Efficient cooking stoves help preserve Indian tiger habitat

Approximately 1,500 households in Greater Manas have benefitted from fuel efficient cooking stoves and now another 1,450 have been installed in and around tiger habitats in Central India. PHOTO: © IFAW-WTIWhen a Wildlife Trust of India survey revealed that 92 percent of Indian village households near wildlife habitats are dependent on firewood extracted from them, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Wildlife Trust of India, with additional support from Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund (JTEF) and Ecosystem Alliance, began a pilot project to reduce fuel wood consumption to minimize impact on those forest habitats.

The goal: to supply households with more efficient, cleaner burning stoves that not only burn less wood, but do not fill a home’s kitchen with smoke.

With the success of the pilot (rolled out to a single village), the installation of improved cook stoves was extended to 23 new villages in 2015. Since the project began, we have built and installed 1,451 highly efficient stoves.

A study of fuel wood consumption comparing traditional and improved cooking stoves was done for sixteen villages. It revealed a savings of 42% in fuel wood consumption for the improved stoves.

Reduced pressure on the habitat has resulted in indirect evidence of tigers, such as pugmarks, around the villages in which we have worked.

The lesser efficient cooking stoves required more trips into the forest for fuel wood and not only caused degradation in the habitat, but also caused disturbances of wildlife. PHOTO: © IFAW-WTI

The central Indian landscape holds the largest population of tigers in this country, distributed across a matrix of protected areas, reserve forests, agricultural land, commercial plantations with settlements, highways and power lines cutting through the landscape.

Only about half of the 600 tigers are in protected areas, thus leaving about 300-odd tigers to inhabit the buffer areas and corridors.

With tigers in close proximity to human population and the increasing anthropogenic pressures on tiger habitat, it is imperative to work with local communities to secure the future of tigers in the corridors in central India. Firewood extraction has not only caused degradation in the habitat, but also caused disturbance by groups of people going in for firewood collection.

It is within this landscape that the Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary and Nawegaon National Park are situated in a crucial area of the large contiguous forest tract in central India. The corridor that connects these two Protected Areas is one that connects two global priority landscapes namely the Kanha and Tadoba landscapes.

The new more efficient, cleaner burning stoves not only burn less wood than the traditional stoves (pictured), but do not fill a home’s kitchen with smoke like the traditional ones. PHOTO: © IFAW-WTI

The approximately 280 km2 corridor is also inhabited by about a hundred thousand people and 55,000 head of livestock residing in 89 villages. As if this were not enough, two major roads pass through the corridor.

This programme was subsequently extended to select schools and Aanganbadis (day care facilities) of the Nagzira-Navegaon corridor villages for preparation of mid day meals that were previously cooked using fuel wood collected from the forest areas around the villages.

READ: Spotlight India: energy-efficient cook stoves help preserve natural habitat

Going a step further, village women were trained in construction and installation of these cook stoves and as trained resource persons for expansion to other villages, thus providing augmented income. Thirty women are currently involved in construction of improved cook stoves for the Nagzira-Nawegaon Corridor villages.

Community activities combined with conservation strategies such as anti-poaching training and equipping of frontline forest staff, awareness in villages on tiger conservation and training in biodiversity management will help keep the tigers of central India safe in their corridors.

--RGC

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