Stoves Improving Health & Benefiting 96 Families!

word spreads in the community, & families gather!

In the area of San Carlos, Rio San Juan, around 96 families have, over the past six months, experienced first hand how to construct an INKAWASI improved stove promoted by Self-Help’s programs and the Self-Help CECAL “Fred W. Strohbehn” Training Center (you may have read about it in our micro-credit officer’s latest report featured here)

We’re promoting this stove because it’s a better option for the women to use when cooking so that they won’t be exposed to smoke and its polluting effects. We all know that improved health and caring for the environment are two positive benefits to the families we serve here at the training center.

SHI staff and beneficiary try out new stove

This style of stoves drastically reduces the use of firewood in homes. INKAWASI stoves can contribute to improving family health, reduce toxic air pollution, save lives, protect the environment, and improve the economy and subsistence of rural families in southeastern Nicaragua.

We are slowly but surely helping 96 families adopt an innovative approach: that the family must participate and help with the construction of the stove for their own home. The beneficiary family pays the value of $1,500 córdoba (USD $50),  which is the value of the materials that SHI delivers–bricks, concrete plates for burners, and a chimney. We deliver the items and use some of our staff members to help build the stove alongside the family.

Bertilda, one of the first women to install the improved INKAWASI oven, shared, “When I used the traditional oven, there was always smoke in my stove, my eyes would water and I think I became addicted to smoke. The wood of the roof is still black with soot from the fire. Now with all this information I have learned about the dangers of smoke inhalation, I wonder if my lungs are that black too. I thank the supporters of Self-Help International for the construction of this stove, and that there is no more smoke in my stove.”

A new INKAWASI stove!

Like Bertilda, many women in our program continue to use traditional cooking methods that are not very efficient and use a lot of wood. Women and children are affected by its impact on health, and many adolescent children and their parents are the ones who bear the burden of collecting and providing the wood they consume in their homes, often times having to fetch it in fields.

After receiving her loan to construct an INKAWASI stove, Bertilda tells us how she thinks the women will opt in to wanting one of these stoves and make the investment. “In order to accelerate the transition to the use of these INKAWASI improved stoves, it is first necessary to do so with the direct beneficiaries of the programs and then with the families close to them.”  She understands that they will see the benefits for themselves.

To show the women who are curious to see how the stoves work, we started this pilot plan where we have the first 3 stove models at our own CECAL-Fred W. Strohbehn training center, another in a community co-op in San Marcos and San Lucas R.L. of the community of Los Chiles, and in the Community Seed Bank of Ochomogo in Rivas, in addition to the 4 we’ve already built  in beneficiaries’ homes.

Fathers join SHI staff to help construct stoves

Sandra and her husband Juan were selected to obtain the first improved stove INKAWASI in the community of Las Maravillas (one of the five communities of Los Chiles that belong to the project), with the goal to provide energy efficiency, promotion and protection of forests as an approach to basin and environmental education in San Carlos, led by the NGO – ASODELCO in the micro-basin of the San Agustín River).

With the benefits that come with the changes and innovations of using this improved INKAWASI stove, we are still left with the challenge of women using unsafe or unhygienic cooking practices. For this reason, we developed 9 training workshops. Throughout these activities we successfully built 8 INKAWASI stoves, affecting 96 beneficiary families, brought 7 technicians from Self-Help International, 1 Peace Corps Volunteer technician, and 7 technicians from the NGO-ASODELCO, resulting in a 111 participants this year.

To meet the challenge of improving cooking practices, Self-Help International has also expanded its commitment to train both women and men in the construction of the INKAWASI improved stoves in 2018. We have created four major training events that  have been developed in the construction, use, management, and maintenance of the stoves, so that every day there are more women who have access to cleaner and healthier cooking solutions in their homes and to diminish the impact on the natural resources of the San Carlos area.

Local residents receive a presentation about the stoves

These innovations translate into innumerable benefits and individual stories and thanks to the help provided by Self-Help International through its programs, now more women and children can enjoy more time with their family and less time cooking and collecting firewood because of your support.  Now, the focus is on finding more beneficiaries who are willing to achieve cultural change and apply the lessons learned from the first women who set out to achieve it.

Self-Help International will continue to facilitate this transition to non-polluting cooking methods and is committed to the fundamental development benefits such as improving women’s health, reducing air pollution and helping mothers spend more time with their families while continuing to provide more economic opportunity.

By Jorge Campos Solis – Nicaragua Country Program Director