Monday, January 2, 2012

Karnataka Government Supports Shell Foundation’s IAP Programme

Shell Foundation’s Breathing Space programme entered a new phase of engagement with multiple districts in the state of Karnataka with an awareness and engagement programme for District and Taluk level elected and executive officers organized in Davangere and Gulbarga on November 25 and December 16 respectively. This programme is a part of Shell Foundation’s current initiative in Bihar, Maharashtra and Karnataka to build momentum for adoption of improved cook stoves by providing access to stoves, finance and a last mile distribution chain.

Being implemented by Envirofit, Grameen Koota and Project Dharma in Karnataka, the initiative envisages partnership with rural government authorities and outreach workers. The aim is to create a strong rural finance and distribution chain to promote adoption of improved cook stoves manufactured by Envirofit. This programme is an outcome of the pilot projects run in Udupi, Koppal, Raichur and Shimoga over the past two years to establish the different routes to market.

The Ministry of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj has extended its support for training of Anganwadi workers through the satellite programme of the State Institute for Rural Development (SIRD), incentivisation of families who are identified Below Poverty Line (BPL) and access to Self Help Groups (SHG) through the Self Employment Programme (SEP).

According to Pradeep Pursnani, Business Director, Breathing Space, Shell Foundation:

“The partnership represents an efficient pooling of resources for creating sustainable social impact. By partnering the government’s existing outreach, the IAP solution providers can spread awareness and drive conversion at a much faster pace.”

The current campaign involves engagement with district authorities as well as leveraging existing, compatible government programmes. The workshop at Devangere was a part of meetings being organized in districts to review the progress of the World Bank funded Gram Swaraj programme which covers 39 most backward talukas and 1341 Gram Panchayats of Karntaka. The workshops will cover all 15 districts that are under the Gram Swaraj program. Chief of the Gram Swaraj Program, Mr. Ekanthappa was keen that the IAP program be shared with Taluk level leaders. Two other workshops will be held in December at Mysore and Koppal.

The workshop at Devangere, attended by 60 Zilla Panchayat Members, Zilla Panchayat officials (CEO, CAO and PO) and state level officers from Gram Swaraj, was addressed by Sacchit Naik and Prabhu Andanur from Project Dharma, Gokuldas Adappa from Envirofit and Mahanthesh H K from micro-finance institution Grameen Koota and its enabling NGO Navya Disha.

The session was opened by Mr Ekanthappa, Chief Executive Officer of Gram Swaraj, impressing on the gathering the need for adoption of IAP mitigating measures. Mahanthesh outlined the IAP issues, health risks and options available while Adappa took the gathering through the advantages of Envirofit’s range of improved cook stoves. The partnership between the three IAP solution providers – Grameen Koota, Envirofit and Project Dharma – was presented by Prabhu. The session was followed by a stove demonstration.

Speaking on the workshop, Mahanthesh HK noted that:

“Participants wanted to know more about the cook stoves and are interested in taking up this activity in their locality. Zilla Panchayats have also shown interest in purchasing stoves for the Anganwadis in Davanagere district. As a whole, I thought the presentation was well received.”

According to Anuradha Bhavnani, Regional Director, Shell Foundation:

“After the pilots in different districts of Karnataka and an extensive Anganwadi engagement programme in Shikaripur Taluk, we knew that an effective IAP programme required four legs to stand on: a product, finance, a last mile distribution network and an enabling existing outreach, be it of the government or locally established partners with reach. The addition of Project Dharma to the efforts of Grameen Koota and Envirofit means we now have the ability to convert the heightened awareness into quick product deliveries. We have found in the past that the Government of Karnataka has been a very enthusiastic partner in addressing the issue of Indoor Air Pollution. Specifically, we found that by addressing the government organization, we were able to quickly build up awareness in the remotest of villages. Consequently, it made eminent sense to tie up the efforts of the three Shell Foundation partners with the huge capacity that the government puts on the table.”

Speaking on the initiative with Gram Swaraj, Pradeep Pursnani said:

“The Gram Swaraj programme was an ideal kick-start as it enabled our partners to speak directly to Taluk level programme managers in the most backward Taluks and Villages of Karnataka. Given that improved cook stoves provide great economies in fuel consumption, apart from the obvious health benefits, we were reaching out to an audience that has the ability to make a change in their villages and adopt Improved Cook Stoves as a village level program. This transformation would drive real change on the ground and our partners today have the answers to the three critical challenges of IAP: availability, affordability and access. We now look forward to the next stage of deeper engagement with six districts in Karnataka as well as new districts in Maharashtra and Bihar.”
Read More..

Monday, November 21, 2011

‘Impact Investing’ Countering Indoor Air Pollution

With companies moving from philanthropy to social investment, is the scorecard on social impact getting any better? MIT and Social Capital Markets (called SOCAP) explored answers to these questions in a special series of Innovations Journals on Impact Investment.

The authors, Ann-Kristin Achleitner, Andreas Heinecke, Abigail Noble, Mirjam Schöning, and Wolfgang Spiess-Knafl in their prefatory note sound a note of caution while opening the discussion:

"Social investment is neither a silver bullet to close the funding gap in the social entrepreneurship space nor a suitable solution of growth.The social
enterprises that are best served by social enterprise at every stage every social for investment are those that have clear and realistic plans for how they will address their short and medium-term needs and are open to inviting outsiders into their decision-making processes and, in some cases, to ceding decision-making rights on their strategy and operations to outsiders."

One of the keys to effective “Impact Investing” seems to be just that: clear and realistic plans.

Narrating Envirofit’s tale from 2007 till today on how it has identified problems and tapped various markets to sell cookstoves and become scalable and sustainable, Tim Bauer of Envirofit International in his case study “Enabling Market-Driven Technology” says:

“Shell Foundation took the lead investor role with an initial $3.5 million investment designed to enable Envirofit to raise the total $25 million investment required to grow and scale a global cookstove business. Envirofit’s demonstrated commercial track record, its history of including key stakeholders in strategy and planning, and its transparency in sharing results and lessons learned with its partners has been the key to finding this funding.”

“We strongly believe that a market-driven approach is a necessary backbone to helping solve the problems we focus on—at any level of scale. The company’s vision is larger than the number of lives saved or tons of emissions reduced by implementing a particular technology. With innovative products, services, and financial mechanisms, we are creating a new global standard for cookstoves, thereby addressing problems and challenges that affect half of the world’s population. At a very basic level, the efforts and results of Envirofit have always been and will continue to be made possible by impact investment.”

Commenting on Tim’s case study, Pradeep Pursnani, Business Director of Shell Foundation’s program to tackle Indoor Air Pollution, says the key lesson learnt was that:

“After five years of pilot projects from 2002 to 2007, we realized that a problem as large as IAP can only be solved through market thinking and private sector involvement. Following a number of pilot projects, in 2007 we selected Envirofit as our global strategic partner, and since then we have supported the establishment and growth of their cookstove business in India and Africa.”

Shell Foundation, says Pursnani, learnt a number of lessons from the pilot projects. The key five lessons which have shaped the strategies and innovations to counter IAP were:

1. Biomass should be focused upon as the fuel used in the stoves as it is in sync with the cooking habits of   maximum households around the world.
2. Centralized manufacturing of stoves helps in scaling the project and ensures consistency in quality and performance.
3. SF needs commercial partners to grow. It found out through its pilots that NGOs cannot focus on manufacturing a sustainable global solution at scale as they run on     donations which are limited and thus have to compromise on number of stoves or its quality.
4. The solution must meet certain performance benchmarks around fuel efficiency,  carbon and particulate  matter (PM) emissions and must be technology driven, well engineered, durable and affordable as low quality cookstoves are often discarded and face lapse behavior.
5. Monitoring, evaluation and social marketing are vital for a successful program.

These five lessons have helped Envirofit and Shell Foundation become sustainable and scalable. As of today, Envirofit is funded by Shell Foundation, but, given the rate at which it is growing, Pradeep foresees financial sustainability. He identified three game changers for Envirofit being: commercial partnerships, carbon finance, and the start of large-scale local assembly operations.
Read More..

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shell Foundation And Grameen Koota Help 92,000 People Breathe Free In Karnataka

The state of Karnataka in India hosts the largest number of Indian IT companies and an ever expanding technology base. Yet, despite all the state-of-the-art technology being developed, 75% of the people in the villages of Karnataka still cook over open fires and traditional stoves which exposes them to indoor air pollution, leading to respiratory diseases.

Now, efforts are being made by Grameen Koota Financial Services, Navya Disha Trust and Envirofit, backed by Shell Foundation, to change the situation, says a report in Prajavani, a regional language newspaper in Kannada. Their efforts have led to Grameen Koota helping 4000 households purchase Envirofit Jeevan Jyoti stoves, thereby impacting the lives of 92,000 people in 12 districts and 32 Talukas (sub-divisions) of Karnataka.

Reporting on an awareness raising camp held at the Gopalapura village in Karnataka, the newspaper reports that the effort is to create awareness on the benefits of clean cookstoves, demonstrate the working of Jeevan Jyoti stoves and inform villagers about the financial assistance given by Grameen Koota to buy the stoves.

Envirofit's Jeevan Jyoti stoves are promoted in the districts by Grameen Koota, a micro-finance institution with a membership base of 400,000 in Karnataka alone. Discussing the benefits of Jeevan Jyoti stoves, project co-ordinator K G Mahadesh said:

“(Modernised) chimneys are more expensive compared to Jeevan Jyothi stoves. They cost about Rs.5000 to Rs.6000 whereas the stoves cost Rs.1500. Moreover these stoves are handy and mobile. People can take these stoves wherever they want.”

Over 85,000 of their members have shown interest in purchasing Envirofit stoves as a result of the campaigns they have run so far. The subsidies Grameen Koota provides for poorer villagers range from Rs.700 to Rs.1400 – which goes a long way to encouraging increased uptake of the life-saving cleaner cookstoves.
Read More..

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shell Foundation And Envirofit Leverage Carbon Credits To Cut Costs Of Cleaner Cookstoves

A recent story in The Hindu Business Line explores how Shell Foundation and Envirofit are reducing the cost of cookstoves for end-users by leveraging the sale of carbon credits.

Providing improved cookstoves affordably is a challenge for all organisations working in the IAP space. As Shell Foundation and Envirofit learned in the Indian and African markets, simply building awareness of the problem and providing a strong product offering aren’t enough. If the stoves aren’t priced competitively relative to the traditional alternatives, they simply won’t sell.

Manufacturers need to lower costs of production but price sensitivity is so great that this may not be enough, certainly not in the short-term. So how else to reduce the price to end-users? Government and charity subsidies are helpful – but to operate at scale a more stable form of cost offset is required. By leveraging carbon credits to offset manufacturing costs, Shell Foundation and Envirofit aim to provide a reduction in the retail price of cleaner cookstoves.

Pradeep Pursnani, Business Director of Shell Foundation’s cleaner cookstoves programmes, explains:

“In Africa, we found a lot of demand for the clean charcoal burning stove, but affordability was a big question. So, to help bring down its cost, we started a Shell Foundation Envirofit Carbon Fund with a corpus of up to $1 million. The Fund is independent and technology agnostic and will provide tailor-made solutions to stove manufacturers, women's groups and MFIs to make sale and purchase of stoves affordable. The fund will now be enhanced to $5 million to cater to India as well. A stove that costs around Rs 1,500 would be available for around Rs 1,000 to rural families."

Explaining how the carbon credits model for offsetting cookstove costs works, Pradeep continues:

“Stove manufacturers sell the reduced emission stoves at a discounted price, and recover the difference from sale of carbon credits. Though the stoves have the advantage of product quality, manufacturers are likely to see carbon revenues only flow in after 2-3 years. This means the manufacturers are left short of working capital. This is where Shell Foundation will step in. Its carbon fund for stoves will fund the subsidy and later recover it from carbon credits sales that it generates on the same stoves.”

This new method of partially offsetting manufacturing costs should make cleaner cookstoves accessible to a much wider market. This will allow more households to benefit from a reduction in IAP and more efficient cooking, while providing wider environmental benefits for all in terms of reduced emissions.

Read the full story on: Carbon credits to bring down cost of clean stoves for rural poor
Read More..

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Study Finds Indoor Air Pollution Causes Increased Blood Pressure in Older Women

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have discovered significant links between IAP and increased blood pressure in a study of 280 women over 50 in rural China.

The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, was carried out over a period of 24 hours, during which the women  wore portable devices that sampled the air they breathed in. This data was then mapped against the blood pressure of each of the participants to determine whether there was a correlation between the smoke being breathed in and increased blood pressure.

A huge number of households in rural China still rely on open fires and biomass fuels for cooking and heating their homes, creating smoke that can severely damage the health of the entire family. Researcher Jill Baumgartner and her colleagues found that IAP released by these methods of cooking stimulates the nervous system and constricts blood vessels. This significantly raises blood pressure in the short term, while in the long term IAP causes oxidative stress, further raising blood pressure. Increased blood pressure also leaves people vulnerable to other cardiovascular problems such as strokes and heart disease.

Greater adoption of clean cookstove technology will help combat these effects. The study estimates that the reduction in IAP caused by curtailing the use of biomass fuels would result in an 18 percent decrease in coronary heart disease and a 22 percent decrease in stroke among Asian women aged 50 to 59 years. These benefits could save the lives of 230,900 women in China alone each year.

Read the full study on: Indoor Air Pollution and Blood Pressure in Adult Women Living in Rural China
Read More..

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Envirofit Ranked Third in Top Ten Most Innovative Companies in Energy

Envirofit has been ranked third in Fast Company’s listing of ‘The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Energy’.

Envirofit was counted among the top three innovative companies due to its cheap, environment-friendly stoves for consumers in the developing world.

According to Fast Company: “(Envirofit) products rely on intensive market research, so that each stove can be "housewife-approved" for each cultural context and cooking style, and use up to 60% less fuel.”

Harish Anchan, Managing Director of Envirofit, used the award as an opportunity to highlight the scale of the problem of IAP in India:

“Despite the economic surge and growth stories, India has many unsolved and unattended burning issues. Most of these issues concern the rural and poor urban population of India. Millions of women and children are still suffering from the effects of deadly Indoor Air Pollution. Our efforts have started delivering results, but there is still a lot to achieve.”

Envirofit has sold over 300,000 stoves so far, impacting the lives of over one and a half million people. Recognition such as this will help to leverage Envirofit’s visibility on a global scale, raising more awareness of the issue, and encouraging more partners to work towards a solution so that even more lives can be positively impacted.

Fast Company is a business magazine that reports on innovation, digital media, technology, change management, leadership, design, and social responsibility.

The other organisations included on the list were Solarcity, Enerkem, Portland General Electric, Cook Inlet Region Inc., Earth Aid, U.S. Military, GE, Joule Biotechnologies and Solyndra.

See the full list on: The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Energy
Read More..

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hillary Clinton Lauds India Cookstove Program

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the efforts of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) at an event held at the Women’s Working Forum in Chennai, India on July 20th, 2011. As reported in the GACC newsletter, Mrs. Clinton also praised the Government of India for its National Biomass Cookstoves Initiative.

Dr. Kalpana Balakrishnan of the Sri Ramachandra University, a research expert on the health benefits of cleaner cookstoves, walked Mrs.Clinton through demonstrations of stoves being marketed by Alliance partners including Prakti Design, First Energy, Envirofit and TERI.

According to a press release from the US Consulate, Dr. Kalpana stressed to Mrs. Clinton that continued research and partnerships are vital for the programme’s success, and that it needs the same full-scale attention as given to public health programmes that address vaccinations and nutrition. The discussions with Mrs. Clinton also focused on new and advanced monitoring tools for this sector used in Dr. Balakrishnan’s laboratory.

Mrs. Clinton was quoted as saying in the US Consulate report:

"The women here today represent women all over the world who are by and large the biggest users and victims of cookstoves. We will work with people around the world to help develop clean cookstoves, help to manufacture them so they are affordable for you to buy them."

Mrs Clinton also announced that India’s apex bodies of commerce and industry, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), have signed up to the Alliance. Both organisations have come forward to support the adoption of clean cookstoves in India. According to the newsletter:

“CII has committed to link community efforts to its extensive industry network, help commercialise promising cooking technologies, and help integrate clean cookstoves into its other members’ projects.”

FICCI plans to support local cookstove SMEs, help to make cookstoves more accessible through microfinance, develop women’s employment options and support the GACC’s interaction with the Indian government.

Read the full report on: Sec. Clinton Highlights Clean Cookstoves in India
                                     Secretary Clinton Gets Fired Up Over Safer Cooking
Read More..

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Addressing Africa’s Affordability Challenge: Is Carbon Trading The Answer?

In early 2010 Shell Foundation and Envirofit, long-standing partners in the battle against IAP, decided the time was right to expand the geographical focus of their work to Africa.

What they found was a very different situation to the one they faced in India. People in Africa already knew about the benefits of improved cookstoves and, what’s more, they were keen to buy them. The problem, almost exclusively, was the issue of affordability.

Pradeep Pursnani heads Shell Foundation’s programme to tackle Indoor Air Pollution. In the last two years he has been working to overcome the main barriers to growth of the nascent cookstove market in India, living and breathing the IAP challenge.

Pradeep says:

"India poses a complex set of challenges, and high amongst these is the issue of demand. Indian consumers in rural areas still struggle with the idea that purchasing a better cookstove is a good use of their limited resources. The impacts of IAP need to be spelt out at all levels, and consumers need help to understand the efficiencies and savings that improved stoves can offer. On the other hand, for quite some time, Africans have been giving up on three-stone fireplaces in favour of metal stoves,largely because the depletion of forests and scrubland has forced them to purchase the wood and charcoal they use as kitchen fuel."

In fact locally built stoves such as the Joki, a metal stove with a combustion chamber made from mud, were introduced in Africa nearly 20 years ago. For Pradeep this meant that there was less need to spend time, effort and resources building awareness about the problem of IAP and the need to use improved stoves. As he scouted markets in Kenya and Tanzania it became clear that the economic benefits of a stove that consumed less fuel appealed greatly to consumers.

Pradeep explained:

“We soon realised that people in Africa were comfortable buying a stove as a household product. This meant that our biggest challenge was to deliver a value proposition that would displace the existing, less efficient but very cheap stoves. We needed to make efficient cookstoves available via a strong distribution system, but at a price that matched or bettered the existing alternatives.”

Pradeep discovered a continent awash with stove sellers. With the market highly elastic (price-sensitive) some of these businesses had started to sell carbon credits in order to reduce their prices. Herein lay tremendous potential to use carbon revenues to subsidise the price of improved clean cookstoves or to invest in technological development to lower costs.

“Carbon credits are a key enabler for clean cookstoves in the African market”,said Pradeep.

“They can help overcome the barriers of affordability by taking advantage of the fact that cleaner cookstoves offer environmental as well as health benefits.”

[Early research shows that improved stoves can save up to 3 tonnes of carbon per year from entering the atmosphere. Over the five year life span of a stove this figure can be substantial.]

Unfortunately taking advantage of these carbon savings proved far from simple; the main problem, it turned out, was one of timing.

“For a clean cookstove business to be competitive in the wider market place they must be selling stoves at around $10. If they can reach this price point they’ll have the edge on product quality. But at the moment this price is far lower than the cost to make the stoves. Trading the future carbon savings from each stove could subsidise much of this shortfall, but this revenue won’t be seen until two to three years later.”

Carbon savings need to be measured and validated in the field before credits are issued and trading can take place. Clean cookstove manufacturers simply lack the working capital to cover this gap.

Catalysing sustainable growth

“After a great deal of market analysis and research we came to the conclusion that although we could find the right partners to distribute stoves and maximise the value of carbon revenues, we needed to help them bridge to the point in time at which this system would be self-sufficient” continues Pradeep, his excitement clear in every word.

“We launched the Shell Foundation Envirofit Carbon Fund in at the end of 2010. The idea is to have a $1 million fund to support different kinds of high-quality clean stove businesses, regardless of the technology they use, and facilitate new distribution channels by making appropriately structured finance available to them on a temporary basis to help them become sustainable.”

Through the new fund the partners hope to subsidise the sale of over 100,000 stoves over the next 2 years in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and India. The subsidy will be replaced with earnings from carbon revenues over time. The fund will also work with other organizations, such as women’s groups and MFIs, to make the sale and marketing of improved stoves more affordable.

The Carbon Fund has announced three deals to work with distributors in Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania. The first, announced in the third quarter of 2010, is a partnership with Paradigm, a voluntary carbon network in Kenya. The plan is for Envirofit to sell improved stoves to Paradigm for $10 to $12 (approx $20 less than their usual retail price) with Shell Foundation providing a subsidy to Envirofit to make up the difference. Paradigm will sell these at cost to a range of distributors in the country and the stoves will eventually be sold to consumers for roughly $15. Over time Paradigm will trade the carbon credits it receives for each stove sold and use this income to subsidise further stove purchases.

By early 2011 similar deals had been struck with C-Quest, a US-based carbon financier, that aims to sell two million improved stoves in Nigeria within the next five years, and E+Co, the clean energy investor, in Tanzania.

Just one piece of the jigsaw

Whilst the new fund will provide a much-needed spur to help the clean cookstove industry realise the value of carbon revenues, Pradeep knows that further cost-efficiencies and technological developments are needed.

“Carbon credits will part-subsidise the price of the improved stoves but more savings are going to be necessary for these stoves to be competitive in the mature stove markets of Africa. The next step will be for Envirofit to start local assembly operations in Kenya where they will benefit from tax waivers. The cost of an imported Envirofit G3300 is roughly $30 but local assembly would bring down the cost to around $15. Once you factor in the income from trading carbon credits this makes a final retail price of $8 much more realistic. If they then start using local paint and parts such as handles, costs could be reduced even further. Then you have the boost to local employment that this would provide.”

This development would see Kenya become the hub of Envirofit’s East African operations and enable duty free export to Tanzania and Uganda. Generating carbon revenues from the sale of clean cookstoves is an important route to achieving this; a sustainable, scaleable win-win for stove manufacturers, distributors and the customers they serve.
Read More..

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Case Study: Cleaner Cooking Makes Business Sense in Ramnagar

Suresh is a self-employed tavern owner from Ramnagar, Karnataka – a small but rapidly growing town between Bangalore and Mysore made popular by the legendary Bollywood film Sholay.

For years Suresh relied upon a three-stone traditional chulha to prepare sambar (Indian lentils), rice, tea and coffee for his customers – a broad mix of local townsfolk and travellers on route to Mysore. Business was good but behind the scenes Suresh was paying a big price. Whilst his customers enjoyed the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, Suresh was inhaling dense toxic fumes from the chulha that left him with sore eyes and a sore throat. At the same time he was spending Rs100 a day for firewood to feed the stove.

Three months ago, an officer from Grameen Koota, a micro-finance organisation, saw Suresh cooking over his traditional chulha.  A short discussion between the two led to Suresh being introduced to a bright orange cookstove that consumed less firewood and emitted less smoke. Suresh saw the value immediately but although he liked the idea of having the stove – one of Envirofit’s G3300 models – he worried about getting the money together. The Grameen Koota officer stepped in with a loan for Suresh’s mother, Thayamma, to buy the stove.

Today, Suresh stirs his sambar without coughing or crying and his customers are happy to sit in a smoke-free space. The Envirofit stove has helped Suresh cut down the time he spends cooking. By using the stove for two to five hours a day (two to three hours every morning, one hour in the afternoon and another hour in the evening) he can cook rice and sambar on five-litre pots to feed his customers throughout the day. With his old traditional chulha the same amount of cooking used to take Suresh between eight and 10 hours.

Suresh requires less wood for his new improved cookstove and this saving has already allowed him to repay the loan from Grameen Koota.

“In less than a month, I’ve recovered the stove’s cost from the savings I make on fuel”, Suresh told us. “I’m now only spending between Rs 20 and 30 on wood each day – that’s a daily saving of Rs 70 to 80. I don’t have to breathe in dirty smoke and even the food tastes better.”

Envirofit stoves reduce harmful emissions up to 80% and require up to 60% less fuel compared to traditional cookstoves. They are manufactured to last longer than traditional chulha stoves whilst being easy to use, clean and maintain.

Various MFI financing schemes, like the one from Grameen Koota, help to make the stoves more affordable. Grameen Koota officers make the most of their familiarity in the villages and the understanding of the socio-economic conditions of their customers to raise awareness about the benefits of clean cookstoves.

Suresh’s new stove has made his life easier, more comfortable and saved him money. While his customers enjoy their piping hot coffee and sambar-rice, Suresh is now cooking safely in his smokeless kitchen.
Read More..

Friday, July 29, 2011

Indo-US Joint Centre To Research Link Between IAP And COPD

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) is a major public health problem affecting millions of people in both developed and developing countries. There is no effective treatment for COPD, which is characterised by chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Whilst many millions of people in the developed world suffer from COPD, the problem is particularly severe in rural communities in the developing world. As a report on explains, high incidences of environmental lung disease are being caused primarily by indoor cooking using biomass and other solid fuels.

A recent report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) breaks down the causes of COPD further.

“COPD has opposite patterns according to geographic areas. In high- and middle-income countries, tobacco smoke is the biggest risk factor, while in low-income countries exposure to indoor air pollution, such as the use of biomass fuels for cooking and heating, causes the COPD burden. Almost 3 billion people worldwide use biomass and coal as their main source of energy for cooking, heating, and other household needs. In these communities, indoor air pollution is responsible for a greater fraction of COPD risk than smoking or outdoor air pollution.Biomass fuels used by women for cooking account for the high prevalence of COPD among non-smoking women in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Indoor air pollution resulting from the burning of wood and other biomass fuels is estimated to kill two million women and children each year.”

Despite research by the WHO into COPD occurrence in non-smokers, the pathobiology and a definitive link between indoor air pollution (caused by burning  solid fuels and cooking over traditional stoves) and the disease is still unclear.

To address this issue, the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF) has awarded funding to The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to establish the first centre to study COPD and other lung diseases in non-smokers living in rural India.

The centre, to be called the Indo-US Center of Excellence for Environmental Lung Diseases, will be led jointly by Shyam Biswal, Professor at the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Sundeep Salvi, Director of India’s Chest Research Foundation at Pune and Anurag Agrawal, MD of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in Delhi.

Speaking to, Biswal said “We are beginning to appreciate the global problem of non-smoker COPD but our understanding of pathobiology is unclear. This Centre will attempt to bring together experts from both countries to face this public health challenge”.

The Indian investigators will share data with their US counterparts on a number of factors influencing levels of IAP. These include firewood consumption in rural homes, duration of time spent cooking, level of exposure to toxic fumes and gene-environment interaction. Such information will provide a clearer understanding of susceptibility to the disease, leading to the development of new treatments for the affected population.

Read More..