Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala

by EcoLogic Development Fund
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Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
Fuel-Efficient Stoves for Guatemala
ArtCorps workshop participants
ArtCorps workshop participants

EcoLogic is always looking for ways to expand our toolbox of practices and techniques that inspire the active participation of rural communities is conservation. And we’re also always looking for ways to connect our partners to the skills and expertise of other groups that can add value to our collective work. There are a few aspects to EcoLogic's stove program in Totonicapan that you may not know about - like our partnership with ArtCorps! EcoLogic’s relationship with ArtCorps is a perfect example of both of these efforts. This past month, EcoLogic and ArtCorps combined forces once again to conduct a hands-on workshop with teachers in Totonicapán, Guatemala. A key component of our initiative in Totonicapán is working with our local partner, the Association of Communal Mayors of the 48 Cantones, to preserve indigenous Maya K’iche’ knowledge and beliefs around forest protection—beliefs which have enabled the K’iche’ communities of Totonicapán to effectively protect over 50,000 acres of forest for the past 800 years—and making sure that that knowledge passes down to younger generations. To achieve this, we use several techniques, including leveraging the expertise of ArtCorps!

ArtsCorps is a non-profit arts education organization dedicated to developing creative habits of mind in young people. EcoLogic and ArtCorps are old friends, having worked together in both Honduras and Guatemala. In 2012, we jointly released a children’s book of stories and pictures related to environmental stewardship created by indigenous children of Totonicapán. This time around, ArtCorps held a three-day workshop to train teachers in arts-based methods for building leadership, transferring knowledge, and inspiring creative action for positive behavior change related to environmental protection. ArtCorps, in collaboration with EcoLogic and our local partner, agreed to train teachers from 18 different primary and middle schools in the region. Teachers are a critical population to equip: they have a captive, eager audience in the classroom; they can influence a large number of students; and they can utilize the techniques for years to come.

Once teachers are trained by ArtCorps, EcoLogic assists them in identifying how to apply those skills so that children understand and become inspired to maintain their unique cultural heritage which is so tightly linked to nature and its protection.

After a series of ice-breakers and creative introductions, a key activity of the workshop was to collectively design a giant tree that represents their community. The roots represent people’s dependency on nature. The trunk represents the current state of natural resources and their threats and challenges. The branches represent the skills, knowledge, and talents that community members have. And the leaves represent ideas for how to apply those skills and talents in ways that address the identified challenges. As EcoLogic’s Regional Program Director, Gabriela González, expressed “the tree model was an incredibly effective way for the teachers to reflect upon and analyze issues and solutions.” And this model can be replicated in the classroom quite easily because it is so interactive, creative, and colorful.

Many of the teachers approached EcoLogic staff after the workshop—freshly inspired and humming with ideas—and shared their interest in expanding our reforestation program in Totonicapán. Over the past 8 years, EcoLogic and the 48 Cantones have organized and trained community members to reforest over 500,000 trees! But there is certainly more that can be done. It was great to hear the interest and drive amongst the teachers. They also urged us to replicate the workshop in other communities in the area because so many more schools would benefit from the tools they gained. Moving forward, we are particularly excited to see the teachers apply their new skills in the classroom, and to see what kind of new solutions and recommendations the students come up with as well!

Community-based trainings such are these comprise one element of our integrated approach for protecting the communal forest of Totonicapán. In addition to our work preserving and transmitting traditional K’iche’ knowledge and beliefs related to forest stewardship, we are also working with community members to reforest areas that are essential for water provision (over the past 8 years, EcoLogic and the 48 Cantones have organized and trained community members to reforest over 500,000 trees!), installing fuel-efficient wood stoves in communities in order to decrease pressure on the forest (195 stoves were installed in Totonicapán in 2015), and working with our partner and local authorities to curb illegal logging that takes place in the forest.

hree workshop participants getting creative
hree workshop participants getting creative
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Josefina (right) and her fuel-efficient stove
Josefina (right) and her fuel-efficient stove

Dear Global Giving supporter,

After working at EcoLogic for a year and a half, I finally had the opportunity to visit Guatemala during an all-staff retreat in January. I’ve heard and retold the stories of so many of our fuel-efficient stove beneficiaries — but I had never seen one of EcoLogic’s stoves in real life! Because of this, I was so excited to meet Josefina on my visit to Plan Grande Quehueche, Guatemala. Josefina received her stove three years ago, and she loves it. This model keeps her family safer from burns, and she said she can cook more food on the stove at once due to the larger surface are. She recalls how smoke from her old stove used to fill the house, and is thankful that this stove is more hygienic. 

“We don’t have to take our kids to the clinic as often because of burns or because they are sick from the smoke.” When you live in a remote village like Plan Grande Quehueche, a trip to the doctor’s is not a simple journey. In Josefina’s home, an issue has been how to place a chimney in the thatched roof house (the traditional building style in this remote village) — you can’t put it through the roof without creating a risk of fire. But EcoLogic técnico Daniel Herrera developed a solution to this. You can position the chimney so that smoke exits the house through a reinforced hole in the thatched roof, which is much safer and healthier than allowing the smoke stay low in the home where people are breathing.

Fuel-efficient stoves require much less wood. Josefina’s family is using less than half the wood they used to, meaning they don’t have to carry as much, or go collect it as often — just a few pieces burn all day long. Hearing how happy Josefina is with her stove made me think of how happy all of you would be to hear that your support is creating a safer home for thousands of families like Josefina’s and reducing the impact of cooking on the nearby forests. Please give today so EcoLogic can reach our goal of working with 800 more families to install fuel-efficient stoves, for their health and the health of the forests.

Best Regards,

Alexa

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Don’t underestimate the impact a stove can have on a woman’s life. In rural communities in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and Mexico, women do most, if not all, of the cooking for their families. In many homes, this means spending hours bent over an open fire, breathing in damaging smoke and carbon monoxide. Cooking over an open fire is detrimental both to women’s health and to forests. Harvesting firewood for cooking is a driver of deforestation in many rural areas in Central America and Mexico. By building fuel-efficient, clean-burning stoves in our project communities, EcoLogic helps improve the health of both families and forests. All of the stoves that we use reduce families’ fuel wood consumption about 60 to 70%, compared to traditional open-fire cooking methods. This saves women and children time and energy harvesting wood, and also reduces pressure on forests.

Stoves, however, are not one size fits all.

A family in Oaxaca, Mexico, will have different local conditions, cooking needs, and traditions than a family in Atlántida, Honduras. Some features are constant throughout most models. For example, “Throughout Central America, people like to cook tortillas, so most models we use have a tortilla griddle, or plancha,” explained Reyna Guzmán, an engineer at the Stove Certification Center at Zamorano University in Honduras. However, to make sure that a woman gets the most out of a new stove–and continues to use it for a long time—we build different models depending on the needs of communities in different regions.

EcoLogiccurrently uses six different kinds of stoves, depending on the region and community. The best way to decide which model is right for a community is, of course, to ask the women who will use them. Usually, EcoLogic field technicians use their knowledge of a given community to propose a few stove models. We bring women together to discuss the features of different stoves, and they decide which model they think would work best for them. Then, we choose a small number of families to pilot the stoves, to make sure that they work well for that community’s needs. Finally, we expand the stove program in that community, with the ultimate goal of building a fuel-efficient stove in the home of every family who needs one. After we build the stoves, we also train women to correctly use and take care of their stoves, and our field technicians regularly check in on families with new stoves to help them with the transition and to answer their questions.

Here are three of the models we use the most—

Plancha stove

Where we use it: Guatemala

How it’s built: Plancha means “griddle,”and the name refers to the iron cooking griddle on top. The Plancha stove usually features three burners for cooking, which are made by simply cutting holes in the iron. The body of the stove is made from a mixture of clay and sand. There is a combustion chamber for fuel wood and, importantly, a chimney to let smoke escape from inside the home.

Good for cooking:The separate burners make it easy to cook pots of rice and beans at the same time. Rice and beans, or arroz y frijoles in Spanish, is a staple dish throughout Guatemala. Black beans are simmered for hours until they are tender and creamy, and then mixed with sautéed onions, peppers, and garlic and white rice. Rice and beans are often served with corn tortillas—ideally also freshly made on the Plancha stove—and fried plantains.

Justa stove

How it’s built: The Justa stove is built from bricks or blocks of concrete or adobe. As with all the fuel-efficeint stoves that Ecologic uses,Justa stove models feature a combustion chamber for wood, as well as a chimney for ventilation. The Justa stove is topped with one large metal griddle, or plancha, for cooking. Justa models also feature an attached shelf on the side to store food, plates, or cooking equipment. “Cats and small children can sit there, too, although that’s not what the shelf was built for…” laughed Guzmán. Many women in Honduras decorate the stoves with painted ceramic tiles at the end of construction.

“Cats and small children can sit there, too, although that’s not what the shelf was built for…” laughed Guzmán. Many women in Honduras decorate the stoves with painted ceramic tiles at the end of construction.

Good for cooking: The large griddle makes theJusta stove ideal for flipping fresh corn tortillas. For a hearty breakfast, stuff a hot tortilla with refried black beans, crumbled queso duro cheese, and the Honduran-style sour cream known as mantequilla to make baleadas. Some recipes also add fried eggs, avocado, or seasoned ground beef or pork.

Patsari stove

Where we use it: Oaxaca, Mexico

A Patsari stove in the small community of San Bernabé, in Oaxaca, Mexico

How it’s built: the Patsari is a squat stove that is usually built from brick, but can also be constructed from concrete. It features two or three burners. One or two are smaller, which makes them good for pots of rice or beans, and the third is larger, which makes it an ideal griddle for cooking fresh corn tortillas. A small combustion chamber is located near the bottom of the stove, and like all fuel-efficient stoves, it features a chimney to keep smoke and soot out of families’ homes.

Fun fact: Patsari means “the stove that cares” in Purépecha, a language spoken by the indigenous Purépecha people from the state of Michoacán.

Good for cooking: Oaxaca is famous for its delicious cuisine, and the state is home to more than 200 known recipes for mole, a rich, complex sauce made from chili peppers and a long list of other ingredients, which sometimes includes chocolate. Because mole takes a long time to cook, it is usually saved for special occasions. Mole negro, or black mole, is slightly sweet, dark in color, and can made from toasted chili peppers, plantains, onions, tomatoes, tomatillos, cloves, cinnamon, chocolate, nuts, and more, depending on the recipe. On Día de los Muertos in November, the aromas of smoky mole negro simmering in pots on Patsari stoves perfumes the air in the village of San Bernabé, located within EcoLogic’s project site in Oaxaca.

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Inga Edulis crop
Inga Edulis crop

EcoLogic designs all of its project activities with an emphasis on building long-term capacity for local communities to manage forests through proper monitoring, evaluation, reforestation and protection techniques.  After a plan for fuel-efficient stoves and reforestation is implemented in a community, we work with our local partners to monitor the reforested and restored areas to make sure great progress is being made! We set short term milestones for each project that lead to overall goals to improve the livelihoods and natural resources in all the areas we work. 

Our fuel-efficient stove projects significantly reduce the amount of trees cut in the forest because they use less fuel wood. In tandem, as part of our forest protection solutions, we teach farmers an agroforestry technique called “alley cropping” or planting Inga edulis trees along with their crops.  Agroforestry, an alternative to slash-and-burn agriculture, improves the soil and reduces the need for clear-cutting forest land to make new arable farmland.  This year with our partner, APROSARSTÚN in Guatemala’s Sarstún region, our goal is to achieve the following short-term and long-term conservation outcomes:

Short-term:

  • By June 30, we will have helped three new communities create a plan for reforestation, leading to the reforestation of 10 hectares of native tree species in water recharge zones of microwatersheds in each community.
  • By June 30, these three communities will be aware of the origins of their water in microwatersheds and the limitations of the microwatersheds. They will also have defined a clean water management plan with their community leaders.
  • By August 30, thirty families (180 people) in two communities will have reduced their use of fuelwood by 60% through the adoption of fuel-efficient wood-burning stoves.
  • By August 30, five communities will have established nurseries growing native tree saplings.
  • In addition, these farmers will have received training in agroforestry using the alley-cropping method with guama (Inga edulis).
  • By December 30, a total of 25 new acres of agroforestry plots will be established among the 150 farmers now trained in the alley-cropping technique.

Long-term:

  • By 2017, at least 320 families, or 90% of families within the Sarstún River Multiple Use Area will be using fuel-efficient wood-burning stoves
  • By 2018, the number of farmers in Sarstún communities who have replaced slash-and-burn agriculture with agroforestry practices will have increased by 50%.
  • By 2018, all 13 communities that collaborate with EcoLogic and APROSARSTUN have established microwatershed management plans and a system for maintaining clean drinking water for years to come.

We at EcoLogic are excited that these communities are making so much progress conserving their land and water - and we have you to thank for supporting us!

Inga Edulis Crop
Inga Edulis Crop
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Paulina shows off her new stove.
Paulina shows off her new stove.

“I always cooked over an open fire,” mused Paulina, a mother of five who lives in the rural village of San Juan, a village in the Sarstún River Basin in eastern Guatemala. “Every time I finished preparing a meal, my arms were burning, and I was coughing up smoke. And it took so much wood! 10 years ago, there were plenty of trees for firewood right next to our home. But today, you have to walk at least 30 minutes to collect enough wood, because we are slowly killing the trees.”

Throughout Central America and much of Mexico, many rural families cook their meals over open fires—which burn day and night, filling homes—and people’s lungs—with harmful smoke. Cooking with firewood also requires people—usually women, like Paulina, and their children—to spend several hours per week collecting wood for cooking. Relying on firewood as a primary source of fuel is causing an alarming rate of deforestation and high incidences of health issues, like pneumonia and lung diseases, from breathing in smoke from the open fires.

With the support of our local partners in communities across Guatemala and Honduras, EcoLogic is pursuing one simple solution to the dual environmental and public health issues caused by open-fire cooking: building fuel-efficient cookstoves and installing them in the homes of interested families—as part of a holistic program with added incentives for conservation. In Guatemala, families interested in having a new stove in their home must first plant at least 50 trees, and spend time volunteering in local greenhouses and nurseries. Our program has slashed fuel consumption by up to 60%, begun to restore standing forests and mangroves, and reduced health risks for families.

The Sarstún region is one of the areas where EcoLogic—with our local partner in the area, APROSARSTUN—has implemented our clean cookstoves program. As a result, Paulina now has a new stove. “At first I wasn’t convinced that the stove would work,” she laughed. “But now I see nothing but advantages! My whole family doesn’t need to spend as much time gathering firewood because the new stove needs so much less wood for fuel. My children have more time to dedicate to their schoolwork—and I’ve noticed that they don’t get sick nearly as often. My family’s life has changed a lot, for the better.”

The program’s incentive to plant trees in order to earn a stove also helps families understand the big-picture connections between conservation, sustainable use of natural resources, and their own health. Ana, another stove recipient in Huehuetanango, Guatemela, said, “EcoLogic helps people see the connection between the stoves and making the forest healthier.”

EcoLogic is continuing to expand our stove program so that we can help more families like Paulina's and Ana’s protect their health, their time, and the forests around them. As part of our ongoing efforts to improve the program, we are developing tools to evaluate which stove models best fit the cultural and environmental needs of the communities we serve. Supported by the contributions of our donors, and working together with our local partners, we plan to build many more fuel-efficient stoves for families like Paulina’s.

“The projects that EcoLogic and APROSARSTUN are implementing in our community have improved our quality of life in ways that no other organization has done here, especially in such a short time,” Paulina said. “Thank you.”

Ana and her family (photgraphed by Dan Grossman)
Ana and her family (photgraphed by Dan Grossman)

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EcoLogic Development Fund

Location: Cambridge, MA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @ecologicdevfund
Project Leader:
Barbara Vallarino
Cambridge, MA United States
$22,330 raised of $30,000 goal
 
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