Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America; of the 10.1 million inhabitants one-third lives for less than $2 per day . On top of that floods, mudslides, landslides and droughts pose further threats to the people in rural areas (WFP, 2011).
The Cochabamba valley is no exception; a large part of the population lives in rural areas without basic needs such as water, food and clean air. The people in these areas cook over open fire or use traditional stoves fuelled with kerosene or wood without a chimney to lead the smoke out of their house. As a consequence of this cooking practice, families are exposed to toxic fumes and smoke in their homes every day and the stoves are often so poorly constructed that explosions and fires frequently occur with human tragedy as a result. On top of that, the traditional stoves require a vast amount of fuel, which is a heavy financial burden on a limited family budget. Finally the traditional wood stoves and open fires contribute to the severe deforestation in Bolivia, since they use a lot of wood due to their low efficiency.
These health, environmental and financial issues with the traditional cooking practice pose a serious challenge to the families in the impoverished areas of rural Cochabamba and Bolivia.
The solution: CECAM
CECAM Bolivia was founded in Cochabamba in November 2009 with the purpose of providing aid to people with extremely scarce resources and to improve the environment of Cochabamba and Bolivia. CECAM is a small but capable organisation that has the desire to assist the underprivileged parts of the Bolivian society in bettering their quality of life. Accordingly CECAM’s vision is: to work with communities in and around Cochabamba and combat disease and economic instability through advocacy for environmental and economic sustainability. Acknowledging the challenges described above, CECAM is changing the lives of these impoverished communities in line with its vision. Although CECAM is doing this in a variety of ways, the primary activity is providing families with the ability to improve their cooking practice by make solar stoves and improved wood stoves available to them, which are designed to meet the specific challenges described above.
Apart from the impact that the stoves make in the communities we work with, CECAM uses the stoves as way of accessing rural communities with the intention of offering projects that will assist them improve their lives now and in the future. At the moment, CECAM is active in projects involving composting of organic material as well as educational projects for children in computer and language skills. However the dissemination of improved solar and wood stove types remains a central part of CECAM’s activities.
How CECAM does it
The Bolivian director of CECAM, Freddy Candia Aguilar, has more than twelve years of experience working with renewable energy and from his extensive knowledge and experience; CECAM has developed the two types of stoves that address the needs of the people of rural Bolivia and the existing environmental issues through two different designs that eliminate all the problems associated with the traditional stoves and open fires.
The solar stove is built from durable and environmentally friendly materials and provides Bolivian families with ability to cook food and boil water for more than ten years eliminating all the problems associated with the traditional stoves and open fires. The stove is a one-time investment since it only uses the rays of the sun and it makes cooking easy and safe for both adults and children. It makes clean drinking water an available resource while completely removing the smoke and fumes and the financial burden of buying kerosene or wood.
The improved rocket stove serves the function that the solar stove cannot. It is designed to eliminate the health issues associated with the traditional way of cooking using firewood or kerosene and it enables the families to cook food at a higher temperature and to cook on days without sufficient sun. At the same time the stove dramatically reduces the fuel use through an improved combustion and an innovative design that delivers very high temperatures with little or no smoke, which is effectively lead out of the house through a chimney. Recognising both the advantages and limitations of the stoves, CECAM delivers both stoves to present families with the opportunity to cook any type of food on any day of the year – even on days without sun.
Apart from constructing and delivering these stoves to families in need, CECAM organizes demonstrations and workshops in the communities that use the stoves to ensure that they are used correctly and efficiently. The communities are also provided with booklets containing nutritional information about the local cuisine and produce. As stated before, the stoves are also a way to connect local with communities in order to fulfil the broader goal of educating communities in need about healthy and sustainable living. If you are interested in the other projects CECAM organizes, more information is available on request.