PANAMBIZINHO, Brazil – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with Brazilian non-governmental organizations, will develop a new design of eco-friendly cook stoves to create healthier families in the Panambizinho region of Brazil.
Without cookstoves, women, who are traditionally responsible for cooking and keeping the hearth, are forced to make a two hour trek before dawn three days per week to gather firewood, carrying nearly 45 lbs. on their backs in the hot sun.
Everyday for lunch and dinner, women must make floor fires inside their homes, using tin cans for wind protection and materials like old refrigerator coils as makeshift grills.
But homemade cooking fires are unhealthy, inefficient, and wasteful. Floor fires fill homes with dangerous smoke and particulates, the source of a great deal of respiratory illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia afflicting adults and children in developing nations.
The new design is cheaper, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly than traditional wood stoves. They are constructed from inexpensive, locally-sourced materials like sand, clay, and mud instead of iron and cement. Smoke produced by the eco-stoves is carried out of the home by a chimney, keeping children and families from breathing in harmful chemicals.
Fueled by easily available materials like twigs, grasses, corn husks/shucks, and bark, they no longer need heavy firewood. Their clay plate design doesn’t require as much fuel as open fires or wood stoves and stays warmer longer, up to five hours after the fire is put out.
Their high-efficiency design also means they produce significantly less greenhouse gases by burning less fuel and they do not contribute to deforestation which has historically been an issue of great concern in Brazil.
The eco-stoves also provide users with another valuable commodity: saving time. Mothers no longer have to walk miles in search of fuel, wasting hours that could be spent more productively.
“I use my extra time to take care of my kids, and the house. I weed the yard, do the laundry, and sweep the porch. I also take care of the garden,” said 41-year-old Delma Gonçalves, a member of one of the indigenous families benefiting from the eco-stoves.
So far, approximately 53,000 indigenous people in Brazil have benefited directly or indirectly from this safe cookstove program.
– Jordan N. Hunt
Photo: Coral Gables Rotary