Doña Teresa´s eyes lit up as she approached the Proleña booth during an alternative energy and technology fair in Jinotega, northern Nicaragua, this past Thursday. As she circled around the Megaecofogón cookstove there was a noticeable spring in her step. We soon realized that she was pegged as the main recipient of a stove and install during our Jinotega visit. Juan, the stove technician and I drove the truck over to her house, just a few quick blocks from the gas station where the fair continued in our absence.
There were some doubts about how to fit the stove down a narrow and dark hallway that led into the kitchen area, but after several attempts and adjustments, we popped the stove through. The megaecofogón is quite mega, weighing in at about 150 pounds when full of pumice, as this one was.
The rest of the install went on without issues and you could immediately grasp how urgent the need for the new cookstove is for Teresa. She is the primary breadwinner for her family of four adults and three grandchildren. She´s a single mother who has already put two kids through school using proceeds from her burgeoning tortilla business.
The kitchen area was black as can be, with stained walls and smoke filtering in and out of the kitchen area in a sweltering, choking swirl. Deep black stains lined the walls and soot fell by the inches as we cleaned off the ceiling area where we would eventually perforate the roof for the chimney ducts. Her previous stove was 40% the size of the megaecofogón. The pumice level had melted and the chimney had been rusted away for over a year.
As Doña Teresa elegantly stated, ¨This is dirty, difficult, and tough work. No one likes this job and no one wants to do it, but I´ve been able to make a living and create a better life for my children and their children through this labor and the growth of my small business. With the improved stove, I´ll be able to expand from about 600 tortillas per day up to 1,000 per day and maybe more. I also know how important this stove is for my health and the health of my family. We will be better off without all the smoke and soot in the kitchen area.”
She beamed with pride as she laid out some of her current clients and their requests about the possibility of increased production. Like any good businesswoman, Teresa has her current clients identified and happy, but she is looking to increase her supply now that demand has been established and growing.
The future is bright for Doña Teresa and her family thanks to the stove provided by Proleña, in collaboration with Casa Pellas foundation and INTUR, the Nicaraguan Tourism Institute. The next time I´m in Jinotega, I will be stopping by Doña Teresa´s house for some fresh tortillas, coffee and cuajada. I look forward to seeing her smiling face and bright eyes again.