EcoLogic works at the household level to respond to families' needs that intersect with natural resources. This includes providing fuel-efficient cookstoves as a tool to replace open-pit fires and other inefficient cooking techniques, which are the norm throughout rural areas in Mexico and Central America. By supporting home gardens we are addressing the communities’ needs, first and foremost by providing food security and better nutrition at a critical time. The approach and materials used also emphasize sustainability by focusing on native species and incorporating perennial plants.
The majority of rural households in rural areas of Mexico and Central America burn wood to cook their food, with most using an open pit or a very rudimentary cookstove in the center of the home. These cooking practices are dangerous to human health because smoke fills the dwelling, which increases the likelihood of respiratory illnesses. Burning wood in a pit or an inefficient stove also uses a significant amount of fuel, requiring people—often women and children—to spend a significant amount of time collecting wood.
To fuel their cooking fires, people often cut down live trees, resulting in the deforestation of watersheds and habitat, which may also increase soil erosion and mudslides. In addition, they remove dead wood, which otherwise would improve soil fertility and promote healthy ecosystems. All of this combined results in a situation which harms both people and nature.
EcoLogic works with local partners and communities to install fuel-efficient wood stoves in Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras to reduce the pressure on standing forests and mangroves and improve the lives of the people with whom we work. The stoves EcoLogic installs are significantly safer and more efficient than traditional cooking methods. EcoLogic’s fuel-efficient stoves include chimneys to vent smoke and pollutants from the home. In addition, they improve combustion efficiency so women and children spend less time foraging for wood, and thus have more time for study and other activities.
The various cookstove models that EcoLogic builds reduce the amount of wood fuel needed by more than 30 percent over traditional methods. These stoves are highly sought after and well maintained, as EcoLogic ensures that the stoves are compatible with local cooking practices and that recipients have the training needed to properly maintain them.
Considering local tradition and culture in stove design and implementation has a significant impact on the adoption and use of a stove. These factors are important, and one of the many reasons collaboration and mutual understanding of needs and goals are essential to our success in promoting fuel-efficient stove adoption.
EcoLogic field technicians conduct trainings in the proper use and maintenance of the stoves. The information covered includes how to clean and maintain a stove in addition to hygiene and sanitation, such as why food should be protected from flies and insects, and why cleaning kitchen utensils and surfaces regularly with soap can reduce illness. The field technician also teach stove users that burning plastic emits toxic fumes that are dangerous to people and the environment. After stoves are in use, EcoLogic technicians and local partner representatives periodically visit stove owners to confirm that they are still using and maintaining their stoves, to find out about any issues or concerns they may have, and to help with any repair needs that might crop up.
When fuel-efficient stoves are built at one of our project sites, they are placed first in the homes of community members already engaged in natural resource stewardship activities. Members of the families who receive the stoves—often women, as traditionally they are the primary cooks in the home—are part of the team that constructs the stove.