Culha stove offers an easier safer way to cook!


In Hindi the word “chulha” means stove, but for millions of low-income people in developing countries, a stove is a pile of stones heated by an open wood- or cow-dung-burning fire in their homes. This method of cooking poses a serious health hazard: indoor air pollution resulting from the burning of biomass fuels is a leading cause of respiratory diseases. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 1.6 million people — mostly women and children, who are more likely to cook or to be confined in the home while cooking is done — die annually from indoor air pollution; India alone accounts for 25 percent of such deaths. That’s why Philips’s Philanthropy by Design unit, working with the company’s Indian office and the organization ARTI (Appropriate Rural Technology Institute), chose for its first project to create a stove that wouldn’t taint the air. “The goal was a low-tech, low-cost, low-smoke device that respects local traditions and culinary habits,” says Simona Rocchi, senior director for sustainable design at Philips and a member of the core design team for the Chulha project, which won the 2009 INDEX Award in the Home category.

The Chulha is a simple, modular concrete-block stove covered in brown clay. It features two potholes: one for circulating hot air for steamed foods such as rice, and the other for heating flat pans holding chipati (fried bread) and similar dishes. The modular format was chosen to facilitate production, assembly, installation and the replacement of parts. As the design progressed, two models of the Chulha emerged to accommodate different income levels: one version priced at 9 to 11 Euros ($13.10 to $16) has a double oven and hotbox; a pricier model, at 13 to 15 Euros ($18.90 to $21.80), includes a steamer. Both stoves feature a decorative pattern common in India, which could be described in marketing terms as a lifestyle upgrade. After all, notes Rocchi, “Design solutions for poor people don’t have to be ugly.”

Well, this is particularly interesting to me because it definitely reminds me of my time in Guatemala– making stoves for women within the village that would be cooking several hours during the day and be exposed to dangerous smoke and dangerous fires in the corner of a mud room.

BEFOREn21425191_34680378_4694I guess it kind of makes me nostalgic, working in that room installing something as basic as a brick stove… and seeing those Guatemalan kids– who were simply happy with kicking around a bucket.

n21425191_34680376_4371n21425191_34680397_8484^ us Americans with the family, making the stove.



I guess what was most surprising to me was actually seeing that something this basic was so impactful and important for a family like this. The man who we worked with, Margarito, said that many children and women get hurt or even die from the fire because it is normally not contained. It really made me think of the things I use every day, and how many of these people have to take such a risk doing such seemingly simple tasks.

What is really cool is that it’s not just something that is being given to people. One of the most important things I learned is that in order for change to really happen, people have to be given a solution that is sustainable and that they can continue growing on their own without outside help::

Another goal of the project is to enable local people and entrepreneurs — especially women-run enterprises — to produce and sell the Chulha, based on a special training kit and open-source manufacturing plans made available by Philips. An estimated 1,000 new stoves will be distributed over the next year in Puna, India, to test the product and its social impact, and a second pilot project will begin soon in Bangalore. Rocchi says reduced-smoke stoves could be applied in Bangladesh and Pakistan — countries that have culinary traditions similar to India’s, but substantial adaptations would be required to fit the particular cuisines and rounder house shapes (necessitating a different kind of chimney) of potential users in Latin America and Africa.

here for the jump::

One Response to “Culha stove offers an easier safer way to cook!”
  1. JimmyBean says:

    I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Jim Bean

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