New Chulhas

chulha_construction3On a midwinter’s morning Mr. Ramesh Kikkeri (of  Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement, SVYM) along with 4 volunteers visited Thimmaiyanadoddi to train home owners to make their own smokeless chulha. The  chulha was designed by IISc and Mr.Kikkeri has become proficient in building them.

Mr. Kikeri came to the village equipped with the form-work needed to build the chulha. Surrounded by enthusiastic villagers, he started demonstrating step by step methods to build the chulha. Two villagers came forward to volunteer with the building and we made a demo piece near the community center so that the villagers could refer to it anytime.

What did we need to prepare it?

chulha_construction

The following were the step-by-step method to build the smokeless chulha:

  1. Prepare the mix and keep aside in the ratio of 5:2.5:1 Mud: Quarry dust: Cement
  2. Keep the framework (mould) in place:
  • Align mould to wall perpendicular edge of wall. Check for placement of pipe beforehand. Use screw to fix frames.
  • Place inner mould with 3 circular cut-outs such that the smallest circular cut out is placed where pipe is to be fixed.
  • Check for alignment using aligning instrument.
  • Apply cow dung mix in the inner surface of the mould
  1. Ram earth inside the fixed frame. Earth has to be thoroughly rammed after every 6’’ layer of mix in the frame. 3-4 bricks can be used to keep the mould from buckling while ramming.
  2. Remove inner frame once the earth is rammed to surface level of lower mould.
  3. Place the upper mould on top of the rammed earth aligning with the external frame and repeat the process of ramming earth inside it.
  4. Check alignment for pipe fixing and fix 5’’ diameter pipe clamped to the wall so that once fired the smoke escapes outside the kitchen either through the wall or the roof.
  5. Place grating perpendicular to the chulha axis in the first and second circular cut out.
  6. De-mould the upper layer framework.
  7. Fixing M.S plate over the rammed earth while checking circular cutout alignment and place the recovery vessel in the upper layer cut out.

chulha_construction2

This whole process took around 3-4 hours and could be done by 2 adults. The chulha now had to be cured for a minimum of 7 days for firing and regular usage.

After the demonstration the villagers were very excited to build the chulha in their kitchen. Within a few weeks time the house owners built 6-8 chulhas all by themselves. Slowly the entire village was using smokeless chulha and their practice convinced us of the efficiency of this technology.

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Introducing Smoke-free Kitchens

Redeveloping the village in Anekal exposed many more issues than initially viewed. The daily lives and schedules of the members of the homes were observed. The women and the older girls in the house do all the cooking. The main food is ragi mudde and rice which is prepared for the two meals that they eat in a day. The consumption of vegetables is minimal and they rely on their own cows for milk. On special occasions, they prepare non-vegetarian dishes.

Cooking_Village

On analysis of their kitchens and cooking processes, one problem stood out- the cooking chulhas. Cooking practices varied between the houses- some cooked inside their houses, while others in make-shift sheds outside. Some used firewood, and others used kerosene burners.

The kitchens or surrounding rooms were continually filled with smoke. While cooking, thick smoke billowed out from the chulhas, and lingered even after the cooking was done. Thick soot coated the walls creating dark and dismal interiors. Often, the health problems arose because of the ash and smoke formed while cooking.

kitchen_village

A solution was definitely of utmost importance; one that would reduce smoke emission, with efficient energy conversion and minimal fuel requirement. Astra stoves, designed by IISc seemed to solve all the issues. Made out of either bricks or mud, it was an efficient, cost-effective, sustainable solution.

A demonstration was organized to teach the people. The benefits were explained and the functionings of the chulha were taught to the people. Training for the construction process was given while a live model was built. This training would help the people build the chulhas in the rest of the houses.

Although initially, the people were a little skeptical, they soon saw the benefits first hand when their homes became smoke-free, soot-free, their health improved and less fuel consumption brought a higher heat yield.

Life in Timmaiyanadoddi was changing for the better. From house construction to interventions in the kitchen, people were being positively impacted.