Starting this week, we will profiling the stories of teams and individuals from our various partner schools in India and the US. Our first story is of an interesting team from Somaiya and Cornell, who took up Clean Cooking as the community issue they wanted to solve.  The members of this team include Mona Mahesh, Vikash Singh, Thomas Murray, Anirudha Kandharkar, Kristin O’ Planick, Ashish Wagle, Rachna Gadekar, Hasang Cheon and Hitesh Gandhi. I interviewed Vikash and this is what he had to say.

Q. What is the exact problem your team is working on?

Vikash – “Our team has focussed its scope of research and work plan to the area of Fuel combustion while keeping the fuel source intact (in our case-Wood). The traditional method of cooking involves Open-air set ups with wood as a major source of fuel. The process is inefficient and cumbersome causing high cost cooking, environmental pollution and community health hazards.”

Q. Any reason why you chose this problem?

Vikash -“The motivation behind choosing the above area of problem lies in the scope, reach and ease of operations to address the problem. Feasibility analysis and sustainability of business were key things which were kept in perspective.”

Q. What is the solution that your team is proposing? Do you think it’s feasible and scalable?

Vikash – ” The solution our team proposed was two folds: a. Modifying the collection of the fuel and consumption quantity; and b. Increasing the efficiency of cooking process through efficient stoves and cooking methodology. The feasibility of the solution came out of prior experience of collaborative models through association with NGOs and other non-profit organizations and suppliers of efficient stoves. With a collaborative network of local influencers, NGOs and partners, the model fairs well on the sustainability metric. A pilot project over 5 households and the scope of its replication throughout the community and the neighbouring areas makes the project promising.”

Q. Can you tell us something about the community you have been working with?

Vikash – ” Here is some data about the community –

  1. Type of Community– Rural
  2. Strength of community– 22 households (each household comprises of 7-8 individuals on an average). Total population is 158.
  3. Major occupation– Farming
  4. Average income/household– Rs. 3000 (The figures are conservative as they were reluctant to share the information)
  5. Energy consumption area under study – Cooking energy at household level.
  6. Fuel used– Major fuel used is wood, use of LPG is very limited and is used on special occasions only.
  7. Mode of fuel consumption – Collection of woods through an cutting trees.
  8. LPG cylinders are supplied from Panvel (an area in Mumbai )and used in rare occasions.
  9. No solar cooker establishment in any household.
  10. Frequency of fuel collection– Monthly. Bullock cart load of wood (Rs. 700-800 per cart).
  11. The produce of farming sold are in Panvel, as it is the major market near this area.
  12. Neighbouring community– Banghar Rural Community (160 households).
  13. Fuel used in households includes cooking processes like boiling water, meal preparation etc.
  14. Target community content with the present setup primarily because of lack of proper information on alternatives available
  15. Area of plausible business – Wooden stoves reducing the monthly spending from Rs 700-800 to Rs 400 and Exhaust improvement/efficiency.
  16. Community covered by NGO – Shantivan.

Q. What did you learn as a team by participating in the Acara Challenge?

Vikash – ” As a Team, we learnt to ideate, collaborate, plan, and develop models and research to extreme ends. Overall, ACARA Challenge has moulded the minds in a direction and the teams have learnt to follow that path.”

I want to take this opportunity to thank Vikash and the rest of the team from Somaiya and Cornell for sharing such interesting insights with us. If you are interested in getting your story as a team or an individual on our blog, do get in touch with me on BaseCamp.