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Field Interviews from Mexico with Imelda Esteban Yescas & Jasmin Guadalupe

In order to get more stories directly from the field to you—our kind readers, supporters, allies, and friends—we have started implementing and experimenting with communications techniques. We aim to give EcoLogic field technicians an easy method to create consistent streams of stories and photos that will allow us to analyze, communicate, monitor, and evaluate the human elements of our conservation work—like empowerment and social change.

While we are still in the pilot stage of this process, these two stories were collected by Oaxaca Field Technician Severiana Domínguez González, whose brilliant work you’ve read about of before. Severiana, as usual, went above and beyond—providing us with short journalistic accounts of local beneficiaries who are involved in our fuel-efficient stove initiative in La Chinantla.

We hope you enjoy this close-up view of Severiana’s work and insights from two local women who partner with EcoLogic.

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Imelda Esteban Yescas

Inside Imelda Esteban Yescas’  Kitchen

By Severiana Domínguez González

A survey of homes in San José Chiltepec and San Lucas Ojitlán in 2010 revealed the scope of the problems posed by inefficient cooking techniques. Deficiencies in government project management, execution, and follow-up explain the low levels of technology ownership at the local level. All kinds of projects have failed because of improper planning and evaluation – ranging from projects focused on poverty reduction, stove adoption, health, and climate change mitigation.

Many interrelated challenges pose serious concerns for the people of this region and the Mexican policymakers with whom they interact: forest degradation and transformation into cropland helps people feed themselves in the short term but also causes a loss of energy sources. And people are acutely aware of global climate change – both because of its local effects in unpredictable rainfall patterns and because they know that more sustainable land use is important for stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

Countries have directed their efforts according to their economic resources towards mitigation strategies to avoid deforestation and to collaborate in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions; however, due to the high economic cost of technological transformation, adaptation strategies to counteract the vulnerability of production systems are developing slowly. At the level of intervention mechanisms, fuel-efficient stoves are considered an acceptable and low-cost mitigation strategy, which equals or exceeds social costs. The multipurpose nature of stoves encompasses the reduction of biomass consumption, poverty reduction, indoor pollution reduction, and mitigation of climate change.

Thousands of people in Chinantla spend their day between the nixtamal—the process of making tortillas, their pots, and the smoke, because they cook using open stoves that not only fill their roofs with soot, but also damage their health and greenhouse gases continually. The scent of smoke and the crackling of burning wood fill many homes. But this has begun to change as we, along with our partner FARCO, are helping people build fuel-efficient wood burning stoves in the area.

Doña Imelda Esteban Yescas is a shareholder of common land in the municipality of San José Chiltepec. She has been involved with EcoLogic and has helped us promote the social and economic development of the public land inhabitants. Doña Imelda is also one of the first to receive support of the wood-burning stoves project after years of cooking her food in an open fire surrounded by smoke all day.

Doña Imelda is interested in conserving natural resources and improving her meals, and she supports and collaborates in local river cleanups. And she is committed to sharing her experiences with other women in her area.

According to Doña Imelda, “I used to need a lot of wood. Now I cook very well without battling with smoke and ashes inside the house; now I take less time to make tortillas and I can cook healthily thanks to the wood-burning stove that maximizes the heat and sends the smoke, ashes and soot through a chimney to the outside, my walls are clean and I don’t breathe smoke.”

She expressed that the biggest advantages of fuel-efficient stoves are in energy efficiency, low consumption of firewood and elimination of indoor pollution. The energy-saving stove uses 70% less fuel than a traditional stove and sends contamination to the outside of the home, reducing the exposure of inhabitants to smoke from stoves.

Doña Imelda thanks EcoLogic and hopes that with the help of her local partners, we can further strengthen the capacities of women in San José Chiltepec.

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Jasmin Guadalupe Cruz Avendaño making tortillas in her kitchen

A day making tortillas

By Severiana Domínguez González

Improving health conditions and quality of life for highly marginalized families and contributing to the sustainable management of natural resources are among the shared objectives of EcoLogic Development Fund and its local partner FARCO. 

One of the main health problems in rural areas is the use of traditional open stoves. These stoves are installed inside houses and use wood as their main fuel source. Open stoves damage the health of women and their children as they breathe the particles and fumes generated from burning wood. In addition, consuming wood presents a significant cost to households. 

In response to this problem, EcoLogic helps to provide families with clean-burning, fuel-efficient wood stoves specifically engineered to cooking habits in this part of Mexico, where tortillas are a staple. The impact of this work is reflected in improved health of families and the people who spend time in the kitchen. Families using fuel-efficient stoves spend less on fuel. On average, the amount of firewood used decreases by 70%

Jasmin Guadalupe Cruz Avendaño moved from using an open pit fire to an efficient stove in November 2015. “My stove is working very well. This is due to the fact that it saves firewood and I no longer inhale the smoke. There is no more ash in my dishes. I feel that I can cook faster. It used to take me lot of time to make tortillas. We are 5 in the family and I had to prepare 8 kg of dough to make tortillas and I spent all day between the nixtamal and the process of making the tortillas. But now I have time for other things, such as spending time with my children and checking the slopes of the house, as well as embroidering. I’m glad I’m able to share my experience in the use and maintenance of the wood burning stove with other ladies. I’m satisfied, and hopefully other women can receive the same support, many neighbors and relatives like my stove, and I have explained them about the maintenance and construction of it.”

Jasmin emphasized the importance of conservation of natural resources in her ejido and to carry out reforestation activities by herself, as well as the need to train more ejidos on the subject.

To see more about EcoLogic’s work with fuel-efficient stoves, our “Solutions” page has plenty of information about why we chose to focus on fuel-efficient stoves as a conservation solutions.

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