The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 estimates that 4 million people die each year as a result of inhaling the smoke and soot produced by cooking over traditional cook stoves. India is home to around 600 million people who use mud stoves to cook their meals. Death from inhalation of smoke is a deadlier killer than malaria, T.B. and HIV/AIDS combined. In addition to the grave consequence on human health, the smoke from mud stoves is high in carbon content and particulate matter which are considered major causes of global warming while the use of wood to fuel these stoves leads to deforestation.
It is clearly evident that there is a need to switch mud stoves in rural households to cleaner and better cook stoves. Under Project Surya, groups of scientists and public health professionals have created an innovative carbon market to reward women for using cleaner cooking technologies. Improved cook stoves can significantly reduce emissions of toxic particles and gases from cooking, but the actual environmental and health impacts of these cook stoves can vary dramatically based on stove technology, usability, durability, fuel consumed, and context. Project Surya is identifying the best clean cooking technologies to distribute at scale. However, the improved cook stove comes at a steep price of Rs. 3500 or $63 for families subsisting on a monthly income that is far less. The upside though is that the improved cook stove saves 5.3 tonne equivalent of carbon dioxide in one year and claiming carbon credits for the same can supplement a family’s income to some extent and recover the investment in a clean cook stove. The only requirement was a way to measure the amount of carbon emission saved by each household and a way to connect them to the carbon credits market.
StoveTrace is this brilliant bridge which connects rural households using clean cook stoves to the carbon market to trade their carbon credits for cash payments. Developed by Nexleaf Analytics, StoveTrace (formerly SootSwap) is a cellular-enabled device which uses a thermal sensor to track cooking events and continuously uploads the data wirelessly, in real-time, to a web-accessible dashboard. Availability of real time data enables the carbon market to translate it to carbon credits and buy them from households for cash payments; payments are enabled by Vodafone m-Pesa. Efforts are on to make the technology compatible with other devices too, so that it is accessible to more people in rural areas.
Data from the StoveTrace sensors also feed into a web-based dashboard which allows the project stakeholders to understand adoption rates, real-time cooking behavior, and comparisons broken down by household and region. This data also enables action like:
- Dispatch technicians to fix broken stoves.
- Track issues to improve stove design and instructional materials.
- Identify high adoption areas and user demographics to focus future distributions.
The thermal sensors are rugged and have been designed for robust, uninterrupted performance in remote conditions They can withstand temperatures up to 300°C (572°F) and can transmit data automatically via GPRS or SMS. The sensor is powered by solar or DC (up to 55 volts) and has a long battery life (up to 5 days) to accommodate limited and intermittent power availability.
StoveTrace has been tested and validated in field settings involving more than 700 households in rural villages in Uttar Pradesh and Orissa, India. As of April 2016, the sensors have tracked that participants have used clean cook stoves for a total of over 143,000 cooking hours, enabling savings of 421 tons of CO2 and black carbon thereby earning US $2526.
The collaboration of various stakeholders under Project Surya has resulted in an effective solution to not just replace unhealthy mud stoves but also as a way to connect rural households to a modern carbon market. The improved cook stoves are sturdy, durable, cleaner and connected to technology which supplements rural household’s income. The collaboration is an example of brilliant minds and technology coming together for social good.