Apply to Join

Sustainable Cookstoves for Homes in Nicaragua

by SosteNica
Sustainable Cookstoves for Homes in Nicaragua
Sustainable Cookstoves for Homes in Nicaragua
Sustainable Cookstoves for Homes in Nicaragua
Sustainable Cookstoves for Homes in Nicaragua
Sustainable Cookstoves for Homes in Nicaragua
Sustainable Cookstoves for Homes in Nicaragua
Sustainable Cookstoves for Homes in Nicaragua
Open fire place before SosteNica
Open fire place before SosteNica

Today, 70% of the municipality of Nagarote is rural. 98% of the people living in the rural sector cook their meals on an open wood fire, always under a roof, often within the home, without any chimney.  To protect families from the health effects of smoke inhalation, SosteNica promotes an improved system of food preparation throughout eight communities:  San Antonio, Silvio Mayorga, Peña Ventosa, La Chilama, Copaltepe, La Ojeda and Nagarote.

SosteNica staff recently interviewed several recipients of our SosteNica-improved cookstoves to see how they viewed the technology.  25 year-old Jessica, who lives in San Antonio with her husband and their son was one of those interviewed.

“I wake up at 3 am to help my husband milk the cows. Then I run to cook breakfast, after which, I go to the village to sell our milk. Our son goes to school and my husband goes to work. Cooking has been very complicated for me. First, I start the fire then wait for it to heat up. Timing was one of my biggest problems. The open fire always caused a delay! Today, with the stove that SosteNica made for me, I can light the fire faster. In addition, it is less dangerous and it heats much better. I never thought that this stove could be of so much help.”

Jessica’s was only the second stove to be built in San Antonio, but when word got out, most of the women in the community wanted one.  According to Nubia, one of Jessica’s neighbors:

“In the countryside, there is no better publicity than word of mouth from people with direct lived experience.  Recently I’ve been getting inquiries from women who live in other communities about how my stove works.  I tell them that I’m very pleased because I have much less smoke in the house and my young son is no longer at risk of being burned.”

In Copaltepe, the village next to San Antonio, families with improved cookstoves now use less fire wood.  A good example is a large family, where siblings, aunts, cousins and distant relatives have all asked SosteNica to build them new stoves.  28 year-old Everth said that he was persuaded by his aunts and uncles sharing their experience with them.

“They convinced me.  We now have our own stove and what a big difference.  Even our little daughters can help in the kitchen because there is less danger than with the open fire.  Now they are learning to make tortillas.”

Copaltepe, the village that produces the most charcoal in the region, lies 15 kilometers from downtown Nagarote. In the past year, the number of stoves in Copaltepe has increased by 400%.  Everth’s sister Anielka says that, of course, her interest was in having a good working stove that would use less firewood while keeping smoke out of the house.  But for her, of equal importance was the look.  She wanted a beautiful stove with a ceramic top, so SosteNica made her a ceramic-top stove.

According to Sayra, an elementary school teacher in La Chilama:

“Stoves have to respond to the needs of the particular family, being adapted to the size and space of the kitchen.  Obviously, the most important thing is how well the stove functions.  This degree of flexibility is difficult to achieve, but SosteNica modifies its stove design to fit the needs of the family.  I have one of these stoves in my mother’s home and it works wonderfully!”

In terms of public health impacts, SosteNica estimates that over 200 people today are breathing cleaner air as a result of the 36 stoves that have been built recently.  150 children are less at risk of burns from stove related accidents, while 36 tons of firewood per month are saved thanks to the fuel efficiency of our stoves. That means less deforestation in the region.

SosteNica has a waiting list of families wanting to acquire an improved cookstove in their homes.  Thanks to your help we have achieved a lot.  With more gifts, we will be able to spread the program to more communities in Nicaragua.  Please share this great opportunity to contribute with friends and family.

Ceramic top improved cookstove
Ceramic top improved cookstove
Teacher Sayra
Teacher Sayra's new stove
Firewood Delivery in Nagarote
Firewood Delivery in Nagarote

In Nicaragua, firewood and deforestation go hand in hand.  Every day countless men head out into the few remaining rural wooded areas to harvest fuel wood, load it onto carts like the one in this photo, and transport it into urban and semi-urban areas to sell.  Carts such as these travel up and down, supplying cooks with the fuel needed to cook gallo pinto -- Nicaraguan rice and beans.  Because the wood is harvested at a rate that exceeds the rate of natural regeneration, the land looses tree cover every year.  As a result, springs, streams and rivers dry up, top soil is lost, and the hot sun of the tropics bakes the land, denuded of its protective cover.  Every year it gets worse.

We believe that low-income Nicaraguans can meet their basic needs without destroying the planet. With your help, SosteNica is modeling a path forward. Here is how we do it.

We have designed an earthen/brick fuel efficient stove that uses less wood than the conventional cooking technique.  The stove costs $100 to build. Because most low-income families in Nicaragua don't have $100, that would ordinarily end the discussion.  But thanks to GlobalGiving donors, we can keep talking.  If a family qualifies as "low-income" we give them a $20 discount on the stove.  That brings the price to $80.  We then offer them 80 hardwood seedlings and technical assistance to plant their own wood lot for firewood -- free of charge!  If they agree to plant and tend the trees (paid for by GlobalGiving donations), we give them an additional $10 discount, bringing the price to $70.  Then, if the family participates in a community garden project for one month, working as a volunteer for a certain number of hours, we give them an additional $15 discount, lowering the cost to $55. 

If a family qualifies, and agrees to the conditions we sign a contract. They pay $5 down, participate in the construction of the stove, and come to the SosteNica office every month for the next 10-11 months, paying a $5 per month until their "loan" is paid off.

The families are thrilled with the arrangement.  We have 25 families who will soon receive a new stove that vents smoke from their home, uses less fuel and boils rice and beans faster.  Thanks to you, and all of our GlobalGiving supporters, we are able to provide up to $45 in subsidies to each family who, otherwise, would have been unable to afford the stove.

Darly, one of our recent clients, runs a small sidewalk eatery in Nagarote.  Her daughter Wendy told SosteNica: "Mi mama esta muy contenta porque su estufa le permite gastar menos leña que antes, y es poco el humo que sale en la cocina. Esta rapido la comida y sus frijoles de la fritanga." (My mom is very happy because her stove uses less wood than the old stove, and we get very little smoke in the kitchen.  Her meals and her beans for the restaurant cook more quicly than before.)

That is how we combine public health, ecology and social justice in one package!  Thanks for your support. 

  

Daughter Wendy with Mom Darly
Daughter Wendy with Mom Darly
Open fire cookstove
Open fire cookstove

Darlin Figueroa lives with her two children and eight other family members in a very small dirt-floored home on the edge of Nagarote.   In Darlin’s neighborhood, she is famous for her red beans and for her fried plantain chips. Selling beans and chips earns Darlin a modest living, and requires hours of cooking. For years, Darlin has prepared her beans on an open fire in the back room of their humble home. Like 57% of the Nicaraguan population (roughly 800,000 households), Darlin and her family breath unventilated wood smoke every day. Scientists estimate that exposure to indoor-air, contaminated with smoke, for more than 100 hours per year (less than 20 minutes per day) can cause Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD affects about 174.5 million of the global population. In 2015 COPD killed 3.2 million people. More than 90% of these deaths occurred in the developing world.

Thanks to SosteNica and to donors like you, Darlin's family no longer has to breathe smoke in order to survive economically.  She proudly cooks on an improved, vented, fuel efficient stove.  Her family now breathes clean fresh air, and Darlin buys much less fuel wood every week.  On weekends, she invites neighbors to her curbside "fritanga" -- a buffet of gallo pinto (rice and beans), fried chicken, cole slaw, fried cheese, plantains.

SosteNica's EcoCentro team, led by Leysman and Mario, has built more than 100 stoves and is now on track to build one per week for the near future.  We already have a waiting list of customers.  High on the list are the underpaid elementary school teachers at the six rural schools where SosteNica teaches school gardening.  Those teachers who participate agree to measure the change in air quality at their homes, estimate the reduction in fuel wood consumption and bring word of the technology to the mothers of the children in their classrooms.  

We have a lot of work to do.  We want to reach all of the families in need of stoves.  But for SosteNica, while it is important to improve indoor air quality and to reduce fuel consumption, it's not enough.  Nicaragua's population is one of the fastest growing in the world.  A nation of 2.9 million in 1980 is now approaching 7 million.  The Indio Maiz biological preserve, one of Central America's most important tropical rainforest areas is under asault by families in search of land.  In recent years colonists have been moving in and cutting down and burning trees.  While we can't stop the deforestation happening in the rainforest, we can support families in our region to plant their own wood lot, making it possible to grow their own fuel, essentially capturing solar energy and atmospheric carbon in the form of burnable tree branches.  With the support of INAFOR, Nicaragua's National Institute of Forestry, we have established three new rural tree nurseries which will distribute tree saplings to new stove owners who have land enough to support reforestation.  Each family in the program will receive a minimum of 80 trees. 

SosteNica cannot reach the many families who need stoves and trees without the support of you and your contacts.  Please urge people you know to donate what they can to support social justice and address family health and climate change.

Darlin Figueroa with her new stove
Darlin Figueroa with her new stove
Old Stove being replaced by new
Old Stove being replaced by new

Meet the Rocha family -- fifteen Nicaraguans, spanning three generations, leading productive rural lives on a medium sized farm in the village of Copalteme, 15 kilometers outside of Nagarote.  Three times a day, the women of this family gather to prepare a meal for themselves, their hard working men, for the children, and for a few day laborers who work with them on the farm.  That’s the way it has been for more than 50 years, cooking in a rustic kitchen with an open wood fired stove, consuming large quantities of wood and filling the house with smoke. 

 As soon as the women learned from SosteNica of the possibility of burning less firewood while breathing fresh air, they jumped at the opportunity.   Together, we built a first model, which they loved.  Almost immediately, they decided to build two more to give them a total of six burners. 

 The state of Nagarote (which includes Copalteme) consumes more firewood than any other in Nicaragua -- 300 tons a month – that’s 600,000 pounds per month, or 7,200,000 pounds per year!  This rate of wood consumption deforests 2,397 hectares annually (6,000 acres). Not only does this rate of firewood consumption result in indiscriminate deforestation, it leads to rampant chronic respiratory illness.  Respiratory illnesses mostly affect women and children as their homes are filled with cooking smoke from kitchens with unventilated open fires.

 The SosteNica-EcoCentro began promoting our Eco-stove program in different parts of Nicaragua in 2016.  Our first 12 stoves were built in the Nagarote region when Arcadia University School of Public Health sent a brigade of graduate students to launch the program.  Next, we built 20 stoves in the Jinotega and Matagalpa regions.  Then, in partnership with FNE (Friends of New England), more than 100 stoves have been built throughout the west coast region of Nicaragua.

 In 2017, the program will serve an additional 30 families across 7 rural communities, benefitting more than 250 people.  We are proud that our stove design reduces wood consumption by more than 40%, cutting deforestation as well as lung and respiratory disease. Since January, the EcoCentro has also offered three group trainings to more than 60 residents of seven communities in the northern part of Nicaragua.

Our goal over the next five years is to:

  • eliminate the use of inefficient open cook stoves for all of the families with whom we work.
  • expand the use of the eco-technology in 8 different communities;
  • organize  and train young adults into teams for stove construction;
  • support the environment through reforestation programs on the farms of those families currently working with SosteNica.

 How do Eco-stoves work?  By reducing the area of combustion (fire box), and concentrating the fire on a small area, the need for wood is reduced.  In addition, the cook’s exposure to smoke is virtually eliminated through a smoke stack which takes smoke out through the kitchen roof.

 

While we haven’t applied for a patent, our unique stove was designed by our very own EcoCentro Director, Leysman Mendez.  We now have a small installation team led by trained EcoCentro staff.  All stoves require sweat equity -- family members, and occasional construction delegations from the United States, such as that of Arcadia University School of Public Health (2016 and 2017) do the installation.

All of this is made possible by the generosity of our Global Giving donors. 

Rocha family kitchen
Rocha family kitchen
Rocha family stove
Rocha family stove
Standard wood stove in rural kitchen
Standard wood stove in rural kitchen

Imagine building a fire inside your home without a fireplace, with the doors and windows closed.  In no time, eyes and lungs would burn as the living space fills with smoke.  Thousands of Nicaraguan homes do just this, cooking meals three times a day on an open, and unventilated fire.  

SosteNica, as part of its green housing initiative, has begun assisting low income rural families in the construction of an ingeniously engineered kitchen cookstove that reduces fuel consumption and removes dangerous smoke from the home. Utilizing natural and recycled building materials, the stove is also insulated to prevent burns to children playing in the kitchen.

Working with graduate students from Arcadia University School of Public Health, our Nagarote based staff have begun taking orders and building stoves for families who see the advantage of the newly designed "appliance".  Each stove costs around $120 to build.  Families participate in the construction of the stove and pay nothing for the first month.  For the next twelve months they deposit $10 into the "pay-it-forward" fund which enables another family the opportunity to benefit from this life saving technology.

Nicaragua is experiencing tremendous impacts of global climate change, including extensive droughts. By reducing the consumption of firewood, families save money, save time, and reduce deforestation, one of the local contributors to climate change.

Our generous donors make it possible for Nicaraguan families to lead healthier and happier lives, even as they reduce the ecological footprint caused by cooking.

Improved stove with chimney and reduced firebox
Improved stove with chimney and reduced firebox
 

About Project Reports

Project Reports on GlobalGiving are posted directly to globalgiving.org by Project Leaders as they are completed, generally every 3-4 months. To protect the integrity of these documents, GlobalGiving does not alter them; therefore you may find some language or formatting issues.

If you donate to this project or have donated to this project, you will get an e-mail when this project posts a report. You can also subscribe for reports via e-mail without donating.

Get Reports via Email

We'll only email you new reports and updates about this project.

Organization Information

SosteNica

Location: West Chester, PA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
SosteNica
Alan Wright
Project Leader:
Alan Wright
West Chester, PA United States

Retired Project!

This project is no longer accepting donations.
 

Still want to help?

Find another project in Nicaragua or in Environment that needs your help.
Find a Project

Learn more about GlobalGiving

Teenage Science Students
Vetting +
Due Diligence

Snorkeler
Our
Impact

Woman Holding a Gift Card
Give
Gift Cards

Young Girl with a Bicycle
GlobalGiving
Guarantee

Sign up for the GlobalGiving Newsletter

WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.