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Cook Stoves Project

11 Nov

I am currently in the thick of an improved cook stove project in my town. My mason and I just completed the first five of a 35-stove project that we are hoping to finish by March and, let me just say… construction projects are hard. It is a waiting game to receive funding to start the project; it is tough to buy all of the construction supplies when you live in an isolated town an hour away from the nearest ferreteria (hardware store) and four hours away from the factory where you have to buy the ceramic stove parts; and it is even more difficult to ask poor families to financially back part of the project.

Luis, Hector and I on our 4-hour journey.

Luis, Hector and I on our 4-hour journey.

So, what is the purpose of this project? The main goal of the improved cook stove project is to reduce the risk of respiratory illnesses for both women and children—the leading cause of death in developing countries—by removing smoke from cooking areas. An added benefit is that the stoves are also more efficient. They use less firewood than the traditional cooking methods (win for the environment!) and they also significantly cut down on the amount of time that a woman spends in the kitchen.

Traditional Cooking Method

Traditional Cooking Stove.

A quick breakdown of the stoves…

  • $250: the cost of each stove
  • 8: the number of hours it takes to build each stove
  • 24: the number of ceramic parts used to build each stove
  • 9: feet of chicken wire to build each stove
  • 3: bags of cement used to build each stove
  • 20: cement blocks to build each stove
  • $2,995: the amount of my ECPA (Energy and Climate Partnerships of America) grant

This project has been really interesting so far. I am a female boss of a construction project in an extremely machismo (male-dominated) society. During the first few weeks of our project, it was a constant battle with my mason, Luis, to let me help with the manual labor—he didn’t think women should mix cement or lay concrete blocks, he thought that I would break my back if I lifted anything remotely heavy and would tell me to take a break the moment he saw a bead of sweat on my forehead.

My mason, Luis.

My mason, Luis and our helper, Effie.

As difficult as parts of this project are, I really believe in it and take the small wins with huge strides. Luis and I finally made a breakthrough the other day when, in the middle of our work, he stated that this is the first project that he has ever worked on with a woman and how great of a team we make. I have also seen first hand the difference that it is making in the lives of my friends and family here. The women take such pride in their new stoves and are ecstatic how much quicker they can cook their rice and beans and that they still taste the same as they did using the traditional cooking method. And I will never forget the first stove that we finished, when the family gathered outside with amazement in their eyes as they watched the smoke leave the chimney.

Marynella and her daughter, Lucy.

Marynella and her daughter, Lucy.

Roberto watching the smoke leave the chimney.

Roberto watching the smoke leave the chimney.

 

 

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