The challenge is particularly daunting in Central America. Manufacturers of high performance biomass cookstoves have largely focused their attentions elsewhere due to the small market size in Central America and the expense to build and distribute a model that is large enough to accommodate tortillas.
Even then manufacturing may not be the trickiest part. Promoting change in a household practice as fundamental as cooking requires an appreciation of local culture and close engagement with community leaders.
Word of mouth is our most reliable way to share knowledge
about the dangers of indoor smoke.
Chonita Chavajay leads a group of eight women in the artisan cooperative of Kixjo Qusmajaa who have now been distributing clean cookstoves in Santiago for four years. They promote by word of mouth, on the radio, and through local healthcare providers. The women coordinate the delivery of 80-pound concrete stoves from the manufacturing facility to their clients at the end of remote forest trails and through urban footpath mazes. They manage stove loans and collect repayments. They keep tabs on maintenance and provide for repairs.
And they do this based on their mission to improve the health and well-being of women and children living in resource poor conditions in the Mayan Highlands. With your support they continue to work day-by-day to benefit their community.
The women of Kixjo installed 100 new cookstoves this year at a cost of $12,800. Chonita recently emailed me the following photographs, which capture in beautiful detail the outcome of our efforts:
Our ability to sustain support for the women and the model cookstove program depends on your donations as well as sales of Kixjo's artisan crafts. Remember that we maximize your donation by feeding it into a revolving credit fund, which enables our clients living on as little as $3/day to pay their dues slowly over six months. Your entire donation to Ahuyu will go directly to the purchase and financing of clean cookstoves.
Additionally, you can support our efforts by buying the artisan jewelry and laptop sleeves of Kixjo on our Etsy site. Please finish your holiday gift shopping here! Finally we are very grateful to our friends at La Mer Collection who have purchased Kixjo beadwork in huge bulk to launch the Guatemala line of La Mer watches. Consider gifting a La Mer Guatemala watch to your friends who appreciate high fashion for a good cause.
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The effect of our work is best captured by the testimony of our participants. In this video Doña Juana describes the effect of the stove. She says, "It is a great benefit because with this stove we don't suffer from the smoke. The smoke leaves through the chimney. It doesn't stay trapped in the kitchen. Now we don't cry anymore from the smoke!"
Happy holidays and thank you for your continued support!
Justin Schram, MD, MSc