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Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea

by Indigenous Health Solutions, Inc.
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Protect forest & 100 families in Papua New Guinea
Jyen-nii serving up kau kau ready in a jiffy
Jyen-nii serving up kau kau ready in a jiffy

Rocket Stoves Taking Off & Over 1000 Health Patient Visits to the Clinic over 7 Days!

Since our last report in early 2019, Indigenous Health Solutions (IHS) has made excellent progress in integrated development in remote Papua New Guinea.

Lift Off: Growing success in rocket cookstove adoption is changing lives for the better

Because the Suowi Ankave people live in isolation in pristine nature, surrounded by mountains made of stone, household goods that are common throughout the world are rarely found. One of the challenges to the introduction of low fuel, low emission cookstoves has been that only families who own cooking pots can use them to cook their meals. Only families that have had a child atend school in a town, or have had someone go away to work on a sugar or other plantation ususally have a pot. Traditional cooking among the Suowi Ankave requires a large open fire that consumes large quantities of wood and emits thick smoke.  Garden food, and sometimes game, is placed into hollow bamboo and put directly into a large open fire for cooking. Previously such cook fires were found in the center of the living space.  People would cook, eat, and sleep around the fire; the fires were kept burning throughout the night so that the heavy smoke will deter mosquitoes.

As people have learned that such heavy smoke contributes to the frequent and often fatal respiratory illnesses in their children, as well as to chronic lung disease among older adults, many households have moved their cook fires outside and have accepted sleeping under mosquito nets. One of Indigenous Health Solutions' important interventions in 2018 was the introduction of fuel-efficient and low soke emission stoves. When the rocket stoves were first introduced one year ago the reception was tepid.

Things have changed as experience grows. During our latest outreach in April 2019, people were eager for the new shipment of cookstoves and more people wanted a cook stove then there were units available.  The desire for this new technology spans families with young children to older people with bad teeth, who crave softened food. These stoves use small pieces of wood and scrap that are lighter and easier to find then large logs; they are also easier to keep dry, and the heat is high, cooking food very quickly, even at the high altitude of the Suowi Valley.

During the recent outreach, some families expressed that they were unclear about the rocket stoves and their benefits. One our early adopters, Jyen-nii , brought her rocket stove to the green next to the Indigenous Health Solutions Health Center. There she demonstrated how she starts a fire in the rocket stove and and cooks kau kau (sweet potato) on it.  The assembled crowd who had been unclear about the device were astonished that the kau kau was soft and ready to eat in five minutes! Many gathered around happily accepted a piece wrapped in banana leaf from Jyeen-nii.

Indigenous Health Solutions and Eastern Highlands Provincial Health Authority Rural Outreach, long term partners in this work, conducted the April 2019 outreach together at the solar IHS clinic. Over seven days, the team had 3 clinicians seeing an average of 70 patients each per day.  Suowi Valley is not the only hamlet of isolated clans in the area. Within a few days after the start of the outreach groups of people from two and three days walk away began showing up seeking services; they started walking with their sick, their babies and older children when they heard the plane land. Pneumonia remains a top killer of children in Suowi Valley; several severe cases that were nearly fatal were seen during the outreach. Obtaining a solar powered oxygen concentrator and vaccine refridgerator are top objectives for the next year as IHS looks forward to continued steady progress in this work of caring at once for our planet and the people who depend most directly on it for survival. 

Thank you as always, for your generous support. Remember to check out the Ppaua New Guinean wild grown Arabica specialty coffee on offer in the gifts section of our website, link below. 

Lucy examines a baby at the IHS Health Center
Lucy examines a baby at the IHS Health Center
This mother got a contraceptive implant at clinic.
This mother got a contraceptive implant at clinic.

Links:

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

Links:

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
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

Links:

A Suowi Ankave girl gathering water for cooking
A Suowi Ankave girl gathering water for cooking

We are so excited that our generous donors have made our low fuel, low emissions cookstives project possible by contributing to our campaign during the end-of-year Accelerator, and by enrolling in automatic onthly donations. The campaign became such a success, that we are deep in preparations to implement this forest conservation and repsiratory health project during the month of April. 

The sole brave pilot who lands on the Ikundi airstrip deep in the mountainous forest in Suowi Valley has our project on his shcedule.  Our doctors, nurses, anthropologists, and conservation biologists are ready to bring in training and health services along with the first delivery of low emission cookstoves, solar and hygiene kits, and essential medicines via fixed wing aircraft. The midwives we trained in 2016 will be the first to learn about the rocket stoves, solar lights, and hygiene kits, including treated mosquito nets, to protect families as they sleep and eliminate the need for smoke to fill the house at night as a mosquito deterrent. The midwives in turn will be able to teach the families they serve through their midwivefery skills. 

While we can't say how the rocket soves will be received by the community at this point, we do anticipate receptivity to the new technology, based on the time saved in gathering wood, understanding of the forest conservation that will be realized by decreasing the amount of trees harvested, lowered risk of burns, and the improvement in respiratory health, particularly of women and children. As always, we will use our community participatory model to be sure the needs and concerns of the Suowi Ankave are put first in this time of change. 

Because these stoves will reduce fuel use by 30-60%, they will emit less greenhouse gas, carbon emissions, decrease black carbon emission by 50-90%, and will soften the impact on the Papua New Guinea rainforest, and all the creatures that depend upon it for life. 

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Indigenous Health Solutions, Inc.

Location: Santa Fe, NM - USA
Website:
Twitter: @indigenous_HS
Project Leader:
Sarthak Das
Santa Fe, NM United States

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