Petrona with her old open fire kitchen
One of the ways in which SosteNica amplifies the impact of our Eco-Stove project is by collaborating with other non-governmental organizations in Nicaragua. One such collaboration happened recently, working with Fundacion Vida (Foundation Life), a non-profit organization that supports the development of families in the Department of Masaya. Fundacion Vida asked SosteNica to teach them to build eco-stoves by doing a demonstration building project for several families in the community of El Comejen (the Termite), where more than 250 rural families have settled outside of Masaya.
Before agreeing to the collaboration our EcoCentro team visited the community to assess the need for, and the viability of, a partnership with Fundacion Vida. Our staff found most families cooking on open fires in enclosed areas, creating hazardous conditions of unhealthy indoor air quality as well as high risk of burns for young children. At the same time, the signs of deforestation were everywhere evident. Anytime 250 households scavange for wood three times a day, the pressure on the natural world is extreme.
SosteNica’s team interviewed several residents of El Comejen about the situation. One campesino, Luis, said that while obtaining fire wood was not a hardship for him (he has a small farm with ample trees), his wife, four children and five grandchildren all suffer from smoke inhalation. Luis’s wife Petrona complained: “Even though I enjoy cooking, my eyes burn from the smoke, and sometimes at night I can’t breathe properly.” Our team confirmed that this situation was common throughout the community. Accordingly, they agreed to the partnership.
The model stoves were designed to demonstrate to the community the health and sustainability benefits of an enclosed fire box, with a chimney that vents smoke through the roof to the outside of the home. Because the stoves are more fuel efficient, residents will be burning less firewood and cooking food faster.
Don Luis’s family was one of those selected for the demonstration project. Prior to the SosteNica team’s arrival, he built a base according to the terms of the agreement. Our team drove two hours southeast, from Nagarote to Masaya, on the agreed upon day, where they found a base awaiting a new stove top. The family and other community members watched as the new stove design took shape. Petrona loved the stove, even before it was finished. She could see how much it would improve the quality of life for their family. Luis joked that the design incorporated witchcraft when the SosteNica team began to incorporate glass bottles in the body of the stove. Our lead construction mason explained that the bottles help maintain the appropriate temperature in the combustion chamber.
Like a cherry on top of an ice-cream sundae, as the stove came to completion, the chimney stove pipe was attached and passed through the kitchen roof. Both Luis and Petrona shared with the construction team that this was the first time their family had ever had a proper stove in their kitchen. They promised to maintain the stove properly, thanking both organizations for helping them improve their quality of life.
By the end of the day, the SosteNica team returned home to Nagarote, satisfied that another community would be served by adopting SosteNica’s improved stove design. Having trained the team at Fundacion Vida, we are confident that the process will continue without need of our staff, other than occasional consulting. It was a beautiful day of teaching, helping families in need, and empowering a fellow NGO to promote eco-technologies in Nicaragua. This is, in part, what your generous donations continue to make possible for people in need. Many thanks to our donors. Every $50 donation adds one more stove to the Nicaraguan landscape. A small price for such a significant impact.
Stove construction process
Luis & Petrona happy and proud of their new stove