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Feb 21, 2017

New Eco-Tech Saves Lives and Forests too!

Old Stove being replaced by new
Old Stove being replaced by new

Meet the Rocha family -- fifteen Nicaraguans, spanning three generations, leading productive rural lives on a medium sized farm in the village of Copalteme, 15 kilometers outside of Nagarote.  Three times a day, the women of this family gather to prepare a meal for themselves, their hard working men, for the children, and for a few day laborers who work with them on the farm.  That’s the way it has been for more than 50 years, cooking in a rustic kitchen with an open wood fired stove, consuming large quantities of wood and filling the house with smoke. 

 As soon as the women learned from SosteNica of the possibility of burning less firewood while breathing fresh air, they jumped at the opportunity.   Together, we built a first model, which they loved.  Almost immediately, they decided to build two more to give them a total of six burners. 

 The state of Nagarote (which includes Copalteme) consumes more firewood than any other in Nicaragua -- 300 tons a month – that’s 600,000 pounds per month, or 7,200,000 pounds per year!  This rate of wood consumption deforests 2,397 hectares annually (6,000 acres). Not only does this rate of firewood consumption result in indiscriminate deforestation, it leads to rampant chronic respiratory illness.  Respiratory illnesses mostly affect women and children as their homes are filled with cooking smoke from kitchens with unventilated open fires.

 The SosteNica-EcoCentro began promoting our Eco-stove program in different parts of Nicaragua in 2016.  Our first 12 stoves were built in the Nagarote region when Arcadia University School of Public Health sent a brigade of graduate students to launch the program.  Next, we built 20 stoves in the Jinotega and Matagalpa regions.  Then, in partnership with FNE (Friends of New England), more than 100 stoves have been built throughout the west coast region of Nicaragua.

 In 2017, the program will serve an additional 30 families across 7 rural communities, benefitting more than 250 people.  We are proud that our stove design reduces wood consumption by more than 40%, cutting deforestation as well as lung and respiratory disease. Since January, the EcoCentro has also offered three group trainings to more than 60 residents of seven communities in the northern part of Nicaragua.

Our goal over the next five years is to:

  • eliminate the use of inefficient open cook stoves for all of the families with whom we work.
  • expand the use of the eco-technology in 8 different communities;
  • organize  and train young adults into teams for stove construction;
  • support the environment through reforestation programs on the farms of those families currently working with SosteNica.

 How do Eco-stoves work?  By reducing the area of combustion (fire box), and concentrating the fire on a small area, the need for wood is reduced.  In addition, the cook’s exposure to smoke is virtually eliminated through a smoke stack which takes smoke out through the kitchen roof.


While we haven’t applied for a patent, our unique stove was designed by our very own EcoCentro Director, Leysman Mendez.  We now have a small installation team led by trained EcoCentro staff.  All stoves require sweat equity -- family members, and occasional construction delegations from the United States, such as that of Arcadia University School of Public Health (2016 and 2017) do the installation.

All of this is made possible by the generosity of our Global Giving donors. 

Rocha family kitchen
Rocha family kitchen
Rocha family stove
Rocha family stove
Nov 28, 2016

End of Year School Garden Report

Proud student in front of drip irrigation system
Proud student in front of drip irrigation system

Yeison (pronounced "Jason") is a hero of sorts.  One of more than 100 students in SosteNica's School Garden Program this year, he has made a dream come true (see the video documentary below).   He and his younger siblings live with their mom in a humble home in rural Nicaragua.  Having learned at school the importance of adecuate nutrition, Yeison decided to bring his gardening skills home to benefit his family.  Single handedly, he cleared an area behind the family home and installed a vegetable garden that now produces eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and more.  Have a look at the video to see why Marlene, his mom, feels so proud of him.  

13 year-old Yeison is in the 6th grade at La Betania, one of the five elementary schools participating in this year's School Garden Program.  All five schools now proudly host a fenced in garden area, protected from pigs, dogs and chickens.  The raised beds serve as practical school laboratories where students learn about soil science, plant biology and pest control.  Most of the beds required completely new soil to be imported, given that the existing top soil was devoid of nutrients.  Our staff has shown up twice a week at each of the participating schools to teach and work with the students and faculty to head off problems and guarantee success.  

Every school now has a gravity fed drip irrigation system.  Many of the schools needed contour terracing to prevent heavy rains from washing away the top soil.   Since our last report students at every school have learned how to make compost, and why to apply mulch.  All five schools had problems with their letrines, so SosteNica donated the funds needed to restore the sanitary conditions.

And this Tuesday (#GivingTuesday) the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will match 50% of every dollar donated to the Nicaraguan School Gardens Project for 2017.  So, we thank you for what you have given and encourage you, on Tuesday to give again generously.  It will mean a lot to students like Yeison, their teachers and their families. 


Nov 10, 2016

Sustainable and Appropriate Kitchen Technology

Standard wood stove in rural kitchen
Standard wood stove in rural kitchen

Imagine building a fire inside your home without a fireplace, with the doors and windows closed.  In no time, eyes and lungs would burn as the living space fills with smoke.  Thousands of Nicaraguan homes do just this, cooking meals three times a day on an open, and unventilated fire.  

SosteNica, as part of its green housing initiative, has begun assisting low income rural families in the construction of an ingeniously engineered kitchen cookstove that reduces fuel consumption and removes dangerous smoke from the home. Utilizing natural and recycled building materials, the stove is also insulated to prevent burns to children playing in the kitchen.

Working with graduate students from Arcadia University School of Public Health, our Nagarote based staff have begun taking orders and building stoves for families who see the advantage of the newly designed "appliance".  Each stove costs around $120 to build.  Families participate in the construction of the stove and pay nothing for the first month.  For the next twelve months they deposit $10 into the "pay-it-forward" fund which enables another family the opportunity to benefit from this life saving technology.

Nicaragua is experiencing tremendous impacts of global climate change, including extensive droughts. By reducing the consumption of firewood, families save money, save time, and reduce deforestation, one of the local contributors to climate change.

Our generous donors make it possible for Nicaraguan families to lead healthier and happier lives, even as they reduce the ecological footprint caused by cooking.

Improved stove with chimney and reduced firebox
Improved stove with chimney and reduced firebox
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