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Field Interviews from Mexico: Inside Imelda's Kitchen

This story was collected by Oaxaca Field Technician Severiana Domínguez González, whose brilliant work you’ve read about 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.

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 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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