Every day in Guatemala tens of thousands of the countries citizens fire up a wood stove for cooking. These stoves are for the most part open fires that cause a health burden on the country of Guatemala and cause deforestation. Most of these families cannot afford to buy firewood. Each day men have to go out to the forests to cut wood for fuel in order to cook the family meals.
A large number of NGO’s operate within Guatemala with the sole purpose to manufacture, seek donations for and to offer alternative means of cooking the families daily food on a wood stove. While these NGO’s efforts are welcome and respected by all they make little impact or change to the growing health problems for families caused by the traditional stoves used.
The reason that NGO’s have little impact on Guatemalan families is that the stoves offered by these NGO’s require a cultural change. Meaning that for generations the woman in a family have cooked on an open fire wood burning stoves. A second consideration is the cost of these alternative stoves. The stoves require donations from individuals supporting these NGO’s in order to reduce or eliminate the cost to manufacture and to deliver these new style stove for cooking.
Having come to Guatemala I have embraced the culture, not wanting to change the culture to best understand the culture. I am concerned about this health problem created by the means that thousands are forced to use as a means to cook a daily meal.
Sabina is an Indigenous native of Guatemala. Sabina is the typical example of a woman that while living above the standards of most still remains within her historical cultural life style. Sabina has a gas stove in her home, yet she prefers the traditional means of cooking. Open fire wood bring stove. Sabina has caused my interest in seeing a solution to this problem.
With the help of Sabina’s husband for the last year have given me the opportunity to be part of both there cultures. Stoves have been a topic of conversation, research on-line and yes building a wood stove that address this problem. This is our story.
Cost, design, transportation of and efficiency was the main concern in seeking to design the perfect Guatemalan wood stove for cooking. Unlike most NGO’s we have kept our project on a local level. Sabina lives in a town outside of the world famous Antigua Guatemala. We found on-line a number of wood stoves designs developed by engineers that have addressed this problem in other countries. The Rocket stove was the design we have chosen.
Engaging a local welder we produced our first high efficient wood stove based on the Rocket Stove design. We were able to produce this stove for under 300Q or about $39 dollars US. While this stove worked made up mostly of scrap materials the need existed for a skilled welder. Our goal is and was to manufacture or produce a stove without the needs of highly skilled labor. A stove that anyone could make is the goal and it has to be inexpensive.
Back to the drawing board. Our next version of the perfect Guatemalan wood stove was based on a simple design change to the proven Rocket stove. This stove was built out of fire brick. Cost less then 100Q or about $13 US.
We are not seeking donations or have plant to become an NGO in Guatemala attempting to raise funds to provide stoves. The point of this blog post is to deliver a message that a low cost high efficient alternative exists to solve this problem. We hope you will take the time share this message.
This Guatemala wood stove project targets two main issues:
Overcoming health issues in indigenous populations of Guatemala, due to exposure to and inhalation of smoke; and
The ever-increasing threat of deforestation in Guatemala and its consequences.
77% of Guatemalan families use wood as their main fuel source
90% of wood cut annually in Guatemala is for fuel
2% of Guatemala’s forest is lost each year
In Guatemalan homes, the breakdown of wood use is: 83% of fuel wood for cooking, 2% for heating water, and 15% for heating homes.