Saturday, July 14, 2007

Day 305: Improved Stoves (a current project)

- a typical cooking scenario in Musho, a few rocks and a black wall -
- another photo of a pretty nice looking kitchen -

A quick skim of this blog may reveal an idyllic jaunt in the mountains of Peru, an extended vacation full of smiling faces and happy North Americans overseas. And although it does often feel this way, I have realized that we do a poor job sharing our ´work´ experiences. These are tough to define as a PC volunteer and often fleeting - I think up and plan a ´project´ only to false start. The list of potential projects tops twenty or so. The weekly radio program and english class a several of the projects that have been more less consistent.

A nifty project to improve the living conditions within Musho homes has been simmering for months and is just now hitting the streets. ´Cocinas mejoradas´ are improved stoves that are designed to alleviate several prominent health risks, including excessive smoke exposure and inhalation from cooking over an open fire. The new stove is covered and has a chimney, and is built on a platform so the cook is not bent over while cooking.

This is a common intervention among PC volunteers, NGOs and even Peruvian government. We have had a challenging experience coordinating this project with an NGO and the local health post. The NGO is providing the relatively expensive (40 USD) metal stovetop and chimney. The rest of the stove can be made from local materials, brick or adobe, and is not too costly. The key has been not only convincing families they want the new stove (who doesn´t want what appears to be a handout), but working with the community to build the cocinas themselves. This has involved forming small teams of neighbors within the distinct villages that make up rural Musho. Visiting remote houses, explaining the design requirements, such as ample light and airflow (in homes that more frequently lack both), and organizing folks has been...hard work.

The photos below show the process of teaching people about the stove, visiting their homes, and finally building examples in select homes in each neighborhood. The idea is that once one or two is built in each neighborhood neighbors can replicate the process themselves. Once they have their platforms constructed, we will give them their stovetop and chimney. There should be about sixty families receiving this support. Stay tuned for that final part...

- a training on stove making -

- drawing the outline for the stove (note the typical dirt floor) -
- laying the structure to fill in with a cement base -
- laying brick -
- eveyone helping out, including one of my favorite 12 year olds, Stalin (yep, that´s his name) -
- construction in process -
- the hole is where the ash will fall, and will be covered by a raised stovetop -