By Yale Jones, Rotary Club of Taos-Milagro, New Mexico, USA
I first met George Basch when he joined our Rotary Club some years ago. In 2009 we spent two weeks together hiking in the Upper Mustang region in Nepal, one of the main areas now served by the Himalayan Stove Project.
In 2010, George’s desire to give back to the people of the Himalayas, an area he loves and has visited often, led to a plan to distribute clean-burning, vented cook stoves for free.
More than three billion people around the world cook on open fires and stoves, burning biomass fuels such as wood, dung, and crop waste. Household air pollution caused by primitive, inefficient cook stoves and open fires in homes causes four million deaths a year and countless injuries. Moreover, this method also harms the environment though deforestation, and producing carbon emissions.
With this in mind, George sought the help of his community of friends, including The Taos Milagro Rotary Club, other Rotarians, and Nepalese and international explorers. They founded the Himalayan Stove Project. The project identified the very best local partners and stove manufacturer Envirofit International, a company that delivers clean-burning cook stove technology to the developing world.
Nepal partners include the Himalayan Trust, Community Action Nepal, the former and still revered Royal Family of Upper Mustang’s charitable Lo Gyalpo Jigme Foundation, the Mountain Institute, the Tripureshewor Rotary Club of Kathmandu and T-Help.
Community Action Nepal’s health care nurses introduced the stoves through their health education programs to mothers and youth groups. Since the project was piloted in 2010, 3,014 stoves have been brought to Nepal, and indoor air pollution has been reduced by 90 percent. Fuel use has been reduced by 75 percent and food is cooked faster.
The most recent requests by the project’s Himalayan partners were for 4,122 stoves — greatly exceeding the 1,476 stoves which were brought to Kathmandu by container in February 2014. The project’s ability to meet the increasing demand is limited only by funding. George and his fellow Rotarians are confident that funding will increase with the continued visibility and success of the project.
Now, the Himalayan Stove Project is modeling itself after ShelterBox and is hoping to gain the support of many Rotary clubs worldwide. The Rotary Club of Taos Milagro has become the primary global partner. The Tripureshewor Rotary Club of Kathmandu, Nepal, recently distributed 90 stoves in the Kathmandu Valley. Rotarians exploring support include clubs in Colorado; Wisconsin; Texas; Florida; USA; New Zealand; and Kathmandu Mid-Town, Nepal.