UN World Food Programme

Sri Lanka: Efficient Stove Helps Mother Avoid Land Mines

Parathachchelvi says her safe stove was the one thing she came home with after fleeing clashes between government and rebel forces. Copyright: WFP/Mariangela Bizzarri

Land mines are a constant threat in many parts of Sri Lanka in the wake of long years of civil strife. Parathachchelvi Navarajan says that a fuel-efficient stove, given to her by WFP, has reduced the amount of fuel she needs to cook and therefore lessened the risk that she will step on a mine when searching for firewood.

MULLAITIVU – Parathachchelvi Navarajan, 33, has just returned to her family home in the northern village of Mullaitivu after fleeing in 2009 amid fighting between government forces and the rebel Tamil Tigers.

After six months of living in refugee camps, the one thing she and her 11-year-old daughter brought back with them was an energy-efficient anagi stove given to her by WFP.

This stove will dramatically cut down on the amount of firewood she needs to cook. And this, in turn, will reduce her chances of encountering one of the mines left behind by 26 years of fighting..

An "excellent" stove

The anagi, which in Sinhala means "precious" or "excellent", is a single-piece clay stove designed to meet the cooking needs of a family of six. It's an estimated 30 percent more fuel efficient than cooking over an open fire.

A hidden danger

Un-cleared landmines and unexploded bombs are a constant menace in much of Sri Lanka, where everyday activities like gathering firewood can be life threatening

Mine fields have rendered large swathes of territory, including roads, schools and other essential infrastructure, completely off limits.

But the greatest hazard for people like Parathachchelvi and her daughter are the explosives and booby-traps scattered throughout the forest. Without any alternative fuel source, Sri Lankans in Mullaitivu have no choice but to risk their lives every day in search of firewood.

An efficient solution

“Now that I have my anagi stove, I don’t have to go into the woods as much,” says Parathachchelvi.

Because they reduce the amount of wood needed to cook, the stoves are boon for the local environment.

Deforestation is a major problem in northern Sri Lanka, where it has lead to increased soil erosion and the rising risk of floods.

To limit the risks of gathering firewood and help reduce deforestation, WFP is providing over 13,000 families with anagi stoves as part of its Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy (SAFE) initiatives. Around 630 schools in the area, primarily those which participate in WFP’s school meals programme, will also be issued with the stoves.