Nicaragua: Healthy Stoves Healthy Families

More than half of the world’s population relies on biomass combustion to meet basic domestic energy needs. Indoor cookstoves can result in extremely high levels of indoor air pollution and can lead to severe respiratory and other health problems. The World Health Organization estimates that pollution from these stoves kills over 1.6 million people worldwide each year.

Traditional indoor cookstoves can result in extremely high levels of Indoor Air Pollution (IAP), a serious health issue in the developing world. IAP is linked to Acute Respiratory Infections (ARIs) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), both major causes of illness and death. Traditional cookstoves that emit hazardous wood smoke are the main contributors of IAP. Women, children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to the toxic gases and fumes, and IAP is the leading cause of morbidity and death for children under five years of age in Latin America. Improved stove technology and commercialization projects have proven very successful at eliminating IAP because they incorporate chimneys into their design which vent the harmful smoke outside the kitchen.

There are solutions to this massive global health problem. In the summer of 2008, a group of Colorado State University students working with Professor Jennifer Peel and Trees, Water & People traveled to El Fortin- a barrio of Granada, Nicaragua- to assess the exposures and health of families using traditional indoor cookstoves.

The families in El Fortin received an improved, more energy-efficient stove with a proper ventilation system. In the summer of 2009, we will return to the community to assess the effectiveness of the new stoves in reducing exposure and improving the health of these families. The study will provide critical evidence about the success of these stoves as a potential solution to this problem affecting families worldwide.

For more information about TWP’s “Improved Cookstove Intervention to Assess Changes in Woodsmoke Exposures and Health Status among Nicaraguan Families” project please go to

Dear Trees, Water & People,

I hope this note finds you well. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer in
Metapan, the most northwestern region of El Salvador. I have seen your
projects first hand in other parts of the country, and have been
completely blown away. The effect they have on the local communities is
outstanding and impressive.

I am writing to you to find out how I can become involved in these
projects. In my area, reforestation projects and stove projects would
be ideal. I would love to have more information on these projects and
if there would be any opportunity to bring them to Metapan. It would
be really ideal because there are 8 Peace Corps volunteers in the
area, all of who could help organize, facilitate, and sustain these

Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you!

Emily Clyne
Voluntaria Cuerpo de Paz
Santa Rita, Metapan
El Salvador


Trees, Water & People (TWP) is among ten organizations that have been short listed for the prestigious U.S. one million dollar Rio Tinto Prize for Sustainability. The global Rio Tinto Prize for Sustainability is available to all not-for-profit non-governmental organizations who demonstrate that they are working to advance the goals of economic, environmental and social sustainability.

According to David Anderson, Chairman of the Adjudication Panel, “We believe we have ten short listed organizations which highlight the diversity and depth of talent, initiative and skills existing in the not-for-profit sector.” Short listed organizations represent a diversity of work being done locally to contribute towards global sustainable development.

Winning the Rio Tinto prize will enable TWP to significantly expand its international sustainability efforts which will ultimately benefit a greater segment of the poor population in Central America and Haiti. With the prize money, TWP could purchase additional equipment and supplies for its new stove factory in Honduras; expand its Forest Replacement Associations (FRAs) and fuel-efficient stove project in Nicaragua; build a stove factory and establish more tree nurseries in Haiti; and certify our carbon offsets to produce sustainable program revenue.

Stove Camp 2008

In our quest to improve our stove designs, I attended Aprovecho Research Center’s Stove Camp 2008 in Cottage Grove, Oregon. There were over 20 of us participating: representatives from international development NGO’s, companies, universities, the government, and new converts to the world of fuel efficient stoves from many walks of life.

Marvin, Paul, and Sebastian demonstrate Paul's gasifier stove
Marvin, Paul, and Sebastian demonstrate Paul's gasifier stove

The inventor of the Rocket stove, Dr. Larry Winiarski, reviewed his Ten Design Principles for Wood-burning Cookstoves. Aprovecho staff reminded us of the equally important principle of making stoves women like. If the women you give a stove throw it out the minute you leave, it doesn’t matter how fuel efficient it is, you will not accomplish your goals of reducing their exposure to Indoor Air Pollution (IAP), reducing greenhouse gas emissions, or reducing deforestation! So compromises must be made between competing principles to have a successful stove design.

Our mission for Stove Camp was to design and build the most appropriate stove model for refugees in Darfur, Sudan. We cooked posho (similar to polenta), the region’s staple food over numerous stoves to see which stove performed the best in terms of speed, safety, fuel-efficiency, portability, and IAP. Some stove designs could be made from locally available materials, while others would have to be imported but would be easier to guarantee quality control for.

Our Controlled Cooking Test with posho incorporated Aprovecho’s Portable Emissions Monitoring System and backpack Indoor Air Pollution Meter to quantify how much carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter (think of smog) are created and inhaled, respectively, while cooking with a given stove.

In addition to stove design, we discussed pot design, a generally overlooked part of the cooking equation. Pots with small openings or with metal “fins” increased fuel efficiency by a ton!

Stove camp was a fun and educational experience. It was a great opportunity to step back from our existing stove designs and think how we could improve them by bouncing ideas off of the experts. I plan to share their suggestions with our local partners in Central America and Haiti in the coming year.

Allison Shaw

Assistant International Director

Good work by our partner AHDESA

I feel like a proud father. AHDESA, our partner in Honduras, applied for this grant on their own from GVEP, a fund managed by World Bank, Winrock Int’l, and other partners to fund 750 stoves for southern Honduras. They were awarded the grant and have now completed the work. When I first started working with AHDESA in 1995, it was a one-man show, run by Ignacio “Nacho” Osorto. Now, AHDESA has more than 10 people working for them and Nacho’s son Benjamin is working for AHDESA and wrote the grant report. Check it out:


Body Shop Foundation to support Honduras stove project

We are most delighted to announce that the Body Shop Foundation has awarded TWP a $10,000 grant to support our forest-saving stoves project in Honduras.

The Body Shop Foundation supports innovative global projects working in the areas of human and civil rights and environmental and animal protection. To date, The Body Shop Foundation has donated over $20 million in grants, and also regularly give gift-in-kind support to projects and organizations. We’re happy that our stoves project — which combines environmental protection and women’s health — has joined the long list of other causes this Foundation has supported over the years.


Eco-stove Study in Nicaragua

Here’s a report with lots of great pictures (for those who don’t speak Spanish) of several Nicaraguan communities where we will be doing the multi-year health study on how the Eco-stoves benefit local women. Partnering with us on this project are Colorado State University, PROLENA, and Casa de Mujer, a Nicaraguan NGO based in Granada.