How Giving Nepalis The Gift Of Clean Cooking Helps Save Lives

Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Giving Nepalis The Gift Of Clean Cooking Helps Save Lives

The Himalayan Stove Project is one of those organizations that mediates a need most westerners don’t even know is an issue. Sure, we hear about world tragedies on the news: poverty, war and natural disasters. These are noteworthy, pressing problems in need of media attention and aid. But it’s rare that a nonprofit has the intelligence to not only address a dire problem (a problem that wouldn’t be on the radar of any #firstworldproblem twitterer), but also to offer a perfect, tried-and-true solution.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 3 billion people cook meals on stoves using biomass materials, such as wood or animal dung. The majority of this cooking takes place indoors, especially in high-altitude, frigid regions such as, you guessed it, the Himalayas.

Byproducts of cooking stoves are dangerous when inhaled. Indeed, indoor air pollution is the fourth-most deadly ailment in the world behind malaria, unclean water and HIV/AIDs. And because they spend more time cooking inside their hut, yurt, tent or shack, women and kids are impacted the most. Some sources even estimate that indoor air pollution causes 900,000 child deaths per year due to respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia. That’s something you don’t have to worry about when firing up a Viking range.

While it’s a complex problem, the solution is quite simple, at least in theory: distribute a cooking stove that burns cleanly and efficiently. You eliminate indoor smog. You save fuel. You cook food faster. Bada bing, bada boom.

George Basch, founder (and self-described “Chief Cook”) of the Himalayan Stove Project oversees the organization, which distributes the high-tech-sounding Envirofit G-3300 Cookstoves to people living in mountainous Himalayan regions. Remarkably, the stoves reduce harmful smoke and gases by 80 percent, slash cooking time by up to 50 percent, and conserve fuel (a few hefty sticks of wood) by 60 percent. These outstanding statistics render the cookstove life-changing to families previously cooking with traditional campfires and stoves.


To date, the Himalayan Stove Project has delivered roughly 1,400 stoves to people living in Nepal — an impressive feat considering the logistical challenges in transporting the stoves to their recipients. “There are two stages in the delivery process,” explains Basch. “Getting them from our warehouse in Kathmandu to the road head (i.e., end of the road), and then from there to the villages and homes where they are installed.”

During the first stage, Basch and his team use trucks, or baggage on public bus systems, though some areas are accessible only by airplane or helicopter. Basch encounters other obstacles when transporting the stoves. “Road conditions, monsoon season and winter — roads in Nepal range from mediocre to horrible, and many are impassable for months at a time, so we have to deal with those issues as well.”

During the second stage of delivery, stoves are either gathered from the road head by the villagers themselves or carried on the backs of porters (each stove weighs as little as 6 pounds, but they are somewhat bulky to carry).

Yaks, however, are out of the question. “They are rather rambunctious beasts,” says Basch. “They have a tendency to bang their loads around, trying to show that they’re the boss (they usually are – big and a trifle mean) so to date we’ve stayed away from using them – we want to deliver the stoves undamaged.” Noted: No yaks.

After having seen the profound impact his stoves can have on a person’s quality (and longevity) of life, Basch has big plans for the future.

There are roughly 26 million people living in Nepal who could greatly benefit from the stoves. With families averaging four people, that’s 6.5 million stoves — a massive figure. “We’ll never accomplish that, at least in my lifetime,” admits Basch. “But we’re going to chip away at it. Every time we raise enough money for a full container, about $175,000, we’ll bring in another one.”


And you can help. This season, the Himalayan Stove Project is offering a Mount Everest Commemorative Poster to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first five American mountaineers to reach Everest’s summit in May 1963, shown below.

How Giving Nepalis The Gift Of Clean Cooking Helps Save Lives

Designed by artist Elizabeth Mercuri, the poster’s Art Deco-style depiction of Everest would make one awesome gift for the crunchy granola outdoor enthusiast in your life. I particularly like how the snowy ravine, I believe it’s the Khumbu Icefall, up to the summit is reminiscent of a dragon (anyone agree?). This puppy can be yours for a donation of $250, all profits go directly into the Himalayan Stove Project.

To support the region that has rendered travelers speechless for centuries, order your poster here.

[The Himalayan Stove Project]

By Jenna Blumenfeld


About the Author

Jenna Blumenfeld, (Jenna Ogden Blumenfeld when she’s in really big trouble) hails from the wee state of Connecticut. Although her childhood dream of becoming a bug doctor — with a specialization in ladybugs — has gone unfulfilled, she is content writing about travel, cuisine and culture. A vegetarian, she currently resides in the food hub of Boulder, Colorado. Read more of her food-centric writing at

  • KrishnaPokhrel

    Posted on October 25, 2013 by Thelove

    time here in Pokhara so far (5 weeks) has been absolutely wonderful
    both at the orphanage and all around it. I have never been to a
    community that is so trusting and honest; it is the perfect place for
    first time travellers who are getting out of their comfort zone. It is
    very safe everywhere, even at night, and everything is close by so it’s
    not hard to get all of the essentials that you need.

    I had some communication complications between the organization who
    sent me here and Krishna, so everything was put together very last
    minute. Despite the time constraint of only 2-3 days of notice that I
    was coming, Krishna organized late-night pickup for me from the airport,
    a hotel in Kathmandu, a bus ride to Pokhara, and a hotel for me to stay
    in by the time I got there. When you’re arriving in a foreign country
    very late, having everything all set up is more than any traveller could
    ask for.

    Krishna and his wife, Parbati, really treat you like family while you
    are in their country. They understand that there are many cultural
    differences that you are not accustomed to and they try their best to
    accommodate you in any way possible. They will also take you on trips to
    the market place or to places with beautiful views, as well as help
    arrange things like treks and trips to farther places in Nepal.

    As for the orphanage, the kids are wonderful. Aside from being super
    cute, they are very responsible for their age and get joy out of very
    simple things that most first-world children don’t. They have the
    imaginations of the early 90s kids and anyone before them because they
    do not rely on technology for entertainment. They love to do things like
    go for picnics in the park, make superhero masks out of paper, and play
    games that involve competition. They sometimes need help with homework
    and learning English and it is always fun to help them with both.
    Luxuries that they enjoy are chicken, popcorn, candy, toy cars for the
    boys, and makeup for the girls. Those items are easy to buy and cheap
    from a volunteer’s perspective, so it is nice to buy it for them every
    once in a while (but not too often!).

    Being at the orphanage provides a learning experience not only for
    the children, but also for yourself as a volunteer. You can learn so
    much from being around the children and see something that you maybe
    thought was long gone from your own society. It has been such a
    refreshing experience for me so far and for the remainder of my stay (3
    weeks) I only expect to learn more and come home with great memories and
    new friendships.

    If you are concerned about ending up at a “bad” orphanage, I can
    definitely say that this one checks out. The children are treated very
    well, their living situation is good, and their bellies are always full.
    Krishna really wants to help the kids and see them learn whenever
    possible. He likes them to play games and do activities where they learn
    as much as possible to help them in their future.

    So, all-in-all, I would highly recommend volunteering with this
    specific orphanage. The time they need volunteers the most is during the
    winter (November-March). They have been lucky enough to get solar
    panels and a water filter installed by one of the volunteers, but they
    are still in need of financial support for things like food and rent. So
    come help out whenever possible and you’ll get an amazing experience
    out of it!

  • Awesome Jenna. Love the project and am with George Bush that I love that way you wrote it.

  • George Basch

    Wonderfully written article – thanks Jenna, this is really nice

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