Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves

by Asociacion Tu'ik Ruch' Lew
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Protect Guatemalan Forests with Clean Cookstoves
Making the first tortillas on the new stove
Making the first tortillas on the new stove

 

Itching to finally get out of my town in the USA, I schedule a two-week trip to Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, to spend some time with the TRLearth.org Team. After many months of COVID shutdown in Guatemala, the Team has finally been able to get out to visit potential clients and to install and repair clean cookstoves. They have set the goal of installing 162 stoves this year, and thanks to the support of donors, they are well on their way.

I visited the TRL office, met the Team members, and went on an actual installation. On another day, I traveled with the Team to a neighboring village, San Pedro La Laguna, a 20-minute boat ride across beautiful Lake Atitlan. There, TRL had scheduled an orientation with eight Tz’utujil Maya women who were interested in finding out more about the cookstove project and the “do’s and don’ts“ when using one of these unique stoves. 

During the orientation, Isabel, the Technical Adaptation Specialist (TAS), gave a thorough presentation with plenty of time to answer many questions. She explained that families who decide to get a clean cookstove are participating in an environmental project to "take climate action now." The cookstove will immediately improve their air quality, reduce the amount of firewood they need, and help save the region’s forests, but only if they commit to use it in the way that is was carefully designed to be used. Sometimes people mistakenly think that they are "buying the stove" and can do whatever they want with it...including chopping open the front so that they can continue to burn big logs!

After the presentation, all eight women wanted to have a stove. Thanks to donor support, TRL can provide these cookstoves at a greatly reduced price. The Team had just enough time that afternoon to visit the homes of four of the families; they installed those stoves the following Monday. By now, the stoves requested by the other four families have also been installed. 

I've also been informed that on the first follow-up visits after installation, every stove is being used properly and greatly appreciated by the new owners. This continual follow-up is what sets TRL apart from other stove projects, where the stoves are just dropped off and never visited again.  

If you are also itching to get away, I recommend you consider a trip to Santiago Atitlan. The Team encourages TRL donors and other interested visitors to Guatemala to come out to the Lake and go on a "clean cookstove tour." I can't begin to tell you how fascinating it is to see first hand the important work TRLearth.org is doing.They are truly taking Climate Action Now!

Staff in the bodega with stoves
Staff in the bodega with stoves
TRL stove demo reunion
TRL stove demo reunion
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Andreas with her children in front of the stove
Andreas with her children in front of the stove

When Andrea got married, as is the Tz’utujil custom, she went to live with the family of her husband. In this household, the family uses an improved ONIL cookstove which Tui’k Ruch’Lew had installed some years ago. Andrea had never seen one of these stoves and she was delighted with its efficiency, cleanliness and tremendous savings on firewood - not to mention no toxic smoke in her face, from which she had suffered over the open fire hearth, in the house where she grew up.

After the birth of their first child, it was time for Andrea and her husband to make their own kitchen. Andrea wanted an ONIL stove but her husband said they would have to wait until they saved the necessary money to pay their part of the stove costs - each recipient in TRL’s stove program makes a small donation towards their stove as a demonstration of their commitment to care for and maintain it.  Andrea had noticed a practically new but abandoned ONIL stove in the yard of a neighbor - originally dropped off by a well-intentioned charitable group who never explained how to use the stove nor followed up on the installation. The family never really used it. Andrea acquired the remains of the stove.

Thrilled with her find, Andrea called Tui’k Ruch’Lew to ask for our help in restoring the stove, which we were glad to do. For a small investment in stove parts, she acquired her ONIL stove. Today Andrea is still using the renovated ONIL stove and carefully maintains it in good working condition. It may look old on the outside, but the innovative design, which cuts consumption of firewood by nearly 70% and almost entirely reduces harmful CO2 emissions and black carbon, is still intact and functioning perfectly. That discarded stove was a treasure in Andrea’s eyes and it is now enrolled in TRL’s project, where we visit the stove each year to ensure its continued successful functioning - part of monitoring every stove in our project.

Your donations to Tui’k Ruch’ Lew’s project “Protect Guatemala Forests with Clean Cookstoves” not only improves the health and economy of a family, but it also saves the trees on our mountains. Scientists tell us that protecting native forests which provide a carbon sink is one of the most efficient ways to reduce CO2 in our atmosphere. Our stove project not only saves those forests but reduces the amount of CO2 which is released by cooking over an open fire, by three tons in just the first year of stove use. You are taking DIRECT CLIMATE ACTION when you support TRL’s Clean Stove project!

Your donations are helping families like Andreas'. And by spreading the word, you can continue to support us. 

  1. Follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn)
  2. Join our mailing list today
  3. Become a monthly donor on GlobalGiving
  4. Volunteer with us (Get in touch)

We wish you a wonderful day.

The team of Tui'k Ruch'Lew

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Typical kitchen in San Antonio Chacaya
Typical kitchen in San Antonio Chacaya

Meet Jesus Santizo Xeche De Sosof

On the 25th of August, we installed a cookstove in San Antonio Chacaya -- one of the poorest villages in Santiago Atitlan. Jesus lives with her sick mother in a tiny room -- not larger than 4x3 meters. The main room is made from cement bricks while the kitchen is half outside with a dirt floor and walls made from corrugated sheet metal. Every day, Jesus cooks the meals on the ground (see typical kitchen setup).

Since her economic situation does not allow her to buy dry firewood, Jesus depends on the wood that her brother Francisco transports down from the mountain every day. During the rainy season, the wood is so wet that it burns at low temperature and is therefore energy inefficient. Moreover, burning wet wood creates a lot of smoke and steam (see video of Jesus’s kitchen).

Using wet wood in an open fire situation is also unhealthy because it releases pollutants into the air (e.g., nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide) and particles (e.g., particulate matter and black carbon). If that weren't enough of a health hazard, burning wet wood releases huge amounts of creosote -- carcinogenic deposits that cause skin and eye irritations, minor chemical burns, and, if inhaled, respiratory infections and even cancer through prolonged exposure (see wall full of creosote).

We feel for people like Jesus. The installation of this energy-efficient cookstove was realized through your donations. Our outreach team -- Jose and Maria -- were very pleased to be able to install the stove for Jesus and her mother (see installation). Because we accompany all installations with our education program, Maria could explain the health risks associated with burning wet wood (see image of environmental talk). Jesus and her brother, who was passing by to bring more firewood, did not know about these health risks, but could directly link their mother's illness to the way they had been cooking for many, many years. To reduce the health risks from using wet wood, Maria suggested creating space in the covered area to dry the wood for as long as possible before burning it in the stove.

Thanks to the new energy-efficient stove, Jesus will need to use much less firewood when preparing food for her family. For Jesus, this is an enormous relief -- timewise and financially. The new stove is restoring her dignity while making important health improvements for her entire family.

Please accept our thanks.Your donations are helping families like this. And by spreading the word, you can continue to support us.

We wish you a wonderful day,

Jessica and the Tui’k Ruch’Lew team

Walls are covered in creosote
Walls are covered in creosote
Installation of the ONIL stove in Jesus' kitchen
Installation of the ONIL stove in Jesus' kitchen
Environmental talk between Maria and Jesus
Environmental talk between Maria and Jesus

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A. Open fire cooking
A. Open fire cooking

Did you know that three billion people cook their food on an open fire? 

When entering a typical kitchen in Santiago Atitlan, you are welcomed by talk, laughter, and smoke -- gritty, eye-watering smoke that sticks in the throat and provokes deep, scratchy coughs. This smoke kills more than four million people annually and sickens millions more. To fuel these smoky fires, families spend 4 days a week or more gathering wood, time that might otherwise be spent at school, at work, or simply at rest. Cooking a simple meal becomes a major health issue, consumes excessive amounts of natural resources, and is at the same time a significant barrier to sustainable economic development. Since 2016, we at Tui’k Ruch’Lew address these environmental, social, and economic obstacles with our improved cookstove program. As an innovative and forward-thinking organization, we wanted to know quantitatively how much we are actually helping the Earth. 

ONIL cookstoves offset 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year!!

Our improved cookstove (ICS) program constantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions because the ONIL cookstove uses 70% less fuel than the open fires commonly used in the Lake Atitlan region. In addition, regular maintenance increases their energy efficiency, further reducing greenhouse gas emissions. 

Thus, a single ONIL cookstove offsets three tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in its first year of use. This equals about one-fifth of the average per capita emissions in the US.

We all know by now: climate change is a very serious problem and one of the biggest responsibilities of our time. The objective is clear: to become carbon neutral by 2030. Our improved cookstove project contributes to GHG emission reductions (burning less firewood) and increasing carbon sinks (protecting the native forests from deforestation). YOU are helping us work toward these key strategies.  

Thank you for your support

Since the beginning of 2021, we have installed 65 ONIL stoves thanks to your financial support. Let me share our comprehensive digital monitoring system prior to introducing you to one of the new stove owners. 

As TRL is currently monitoring over 2,000 improved cookstoves in the area of Santiago Atitlan, we have developed a digital system to register our beneficiaries and to monitor the use of the stove and to conduct household surveys in order to receive the verified carbon standard with the labels of the sustainable development goals. 

Thus, the installation of the ONIL stoves follow a strict (now also COVID-safe) protocol:

  1. First household visit: Survey about general information about the beneficiaries and site visit so that TRL’s outreach team knows the condition of the kitchen and the current cooking situation.  
  2. Second household visit: This is the actual installation of the ONIL stove within a week after the site visit.
  3. Third household visit: A week after the stove installation, the outreach team is checking on the stove and assisting the beneficiaries in adapting to the new stove. This visit is accompanied by a more in-depth survey about the firewood use, firewood collection, health conditions, and the poverty assessment. 
  4. Fourth household visit: Three month after the installation, TRL’s outreach team is checking again on the stove to ensure proper use and long-term usage of the improved cookstove. This survey is accompanied by an in-depth survey of the satisfaction of the stove users. Here TRL is assessing the firewood savings, and the improvements of the health situation of the families, women and children in particular. 
  5. Fifth household visit: A year after the ONIL stove installation, TRL is checking again on the stove. Simple maintenance of the ONIL stove is being made by the team to ensure the optimal functioning and heat flow of the stove. 
  6. Yearly follow-ups or on demand. Over the lifetime of the ONIL stove - about 10 years - TRL’s outreach team checks on the stove every year or on demand. Simple maintenance, like cleaning the bottom of the metal plate and its removable rings to increase the heat transfer. If the combustion chamber needs to be replaced, the team will return usually within a week to change the combustion chamber. 


Before: Open fire cooking situations

To get you some ideas of how Maya Tz’utujil communities are cooking, we would like to share some typical kitchens.

See pictures A. Open fire cooking and B. Preparing food on an open fire is challenging.

After: Meet some new ONIL stove owners

Thanks to your donation, TRL was able to install 65 stoves in the Maya Tz'utujil community this year. Our target for 2021 is 200 ONIL cookstove installations. We are very optimistic to reach our target as installations and demand have increased in the second quarter of 2021. 

All beneficiaries are very happy to have received an improved cookstove and are grateful for the financial help from you. 

See pictures C. Maria is happy with her new ONIL stove and D. Making tortillas on the ONIL stove works well.

Donations of any type are welcome. Donate today through our fundraising partner GlobalGiving or get in touch with Dr. Jessica Kind at director@trlearth.org. For more information about our programs, please visit www.trlearth.org

We are wishing you good health. 

Jessica and the Tui'k Ruch'Lew team

B. Preparing food on an open fire is challenging
B. Preparing food on an open fire is challenging
D. Making tortillas on the ONIL stove works well
D. Making tortillas on the ONIL stove works well
C. Maria is happy with her new ONIL stove
C. Maria is happy with her new ONIL stove
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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
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Organization Information

Asociacion Tu'ik Ruch' Lew

Location: Santiago Atitlan, Solola - Guatemala
Website:
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Project Leader:
Jessica Kind
Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala
$20,073 raised of $40,000 goal
 
144 donations
$19,927 to go
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