Local Setting: Wood is the ubiquitous cooking fuel in the Maya communities throughout rural Guatemala. In Santiago Atitlán half of the households cook over an open fire, while 47% use an inefficient masonry stove with varying degrees of ventilation. The average daily fuel cost for families cooking over an open fire accounts for about 30% of cash expenditures. Focus groups in Santiago reveal that an improved cookstove is uniformly preferred for a variety of reasons, including health, hygiene, comfort, tortilla quality, stove durability, fuel efficiency, and time savings. The singular barrier to obtaining an improved cookstove is the cost.
Solution: The fuel efficiency of an improved cookstove confers savings that, in effect, allow the stove to pay for itself overtime. The problem is that the cost of paying for the stove upfront is prohibitive for families that make three to four dollars daily. Microcredit provides a mechanism to allow community members of Santiago Atitlán to obtain a stove on loan and pay back the cost over time. Participants join together every month for a meeting, where a promotora reviews stove maintenance, collects payments, and hosts a forum for women to exchange ideas and experiences.
Stove financing: To breach the cost barrier, the cost of the stove ($95) is split roughly even between microcredit and subsidy. Interest on the credit portion accrues at 10% per annum and serves to pay the promotoras distributing the loan. The subsidy is necessary to make the clean cookstove available to the poorer of the poor. Ideally the subsidy will be diminished in the future to allow for greater scalability. One option under consideration is to externalize the cost of the subsidy through carbon credits.
Click here to read select quotes from participants detailing the impact of the project.