Strengthening Sustainable Forest Management and Human Health in Southeastern Guatemala with Clean Cookstove Technology
About the Implementing organization
Name: Utz Che´
Year of establishment: 2011
Type of organization: Community-based association or organization, Legally recognized non-profit status, Indigenous group or organization
Together, Trees, Water & People, the Central American Fund for Access to Poverty Reduction (FOCAEP), and Utz Che’ (“good tree” in the Mayan language K’iche’) are improving the health and well-being of rural indigenous families in Guatemala with clean cookstoves that save lives by decreasing deadly indoor air pollution, while also promoting sustainable forest management by using an average of 50% less fuelwood compared to open flame stoves.
Fuel-efficient cookstoves have been around for decades as a poverty alleviation and forest conservation strategy. Public health agencies such as the World Health Organization, and global international conservation organizations have urged for large-scale cookstove projects that address the negative consequences of indoor air pollution and small-scale forest fragmentation via fuelwood collection in high poverty-biodiversity hotpots.
Unfortunately, many large-scale strategies do not take into account barriers to clean cookstove adoption, such as cultural-appropriateness of the stove design, and families end up using their old stoves as soon as intervening organizations leave. This initiative is different. Here, three organizations have come together to promote an indigenous-led clean cookstove project that takes into account local cooking preferences, includes women in cookstove construction and design, and high adoption rates of culturally-appropriate stoves that reduce fuelwood consumption by 50% and indoor air pollution by up to 80%.
Type of Action
Sustainable use / Awareness and education
Sustainable Development Element
Jobs and livelihoods / Health
High levels of biodiversity and poverty often overlap, as is the case in rural Guatemala. In this context, local deforestation via fuelwood extraction has been named a major threat to the livelihoods of rural communities, and the conservation of remaining forests. On average, the Doña Dora fuel-efficient cookstove reduces fuelwood consumption by 50%, at about 4.91kg/day. This means that the 500 stoves built in our 2016 and the 500 expected in 2017 will save an average of 1,800 trees (or tons of fuelwood) per year, while also saving women and children precious time, and often, their lives.
When our stove projects are coupled with community reforestation and agroforestry efforts (i.e. increasing canopy cover in coffee farms), as is often the case with Utz Che' and TWP's projects, fragmented forests and agricultural lands can become improved habitat for migratory birds and other species of conservation concern. Moreover, communities can begin to replenish the fuelwood they use.
Sustainable Development Impacts
Indoor air pollution (IAP) from inefficient cooking has been compared to smoking three packs of cigarettes every day. As a result, families are forced to spend up to one third of their limited income on doctor visits and medication for a range of issues including COPD, and other Acute Respiratory Infections, while 4.3 million people die each year. Additionally, women and children typically spend about 20 hours each week collecting firewood, a substantial opportunity cost and poverty trap that can involve traveling long distances to unsafe areas.
Based on TWP’s rigorous studies in Central America, our clean cookstoves can reduce IAP by up to 80%, and save women and children precious time, and ultimately, an improved life expectancy. Women are also placed at the forefront of stove design and construction, building self-esteem, leadership, and respect. We look forward to finishing a three-year cookstove health study with Colorado State University in Central Honduras later this year.
Since 1998, Trees, Water & People and our community-based partners have constructed over 70,000 fuel-efficient cookstoves across Central America. As part of this trajectory we have built and equipped stove manufacturing facilities in Honduras and Nicaragua, to allow our local partners there to scale their operations to serve larger projects and customers. In Guatemala, rather than make the same investment, we have chosen to partner with two vetted manufacturers, who pay close attention to design, functionality, durability, and local usage patterns. They have built production lines that allow the manufacture of a consistent product, and stand behind the quality each of their products. This allows Utz Che’ to lean on a local entity for training, technical support, and replacement parts. The manufacturers also market their products as aspirational consumer goods, which generates self-esteem, product recognition, and increased public awareness of the importance of clean household air.
Trees, Water & People has built clean cookstoves throughout Central America, and is proficient in developing new programs with rural development organizations like Utz Che’. As small as Central America is, cooking preferences vary greatly, and our proven model has allowed us to honor them by designing stoves for each market. This Guatemala-specific solution can be replicated in other regions of the country with minimal modification. Here, we work with Guatemalan manufacturers that produce stove inserts – creating consistency in form and functionality across all households, and allowing the stove to be completed with local materials, even in the most remote environments. A direct link to a manufacturer that provides a warranty, appropriate replacement parts, and technical support extends the working lives of stoves and gives both the user and the implementing institution (Utz Che’), a direct line to expert providers.
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