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
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 For more information about our programs, please visit

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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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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Greetings from Tui’k Ruch’ Lew!  We hope that all of you, who have so generously supported TRL in the past, are safe and well.

Unfortunately, Santiago Atitlan, the community in which we are based, is one of two lake towns with registered cases of COVID-19. Presently there are 54 identified cases and 3 deaths. The national government has mandated strict protocols to protect the population and the local government is quarantining affected individuals and those who have been exposed. 

Our clients are particularly vulnerable to the negative outcomes of COVID-19. New research suggests those living in places that are exposed to air pollution are more likely to die from COVID-19. Our clients mostly live in densely populated areas with high potential for transmission of the virus. Moreover, they have limited access to healthcare services. With families forced to remain indoors, those with an ONIL stove are much better positioned. Eliminating the dangers of HAP is especially vital now more than ever.

In addition to the health threat, the economic consequences of lockdown orders have severely threatened the wellbeing of community members. The informal economy is a primary source of income for community members (e.g., selling roasted ears of corn harvested from one’s own cornfields or home-toasted peanuts, by the ounce, on the street). Now the sale of any edible on the street is prohibited. Tourism, another large source of income, is non-existent. Many of our female clients earned money from beadwork, weaving and embroidery -- artisan products sold directly on the street -- that are not necessarily linked to international or online markets. Without work and reliable income, many families are going hungry. TRL, like several groups in the area, has begun to distribute food aid with the support of the Rotary Club. 

The savings on daily wood fuel use made possible by an ONIL stove are key in a time like this.  In spite of the financial hardship, we still have a high volume of requests for stoves and replacement parts. 

As soon as the local government allows, we look forward to continuing our work and kindly appreciate any support you might be able to give. 

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This is Micaela*, a mother of nine and a resident of San Antonio Chacayá, a small village just outside of Santiago Atitlán. Like many others in her community, her husband works as a field laborer in a finca, earning no more than $4 USD a day. This means their family finances depend on an abundant harvest, something no longer guaranteed as climate change brings unreliable crop-cycles. Her family cannot afford to buy the fuel she needs to cook, so they spend hours each week collecting firewood. 

Her sister-in-law, a proud owner of a TRL stove, had raved about the financial and health benefits. Micaela began thinking, how great would it be to have her own, so she wouldn’t be cooking on a fire on the floor. Unfortunately, she knew it was an expense her family could never afford. 

One day, her daughter spoke with Isa, our educadora. Isa explained that luckily, TRL had a unique opportunity: a donor wished to give ONIL stoves to impoverished families in the community. From there, Isa visited her home, explained the nature of our project, and registered Micaela in our program. Now, Micaela is thrilled to be cooking with an ONIL stove which means a lower risk of burns, eye problems and respiratory diseases for her and her children. Plus, her family is now doing their part to slow deforestation on the slopes of the nearby volcano, a biodiverse area home to prime habitat for quetzales and other threatened bird species. 

Because of donors like yourself, we are able to help families like Micaela’s. In 2020, we’ve installed over 50 ONIL stoves all because of YOUR support. On behalf of our community and the planet, we thank you for your generosity. 

Listen to Micaela tell her story at this link: 


*Name is changed for privacy


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Organization Information

Asociacion Tu'ik Ruch' Lew

Location: Santiago Atitlan, Solola - Guatemala
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Jessica Kind
Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala
$15,628 raised of $40,000 goal
105 donations
$24,372 to go
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