficient cookstoves, there’s the tremendous wastage of time and effort that goes into gathering firewood or making cow-dung cakes. According to the Indian government report ‘Energy Statistics 2013’, more than 800 million of India’s population uses traditional energy sources for cooking, including firewood, charcoal, crop-residue and cow-dung cakes. Households using kerosene have to set aside up to 30 per cent of their income for fuel.

Saurabh Sagar Jaiswal and his father Arvind Sagar Jaiswal founded Nav Durga Metal Industries in 2009 to address this problem. The idea came from Saurabh’s father-in-law Mahendra Pratap Jaiswal, who was inspired to build a clean cookstove, after he saw a poor farmer using rice husk as a fuel source in a traditional stove in Nepal. Nav Durga’s first product, the Janta Chulha Smokeless Stove, was priced at Rs 500.

“We thought cookstove improvements can provide significant benefits for these families’ health and livelihoods and impact global sustainability. Our stoves gives them safety; better health, a higher income; and by reducing fuel-gathering and cooking time it gives them more time, which results in increased employment. They also help cause less harm to the environment,” says Vibhore Jaiswal, Mahendra’s son, who joined the company in 2012 as executive director. Vibhore who has an MBA in human resources, previously worked at SpiceJet Airlines and on several e-governance projects across India. Inspired by his father’s dream of manufacturing energy efficient biomass cookstoves, he quit his job, and decided to join Nav Durga to grow the business.

After his joining, Nav Durga expanded from three states to eight so far. He also helped with the initial challenges faced by Nav Durga, like finding investment, creating a demand for rice husk-based clean cookstoves and building credibility among their low-income users. According to Jaiswal, Nav Durga’s stoves are akin to conventional LPG stoves, and produce the same blue flame and ignite in five seconds with no smoke. Nav Durga has developed 10 cookstove designs that use rice husk (and other agro/wood-waste) and reduce indoor air pollution up to 80 per cent when compared to traditional cookstoves.

India produces approximately 120 million tons of rice husk every year, the majority of which is been burnt or discarded as waste. Recently, however, companies like Husk Power Systems have started using rice husk as a raw material which is being converted into electricity. Rice husk, which is used by Nav Durga, is a good smokeless fuel source.

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“Delivering a stove as per client/customer requirements was the key. As time passed, I came to know the other business requirements such as micro-financing, investment and company’s innovative practices by means of capacity building schemes are also as necessary as the cooking products. When it comes to rice husk-based cookstoves, we are the only manufacturer in India till date developing, producing and distributing the stoves ourselves,” claims Jaiswal. Nav Durga is headquartered in Uttar Pradesh, and has a presence in other states like Bihar, Uttarakhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Assam and Meghalaya.

Nav Durga has impacted 30,000 households or 1,80,000 people directly. By their estimates, sale of their stoves has resulted in the reduction of 60,000 tonnes CO2 emissions annually. Each Agni Rice Husk Stove saves on an average 20 trees, 730 hours of cooking and two tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. In addition, the biochar and ash produced from Agni Rice Husk Stove is a good soil conditioning material.

Nav Durga is working on various agro wastes to convert into fuel and target states of India accordingly. The social enterprise has also recently installed AGNI mid-day meal stoves. These are tailor-made based on user preferences and come in multiple sizes for village-level primary schools. “We plan to expand to Nepal at the end of this year,” adds Vibhore.

By 2016, Nav Durga plans to manufacture, distribute and service around 200,000 cookstoves across India.

Note: Nav Durga was a Sankalp Awards 2014 finalist. YourStory was a digital partner for Sankalp Unconvention Summit 2014.

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