The more I’m here, the more I see the value in small conversations and activities with one or two people. Last year at a training we learned about improved cookstoves, and honestly at the time I didn’t even try to do any here. The previous volunteer had built a cement cookstove in my compound that my family doesn’t use, and I didn’t see the value in trying.
But recently, as hot season comes, women have been complaining more and more about fetching firewood. Before cooking, they have to walk to the bush and carry back loads of wood to cook. It’s time consuming and difficult, not to mention a contributor to deforestation. A friend reminded me about making improved cookstoves and so I tried it out. I didn’t want to make cement blocks, as money would be a barrier, so we started to make the sustainable improved cookstoves.
We gathered four buckets of red clay – usually formed by termites into a mound on the side of the road – one bucket of cow manure and one bucket of grass. All are readily available and free ingredients. We pounded, mixed, and watered everyday for a week.
At the end of the week, we took the mud and formed it around where they already cook. Usually, women set up three rocks and put the pot on top. Then they put firewood in through the three openings. This setup allows all of the heat to be released through the openings, needing more firewood and more time. The improved cookstove just closes two of those openings with mud and conserves heat, thereby using less firewood and less time for cooking.
Once one woman sees us making a cookstove, they immediately want one. The process allows for us to have time to talk about deforestation, nutrition, and the workload of women in the compound. So far, I’ve helped to make 6 cookstoves and we have a few more starting up. One woman gathered all of the materials and just called me over to help her form the cookstove.
This may seem insignificant, but to a woman with six kids and a chore list of: fetching water, laundering clothes by hand, watering the garden, cooking meals, and shelling peanuts – any time saved counts. Now we’re going around the village building improved cookstoves for other people!