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Published July 15, 2008 08:53 AM

Envirofit’s Biomass Stoves for Developing Nations

by Ashwin Seshagiri

Last week, Colorado-based non-profit Envirofit introduced clean-burning biomass stoves in India, a project that will attempt to reduce fuel consumption, toxic emissions, and offer a sustainable business model to foster local enterprise. In an effort to reduce indoor air pollution in developing nations, Envirofit teamed up with the UK’s Shell Foundation as a part of its Breathing Space program. The cook stoves will reduce toxic emissions by 80%, use 50% less fuel, and reduce the cooking cycle by 40%, according to the organization’s press release.

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Biomass typically consists of organic materials like wood, crop waste, or animal dung, and for many households in places like India, is the main source of fuel for activities like cooking. Developed at the Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory at Colorado State University, the cook stoves were engineered to burn traditionally used biomass materials more efficiently.

Though the cook stoves have been initially launched in India, Envirofit plans on expanding the project to Latin America, Africa, and several other regions eventually. "There are an estimated 1.6 million deaths per year due to toxic indoor air pollution (IAP). We are proud to be partnered with Envirofit International to introduce clean-burning wood stove technology in India while employing the first market-based business model," said Ajit Abraham, a representative of Shell Foundation in India.

The goal of this project is also to develop local and regional enterprises by creating a network of dealers, distributors, and village entrepreneurs at various levels.

"Although cooking habits in semi-urban and rural India are steeped in tradition and perpetuated by myths, the response to our stoves has been very strong as each stove has been developed based on extensive market research and local customer insights," said Harish Anchan, General Manager of Envirofit India Pvt Ltd. "We are in discussion with financing institutions for low cost financing options to provide additional options for families to buy the stoves." The stoves are available in five models and will range roughly from Rs 500 to Rs 2,000 (approx $12-$50).

Envirofit first become known for their initiative to retrofit polluting two-stroke engines in Southeast Asia, as reported here on Treehugger.

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