Nearly three billion people in the world – 160 million in India alone – cook on wood (or similar fuel like crop waste or cow dung), relying on indoor open fires and traditional mud stoves for their daily cooking. But where there’s fire, there’s smoke. And with that comes breathing problems, lung disease, and worse.
More than one million Indians die each year as a result – almost entirely women and children. Plus, smoke from such stoves one of the largest contributors to black carbon emissions that cause global warming.
And that’s what got Mumbai’s Neha Juneja all fired up. In 2010 she founded a team to develop a stove for the rural poor in India. Now known as ‘India’s clean cooking superstar’, the CEO of Greenway Appliances is transforming the lives of Indian women with a smokeless ‘clean cook’ stove that saves 65% fuel, emits 80% less smoke and slashes emissions by burning biomass at different levels with sufficient amounts of oxygen: “Women harm their health and the wellbeing of their families everyday,” she says. “These may not be the perfect solution, but they are the most accessible way to quick to impact.”
But ‘smart stoves’ don’t always catch on – even if they’re priced affordably. Often designed by men, Neha knows there is no merit in something if nobody uses it, so she created it with user communities across five states in India spanning over 150,000 kilometres (over 93,000 miles): “As we developed our stove, we took each of our designs and we went round the villages talking to women, finding out what worked for them.” The result is a stove which suits the people who cook on it – for example, being at just the right height.
Currently India’s largest selling stoves, sold across the country in local stores, last year the Greenway Smart Stove won an Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy. Since then the team behind it has been working with microcredit NGOs to help poorer families afford the $20 price tag by giving them low-interest loans. Neha wants “to go big or go home” and is on track to hit 400,000 stoves sold by the end of March 2016. “We want to sell enough stoves to be able to say that we’ve made some headway in terms of changing the way people cook.”
Neha Juneja, CEO, Greenway Appliances
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