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Feb 1, 2019

Still cookin'

Children inhaling smoke from an open fire
Children inhaling smoke from an open fire

The Suowi Ankave are people of the forest; they use bark to make the cloth they use as blankets at night and covering in the day, they hunt game under the canopy, they place newborn babies in their first bedding, huge, verdant tropical leaves. Their culture and livelihood is linked to the forest in so many ways, it is imperative for their cultural and even physical survival that the forest is preserved.

Firewood is something harvested from the forest for daily use in open fires for cooking and to keep mosquitoes at bay. There is a dual trap with the open fire practice, however. Not only do daily fires require a significant amount of wood, but the smoke emitted from them cause serious health problems, in particular for women and children, who spend the most time around them.

Rocket stoves that use very little fuel and emit very low emissions are slowly gaining popularity in Suowi Valley. While the longer term protection of the trees remains somewhat abstract, the decrease in daily wood preparation, decrease in cooking time, and decrease in respiratory illness has been encouraging.

Through participatory rural appraisal approach, in this remote community, accessible by three days walk or by small fixed wing aircraft, we have built a health center with solar lighting and water and a staff house. Now, there is a nurse stationed there full time as well; a key recommendation of the community. Joel, the nurse, works closely with the village birth attendants IHS trained, and regularly carries out health promotion activities, including discussing the dangers of exposure to smoke from open fires. The last quarter has been especially demanding in this regard, as the teachers that had been delivering a conservation conscious elementary school curriculum have left Suowi Valley.

Another round of clean cookstoves, solar backpacks for the village birth attendants, and outreach from health workers, biologists, and others is planned for April. During this time the Suowi Ankave will come together to reassess their priorities and goals, and inform further IHS engagement.

If you would like to learn more about this unique and rare culture, we are happy to announce that the definitive work about the Suowi Ankave, Drumming to Forget, a large-scale hardcover book with full color photos and text in both English and French, is available on our website in the Gifts section. The initiative we announced towards the end of 2018, to offer wild bush grown Arabica coffee for Papua New Guinea, has begun. Coffee can be found next to Drumming to Forget.

We continue to be humbled and feel grateful for your continued faith in the work, which you express through your generous material support.

Sleeping with a smoky fire indoors
Sleeping with a smoky fire indoors
View of Ikundi with Health Center and forest
View of Ikundi with Health Center and forest
Inspecting new low fuel, low emission cookstoves
Inspecting new low fuel, low emission cookstoves

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Oct 25, 2018

Clean cookstoves are welcomed in Suowi Valley

Observing the low fuel, low emission cookstove
Observing the low fuel, low emission cookstove

The novel technologies brought to the Suowi Ankave people through your generous support are being accepted and appreciated.  Notably, the clean cookstoves, high quality, wrought iron based rocket stoves are being used regularly despite initial concerns they may be rejected. 

The Suowi Ankave live 3 days walking distance from any road, and as such utilize very few modern implements in their daily lives. There was a risk that while the concept of the clean cookstoves was welcomed, once they were physically present they might be rejected. We are happy to report that has not been the case. 

The forest upon which the Suowi Ankave depend remains hearty and healthy, the main threat the Suowi Ankave has perceived thus far related to forest degradation is a decline in game for hunting. Loss of trees, forest canopy is not something they bring up in their top concerns. Given that, the people are expressing appreciation for the very low fuel requirements of the clean cookstoves, which means far fewer trees harvested for fires. 

Moving forward, health impacts of reduced exposure to smoke will be monitored. At baseline, respiratory illness has been a major cause of death and morbidity for all ages of people in Suowi Valley. Eliminating a significant protion of smoke exposure may help. 

We would like ot take this opportunity to thank all of our generous supporters--your dedication to protecting the forest and its indigenous people in Papua New Guinea inspires all of us. We look forward to pressing on in this complex integrated conservation and development work.

An exciting new initiaitve will be started soon, where select goods can be purchased in support of Indigenous Health Solutions; we will begin selling a rare coffee table book full of breathtaking photos and cultural inforation about the Suowi Ankave, as well as wild grown organic Arabica coffe from the hinterlands of PNG, purchased directly from village family growers at Fair Trade prices, roasted in small batches, to be delivered throughout the US. All profits will go directly to support Indigenous Health Solutions programmatic work in Suowi Valley. 

Community members maintain the airstrip vital link
Community members maintain the airstrip vital link
Dixon making improvement to clinic
Dixon making improvement to clinic
May 29, 2018

Clean cook stoves given warm welcome in PNG

A Suowi Ankave child inspects the new tech in town
A Suowi Ankave child inspects the new tech in town

The Indigenous Health Solutions forest-preserving, clean-cooking, health-sparing cook stoves project launched in April 2018 with great success! The initial batch of rocket stoves were brought into Ikundi, Suowi Valley, and distributed evenly among the clans. Though quite different from the traditional log fires used to cook food and provide heat in this extremely remote forest hamlet accessible only by trek or air, the rocket stoves were met with curiosity and interest. The ease of use and efficiency of the stoves proved popular features; one needs only small pieces of combustible fuel, and the heat of the stive cooks food rapidly and warms the area as well. An initial concern that the stoves may be rejected because log fires produce smoke that repels malaria-carrying mosquitos was put to rest by the mosquito nets and teaching provided along with the stoves. 

The clean cook stoves project allowed us to reconnect with the community, hear about current priorities, challenges and successes, conduct a new census, and also check in on existing projects in conservation, health, infrastructure, education, and midwifery. We were thrilled to observe the indigenous knowledge transfer about living in harmony with and seeking medicinal succor from the forest being supported by the success of the tiny bush-material school there. The health clinic and staff house erected a few years back remain in excellent condition, and a resident health worker made his probationary rotation in April, notably saving a 3 year old girl from paralysis.

However, there is still no running water in the clinic, the school, or in the bush-material birthing house constructed by the IHS-trained village midwives. Without electricity, use of the few solar lights currently available is stretched. We need your help to address these and other trials; and to maintain the community engagement and ownership of this work, which forges a path to sustainability. Please visit our website www.indigenoushealthsolutions.org to be included on our mailing list, and get more information about progress and upcoming initiatives. Please also consider another donation to this project; it would be enormously helpful to keep the momentum generated by this initial resounding success going. We are grateful for your part in introducing clean cook stoves in this very remote forest community; signing up for monthly recurrent donations is a fantastic way to support this work as well.

Until the next update from the lungs of the Earth, the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea, we wish you all the best.

First public demonstration of clean rocket stove
First public demonstration of clean rocket stove
Taking a new census of the Suowi Ankave
Taking a new census of the Suowi Ankave

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