Monday, 20 January 2014

Lessons from the Indian National Programme for Improved Cookstoves (NPIC)

Data from the World Health Organisation suggests that indoor air pollution (IAP) causes around 480,000 premature deaths annually in India (WHO 2009). Improved Cookstoves can help the 150 million households in India that are still using biomass like wood, dung and straw for cooking, to reduce hazardous levels of indoor air pollution. Although multiple models of improved cookstoves are available in India, stove adoption has so far been low. How can we change this situation and build a functioning market for improves stoves? In fact, there have been several efforts in the past to bring improved cookstoves into Indian kitchens, but most of them did not result in any long-term impacts. What can we learn from these past experiences to make future cookstove programme more effective? The Indo-German Energy Programme has analysed studies on the largest cookstove intervention India has seen so far – the National Programme on Improved Cookstoves (NPIC) – to extract the most crucial lessons learned. 

Smoke produced while cooking emerges from a hut in Laxmikantapur, West Bengal
The NPIC was implemented by the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) between 1983 and 2002 to reduce biomass consumption through the dissemination of improved biomass cookstoves. On the one hand it succeeded in “initially distributing tens of millions [around 35 million] of stoves and so achieved a scale well beyond the nascent commercial [cookstove] operations” (Shrimali 2011) that are currently underway. On the other hand, the programme had a limited long-term impact: In 2013 only around 0.3% of the Indian population was using an improved cookstove (GACC 2013). The dissemination of improved cookstoves was driven by subsidies and national/regional targets. 50 – 75% of the stove price was met by a direct cash subsidy. The detailed analysis of NPIC revealed the flowing five lessons:   
  1. A market-based approach with an appropriate user contribution ensures consumer orientation and long-term stove adoption
  2. Awareness raising is crucial to stimulating demand
  3. Involving local grassroots organisations is crucial to successful project implementation
  4. Effective monitoring and evaluation systems are a prerequisite for sustainable project implementation
  5. Considering local user needs and feedback is crucial for ensuring long-term adoption of improved stoves

The detailed report on the lessons from the NPIC is available for download at

A woman using an improved portable cookstove in Kunda, Bihar