EcoLogic Development Fund

EcoLogic empowers rural and indigenous peoples to restore and protect tropical ecosystems in Central America and Mexico.
Oct 15, 2015

Stoves Are Not One Size Fits All

Don’t underestimate the impact a stove can have on a woman’s life. In rural communities in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and Mexico, women do most, if not all, of the cooking for their families. In many homes, this means spending hours bent over an open fire, breathing in damaging smoke and carbon monoxide. Cooking over an open fire is detrimental both to women’s health and to forests. Harvesting firewood for cooking is a driver of deforestation in many rural areas in Central America and Mexico. By building fuel-efficient, clean-burning stoves in our project communities, EcoLogic helps improve the health of both families and forests. All of the stoves that we use reduce families’ fuel wood consumption about 60 to 70%, compared to traditional open-fire cooking methods. This saves women and children time and energy harvesting wood, and also reduces pressure on forests.

Stoves, however, are not one size fits all.

A family in Oaxaca, Mexico, will have different local conditions, cooking needs, and traditions than a family in Atlántida, Honduras. Some features are constant throughout most models. For example, “Throughout Central America, people like to cook tortillas, so most models we use have a tortilla griddle, or plancha,” explained Reyna Guzmán, an engineer at the Stove Certification Center at Zamorano University in Honduras. However, to make sure that a woman gets the most out of a new stove–and continues to use it for a long time—we build different models depending on the needs of communities in different regions.

EcoLogiccurrently uses six different kinds of stoves, depending on the region and community. The best way to decide which model is right for a community is, of course, to ask the women who will use them. Usually, EcoLogic field technicians use their knowledge of a given community to propose a few stove models. We bring women together to discuss the features of different stoves, and they decide which model they think would work best for them. Then, we choose a small number of families to pilot the stoves, to make sure that they work well for that community’s needs. Finally, we expand the stove program in that community, with the ultimate goal of building a fuel-efficient stove in the home of every family who needs one. After we build the stoves, we also train women to correctly use and take care of their stoves, and our field technicians regularly check in on families with new stoves to help them with the transition and to answer their questions.

Here are three of the models we use the most—

Plancha stove

Where we use it: Guatemala

How it’s built: Plancha means “griddle,”and the name refers to the iron cooking griddle on top. The Plancha stove usually features three burners for cooking, which are made by simply cutting holes in the iron. The body of the stove is made from a mixture of clay and sand. There is a combustion chamber for fuel wood and, importantly, a chimney to let smoke escape from inside the home.

Good for cooking:The separate burners make it easy to cook pots of rice and beans at the same time. Rice and beans, or arroz y frijoles in Spanish, is a staple dish throughout Guatemala. Black beans are simmered for hours until they are tender and creamy, and then mixed with sautéed onions, peppers, and garlic and white rice. Rice and beans are often served with corn tortillas—ideally also freshly made on the Plancha stove—and fried plantains.

Justa stove

How it’s built: The Justa stove is built from bricks or blocks of concrete or adobe. As with all the fuel-efficeint stoves that Ecologic uses,Justa stove models feature a combustion chamber for wood, as well as a chimney for ventilation. The Justa stove is topped with one large metal griddle, or plancha, for cooking. Justa models also feature an attached shelf on the side to store food, plates, or cooking equipment. “Cats and small children can sit there, too, although that’s not what the shelf was built for…” laughed Guzmán. Many women in Honduras decorate the stoves with painted ceramic tiles at the end of construction.

“Cats and small children can sit there, too, although that’s not what the shelf was built for…” laughed Guzmán. Many women in Honduras decorate the stoves with painted ceramic tiles at the end of construction.

Good for cooking: The large griddle makes theJusta stove ideal for flipping fresh corn tortillas. For a hearty breakfast, stuff a hot tortilla with refried black beans, crumbled queso duro cheese, and the Honduran-style sour cream known as mantequilla to make baleadas. Some recipes also add fried eggs, avocado, or seasoned ground beef or pork.

Patsari stove

Where we use it: Oaxaca, Mexico

A Patsari stove in the small community of San Bernabé, in Oaxaca, Mexico

How it’s built: the Patsari is a squat stove that is usually built from brick, but can also be constructed from concrete. It features two or three burners. One or two are smaller, which makes them good for pots of rice or beans, and the third is larger, which makes it an ideal griddle for cooking fresh corn tortillas. A small combustion chamber is located near the bottom of the stove, and like all fuel-efficient stoves, it features a chimney to keep smoke and soot out of families’ homes.

Fun fact: Patsari means “the stove that cares” in Purépecha, a language spoken by the indigenous Purépecha people from the state of Michoacán.

Good for cooking: Oaxaca is famous for its delicious cuisine, and the state is home to more than 200 known recipes for mole, a rich, complex sauce made from chili peppers and a long list of other ingredients, which sometimes includes chocolate. Because mole takes a long time to cook, it is usually saved for special occasions. Mole negro, or black mole, is slightly sweet, dark in color, and can made from toasted chili peppers, plantains, onions, tomatoes, tomatillos, cloves, cinnamon, chocolate, nuts, and more, depending on the recipe. On Día de los Muertos in November, the aromas of smoky mole negro simmering in pots on Patsari stoves perfumes the air in the village of San Bernabé, located within EcoLogic’s project site in Oaxaca.

Aug 6, 2015

Environmental Empowerment: Female Forest Guardians

Isabela (center) & fellow female forest guardians
Isabela (center) & fellow female forest guardians

“People told us we couldn’t participate, that we couldn’t work, because we were women.” But Isabela set out to prove them wrong. At just 21 years old, Isabela has already made a name for herself as a passionate and articulate advocate for women’s rights and environmental conservation. She’s a young Maya Chuj from Huehuetenango, Guatemala, and she’s been helping indigenous women become environmental leaders. Since 2012, she’s worked as the Coordinator of the Municipal Office of Women, a local initiative designed to bring more opportunities to women.

Many women are now pioneers of environmental conservation in the area, which Isabela is proud to note. EcoLogic has helped its local partner in the area, the Northern Border Municipalities Alliance, train and educate community members in sustainable forest management and reforestation. Women, too, have become forest guardians, planting seedlings, taking care of standing forests and educating others. “The trainings that EcoLogic has organized have been incredibly important for us. Most women in this area cannot read, and before EcoLogic started working with us they hardly knew anything about the environment,” says Isabela. Now, “women are educated and empowered to work, to take care of our precious natural resources for the good of their whole community.”

Isabela’s work is still far from complete. “Women are always the most vulnerable, and the most forgotten. The hard work that we do, especially in our homes,is never recognized,” Isabela says, with an edge of frustration in her voice. But thanks to both her leadership and the resources that EcoLogic has provided to her community, more women than ever in San Mateo Ixatán have found opportunities to work - while protecting and restoring the ecosystems upon which their families and communities depend. And they’ve done a lot of work. In the past year, (2014) EcoLogic and MFN have worked together on all sorts of environmental initiatives, including  

  • Reforesting 70 hectares of degraded forest habitat
  • Training 16 new community leaders as forest guardians who are now actively promoting sustainable environmental practices
  • Establishing four new community-­managed greenhouses
  • Improved and supported an additional six greenhouses, including installing irrigation systems, seeding several thousand native trees, and applying organic herbicides and fungicides
  • Establishing 33 hectares of agroforestry parcels to reduce expansion of the agricultural frontier.
  • Running seven environmental education workshops at secondary schools.
  • Building 103 fuel-­efficient stoves in family homes to reduce deforestation for fuel

“I am motivated to work to ensure that the women in my community are recognized. I work for all women. That’s what inspires me,” says Isabela.

Links:

Jul 7, 2015

40,000 More People Getting Access to Clean Water

Thanks to your support, thousands of people in northern Honduras now have access to safe drinking water managed by the local community. Collecting a small monthly fee, our local partner, the Association of Water Councils of Pico Bonito National Park’s Southern Sector  (AJAASSPIB in Spanish), provides comprehensive watershed management and environmental education services to a population of about 11,000. AJAASSPIB is made up of 28 water councils and their inclusive payment-for-ecosystem services model has been an inspiration. The municipality of Olanchito has launched a program to duplicate and expand upon this model, with the goal of providing clean water for 40,000 of the city’s inhabitants.  

 

Collective ownership has been a key part of conservation and development, as our goal is for local communities to provide as much direction as possible. Before devastating Hurricane Mitch struck in 1998, water boards did very little, and after the hurricane, water infrastructure had to be reconstructed from scratch. More than 14,000 people were killed, and the landscape was torn apart.  Yet in a striking reversal of the “tragedy of the commons,” people came together, turning the area’s heavily deforested slopes into a collectively owned property that they could restore. The approach we are helping Olanchito develop is working to achieve the same feat on a much larger scale.

 

Access to clean water will make a big difference for the residents of Olanchito, and we are excited to see our work in Honduras expanding with rural communities at the helm.  The change we’re seeing is both environmental and social. AJAASSPIB’s model has become an inspiration for a larger municipality, and this unique rural-to-urban “idea innovation flow” has been extremely empowering for our rural partners.

 

AJAASSPIB and EcoLogic’s partnership also has been honored with several international awards, including the2015 Yale International Society of Tropical Foresters Innovation Prize for “outstanding initiatives in biodiversity conservation at the landscape level,” the 2014 Energy Globe National Award Honduras, the 2012 United Nations Equator Prize, and second place for the 2011 Swiss Re International ReSource Award. At EcoLogic, we are grateful that this award offers recognition for our local Honduran partners, and allows them to share their experiences to inspire others, not only in their home communities, but around the world.

 

Please consider donating to protect and revitalize the water sources thousands of Hondurans depend on. We greatly appreciate your support!

 
   

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