Celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, Tata Trusts is India’s oldest, non-sectarian philanthropic organisations that works in several areas of community development.  Since its inception, Tata Trusts has played a pioneering role in transforming traditional ideas of philanthropy to make impactful sustainable change in the lives of the communities. Through direct implementation, co-partnership strategies, and grant making, the Trusts support and drive innovation in the areas of education; healthcare and nutrition; rural livelihoods; natural resources management; enhancing civil society and governance and media, arts, crafts and culture. Tata Trusts continue to be guided by the principles of its Founder, Jamsetji Tata and through his vision of proactive philanthropy, the Trusts catalyse societal development while ensuring that initiatives and interventions have a contemporary relevance to the nation. For more information please visit www.tatatrusts.org

For the last three years, the Trusts have been working on clean cooking programs with the objective of building an enabling ecosystem for rural communities to access affordable, clean and efficient cooking solutions. A large implementation program was launched two years ago to foster demand and facilitate the supply of efficient cooking solutions at the doorsteps of the rural and tribal communities through their community institutions and local entrepreneurs.

The program is being implemented across three states in India – Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. With the help of community institutions, last-mile delivery partners, field partners and research organisations, the program aims to build the market to facilitate the sale and adoption of 60,000 clean cooking solutions in these three states. This is a technology agnostic program and the solutions range from natural draft cookstoves to induction stoves, covering a wide array of options that are made available to the communities along with an emphasis on their adoption.

The program is trying to address challenges in the supply of good quality and efficient clean cooking solutions to rural households by creating grassroots distribution channels (local entrepreneurs), setting up financing mechanisms, focusing on awareness and marketing of clean cooking solutions, and enabling existing grassroots rural institutions to develop capacities in the field of energy access. Local Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and Federations have been engaged in facilitating loans for members and demand generation in their respective areas. Revolving funds have been created with the Federations to enable various financial mechanisms for users to purchase cookstoves.

Acknowledging that the real impacts of clean cooking can only accrue from usage of the solutions and not merely from sales, the Program also attempts to track, measure, and drive adoption of these solutions through surveys, field monitoring, use of sensors, and a strong emphasis on awareness and marketing campaigns.

Under the program, more than 500 women micro-entrepreneurs have been trained and have sold more than 6000 devices so far. A range of awareness and marketing activities have been carried out, that include: cooking competitions, nukkad nataks, product demonstrations, puppet shows, canopy exhibits etc.

Each region has responded differently to these models, and also to the products being promoted. As a result, the current strategy at each location represents the implementation model that was found to be the most effective in that region. Similarly, the basket of products being promoted is also expanding based on these learnings. New products are regularly being tried and introduced in each state.

Areas with electricity connections have displayed a higher demand for induction stoves than for improved biomass stoves, reflecting an aspiration for a modern cooking devices. However, the need for specialised utensils for cooking on induction stoves has been observed to be a barrier in ensuring usage in some cases.

While stove stacking continues in almost all locations, the movement has been observed to be towards a cleaner stack, with reduced dependence on traditional stoves. Provisioning of loans through federations and MFIs, and engaging actively with the local institutions (Federations and SHGs) has proven to be effective in most locations.  

The key highlight of the program so far has been the engagement of local entrepreneurs which bridges the gap between the proponents or agents of change and the actual users. In most cases, what has seemed to work so far is the personal experience of the entrepreneurs in using these solutions. 

The way forward

Going forward, the plan is to advance successful strategies in each of the geographies to reach out to the communities. Consumer acceptance tests are being carried out to introduce new products in the program and provide more choices to the consumers. More incentives and financial mechanisms are being developed, piloted, and implemented to support the households that need financial assistance to embrace clean cooking. Temperature sensors and other technological probes will be used in bigger numbers to study usage and adoption within the households that have bought the stoves. The field level strategies along with engagement with different stakeholders, will ensure the desired outcomes of the program along with the proposed outreach.

The Trusts plan to initiate a platform for incubating research and development of more efficient and cleaner technologies that meet the needs and aspirations of the users. The Trusts have also partnered with the Alliance to work on strengthening the clean cooking ecosystem in India. The Alliance and Tata Trusts have a lot of synergy in their vision and approach towards transforming the clean cooking space in India. The Trusts are also partners for the 2017 Clean Cooking Forum being organised by the Alliance in New Delhi in October this year.