Mar 23, 2021

Update

Circularity of the biodigester system
Circularity of the biodigester system

Dear Friends of Tui’k Ruch’Lew,

First and foremost, thank you for supporting our “From Poop to Fuel” program! Your contribution helps make it possible for TRL to introduce this new technology to the indigenous community of Maya Tzu’tujil.

Secondly, we would like to share our progress on this project with you. In the last months, we have intensified our efforts developing the concept for the demonstration project for the biodigester . 

Together with our partners in Honduras (Edy Omar at CASM Act Alliance) and Cuba (Cesar Parras at Centro Cristiano Lavastida) we finalized the customized design of our fixed dome biodigester for the school. Did you know that Cuba legalised private WiFi networks less than 2 years ago? And only with a permit! Overall, access to technical infrastructure is extremely limited. Thus, our final biodigester design was not made with software -- it was made by hand! This was very special to receive, knowing how much work lies in this drawing. And we will share this drawing by Cesar with you.

Together with an online, international team of volunteers from various fields, from natural science to anthropology, we have carried out a comprehensive stakeholder analysis and identified the strength, weakness, opportunities and threats (SWOT) for the biodigester project. 

Our aim for this demonstration project is to present an ecological solution for the wastewater problem to the Tzu’tujil Maya community. We at Tui’k Ruch’Lew truly believe that sustainable community development is always linked with people’s empowerment. Therefore, we designed a series of three workshops for the parents at the school, with whom we will (COVID-safe of course):

  • evaluate the sanitation situation in Tzanchaj, Santiago Atitlan in a co-creative process prior to the construction of the biodigester
  • demonstrate the simple design and construction of the biogas plant during the construction phase, and
  • present the circularity of the system (eat, poop, cook) at the school after completion of the construction at the school.

We are excited to get to know the parents of the girls and boys from the primary school. And as we learned this week from Melchora, the director of the school, they are also excited about the biodigester. The vision of the staff and the parents of the school is to become an example of sustainability. The idea to produce gas for cooking from poop was being adapted in the blink of an eye - because the benefits are so obvious: free gas for cooking the meals for the kids at the school, and free fertilizer for the permaculture garden. 

Thank you again for your support. In order to realize this project, we still need financial contributions. So please feel free to share our GlobalGiving campaign “From Poop to Fuel” with your friends and family. 

Best wishes,

Jessica and the Tui’k Ruch’Lew team

Hand made technical drawing for the biodigester
Hand made technical drawing for the biodigester
Biodigester as a wastewater treatment
Biodigester as a wastewater treatment
Feb 14, 2021

We are back to a new normal

Every day women and men are carrying firewood
Every day women and men are carrying firewood

2020 was a remarkably difficult year for the people and the planet: The novel coronavirus pandemic forced people to contend with a new normal: lockdowns, mask rules, economic crises and travel bans. Families were separated. Many people fell ill or lost a loved one. And on top of that millions of people lost their jobs and thus their livelihood. And if that was not enough, countries held elections, protesters took to the streets, and wars broke out. 

The aftermath of 2020 is still unknown and the future uncertain. For us, 2020 was a challenge as most of our work is community work. From the ONIL stove installation, the monitoring of the stoves, to our environmental education, everything is linked to human contact. 

The human connection is hard to replace. 

The small interpersonal gestures, like a simple handshake or a hug to greet someone, the fleeting and comforting touch during the conversation were all of a sudden a threat to our health. At the beginning of all this, we felt anxious about what the future would bring for us and our organisation. Last year we had to put down the core activities: installing and maintaining the stoves and bringing people happiness and joy. I remember the long discussion with the team on ZOOM, where we expressed our worries about the conditions of the stoves as we were not able to do the usual follow-ups. 

At the same time, we received many requests for Onil stove installations as people noticed the advantage of having an energy-efficient stove that saves about 70% of the wood. This is a huge saving in money if people purchase the firewood or in time savings if they are collecting the firewood in the nearby forests.

As a team, we brainstormed ideas on how to help the Tz’utujil people keep up with their maintenance of the stoves to ensure the hassle-free and energy-efficient functionality of the stoves. Thus we started making maintenance videos for our clients, we tried to remotely check on the stoves by individual phone calls and much more. 

2021 is a new beginning

At the beginning of the year, we decided to leave the baggage of 2020 in the past and look forward again. “With a new spirit into the new year,” was our motto. We developed safety protocols in consultation with medical professionals for different project activities. And we slowly started operation, while evaluating our precautionary measures again and again until everyone felt safe and secure in their job.

Since January 2021 TRL’s outreach team has installed 27 ONIL stoves and has checked on 62 ONIL stoves. How the faces of the team lit up after the first ONIL stove installation!

With new motivation and positive spirit, we are confident that we can install about 240 ONIL stoves this year in the Tzu’tujil communities. 

Stay safe,

Jessica and the Tui’k Ruch’ Lew team



Happy ONIL stove owner
Happy ONIL stove owner
Oct 20, 2020

New Technologies for Our Tz'utujil Communities

Tz'utujil woman using an ONIL stove
Tz'utujil woman using an ONIL stove

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, we were determined not to lose sight of our goals. The social and economic crisis caused by the pandemic could not be an excuse to postpone the transition to a cleaner and healthier future. On the contrary, we at Tui'k Ruch'Lew are convinced that we must see the global health crisis as an opportunity to mobilise for sustainable change and build resilience in communities particularly affected by environmental and health crises. 

COVID-19, Air Pollution and Open Fire Cooking is a Deadly Combination

The vast majority of our community in Santiago Atitlan cooks meals on open fires or inefficient stoves, filling their homes with eye-watering smoke. Exposure to these pollutants increases the vulnerability to the respiratory infection to the already socio-economically disadvantaged. Research showed that household air pollution from cooking increases the susceptibility to respiratory infections such as pneumonia and aggravates respiratory illnesses like asthma. Given the preconditions, people with or recovering from COVID-19 have diminished lung functions and are therefore at higher risk of long-term respiratory health effects. 

Our indigenous female clients spend 6-8 hours every day cooking on indoor open fires and are at high risk to suffer from severe consequences if they contract the virus. Governmental COVID-19 restrictions forbid home visits since March 2020, so our aim during this health crisis is to maintain the existing stoves so that our clients are not harmed by additional household air pollution. The heart of our project - the ONIL stove - is highly efficient and vents about 99.9% of toxic smoke outside, while saving about 70% of wood. 

Utilizing New Technologies 

Our clients have successfully integrated the innovative stove technology into their lives, but some still need help with repair and maintenance. We created self-help, instructional videos, which can be sent to clients via a smartphone. We have found that someone within our clients’ extended family or a nearby neighbour will have such a phone available or has access to social media - one of our channels of information dissemination.

Perhaps the up-side of COVID-19 is that it has brought even remote communities of Tz’utujil Maya into handling multi-media communication tools with ease -- a step forward into social inclusion for disadvantaged, marginalized people.

Stay safe,
The Tui’k Ruch’ Lew Team

Stay tuned - we’ve got amazing news in the pipeline :-)

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