EcoLogic continually seeks to ensure that it is adapting to the local context and providing the best possible solutions for the challenges that rural communities and the nature around them face. To that end, in 2011-2012 EcoLogic contracted with a regional university to conduct a study of the fuel-efficient stoves we provide to communities so that we can better understand what works for community members and what does not. Our goal is to strike the right balance between optimizing fuel-efficiency, while using a model that women will actually use—typically the model will vary from place to place. In our experience, if the most efficient technology is introduced without carefully considering the cook’s needs and priorities, it will likely be for not.
This July, as a follow up to that study, EcoLogic’s regional program director, Gabriela González, along with project technicians from our three projects in Guatemala, Yovany Díaz, José Domingo Caal, and Fernando Recancoj, attended a Guatemala stakeholder consultation and strategic planning workshop co-sponsored by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and the government of Guatemala.
This conference brought together academics, NGOs, and for-profit companies that either build stoves or supply the materials needed for their construction. It was a great opportunity for EcoLogic staff to learn about new kinds of stoves, make contacts with manufacturers of stove components, and share lessons learned with other organizations.
As a result of attending this workshop EcoLogic made new contacts with manufactures of stove parts that result in cost savings. In addition, we chose a new stove model to pilot in one of our projects: the Onil. The Onil, which is produced by an organization called Helps International, provides the features we know are essential to community members who practice traditional cooking methods. It also eliminates virtually all smoke in the home and thus improves the health of families. Because of its innovative design, the Onil stove reduces fuel-wood consumption by up to 70 percent over traditional open fire pits.
EcoLogic began with a pilot installation of 25 Onil stoves in some of the poorest communities living near the 21,000-hectare forest of Totonicapan. We worked with our local partner, the Natural Resource Council of the Mayors of the 48 Cantons of Totonicapan, to identify which families would receive the pilot models. Those chosen were some of the most vulnerable in the community who lacked resources to purchase firewood, and were thus forced to collect wood directly from the nearby forest. EcoLogic staff will be following up to systematically gather data on the performance and acceptance of the new stoves. For example, on a recent visit, we followed up in person with the women who received Onil stoves. Their feedback was extremely promising. Anecdotally, women told us that before, with the open pit, they needed 15-20 thick logs to make a meal, while now, they only needed three to five small pieces of kindling. Women also commented that there was no smoke with the Onil stove, a vast improvement, especially for those households that included young children.
The women were eager to share their experiences, which resulted in an impromptu learning exchange. While EcoLogic staff were seeking feedback, one woman, Doña Catarina, commented that she was having trouble making enough tamales for her large family given that the stove only has two burners. In response, a young woman called Mercedes stepped up and said that her stove was working quite well to feed her family of eleven, and offered suggestions to Doña Catarina. This kind of learning and sharing of experiences is precisely what EcoLogic is all about!