Intro Questions: What does a typical cooking stove and kitchen like in Nicaragua? What kind of problems could cooking every meal over a wood fire cause? How difficult or expensive do you think it is to buy imported materials in Nicaragua or any part of the developing world?
Discussion Questions: What groups of people suffer the most from indoor airpollution? What problems does open-fire cooking cause? What benefits do improved cookstoves bring outside of health and the environment? How can you convince people to change a major aspect of their lives that has thousands of years of tradition to back it up? What can organizations do to ensure families don’t go back to using old-style fires if some part of an improved stove were to break? Whatqualities define appropriate technology and what (failed) style of international support is appropriate technology a response to? What are the major problems appropriate technology sets out to address?
Activity Options: Look at the walls of kitchens with 3-stone fires. Talk with families who already have improved stoves to see how they’ve been affected, and to see if they have any problems with thenew stoves.
More than half of the world’s population, and 90% of its rural population, rely on dung, wood, crop waste or coal to meet their most basic energy needs. Cooking with such solid fuels on the open, “3-stone fire” that is typical in rural Nicaragua produces indoor air pollution. This indoor smoke contains a range of health-damaging pollutants including smallsoot or dust particles that are able to penetrate deep into the lungs. In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can exceed acceptable levels for small particles in outdoor air 100-fold. Exposure is particularly high among women and children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth. Every year, indoor air pollution is responsible for the death of 1.6 million people - that's one deathevery 20 seconds, making this the eighth most dangerous contributor to the global burden of disease.
High-mortality developing countries like Nicaragua feel the brunt of the problem; indoor smoke is responsible for an estimated 3.7% of the overall disease burden, making it the most lethal killer after malnutrition, unsafe sex and lack of safe water and sanitation.
In a region where wood isthe main source of cooking fuel, kitchens are frequently thick with lung-damaging smoke, “Because of this, it’s not uncommon to meet middle-aged women suffering from emphysema or chronic bronchitis, as if they were lifetime smokers,” says a World Health Organization staffer, Lindsey Palazuelos. “But instead of a two pack a day habit, they’ve simply been making beans and tortillas in a smokykitchen.” In a country where access to advanced medical care is limited, diseases like these are often fatal.
Improved stoves, like the ones being made at the Newton workshop, decrease kitchen smoke by as much as 90 percent, significantly reducing smoke-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – asthma, chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer – affecting people in rural communities. The closed stoveand concrete chimney also prevent accidental burns – a common risk when small children are near open cooking fires or when embers jump off crackling wood. Stoves reduce pollution not only by venting exhaust gases out of the house through a chimney, but also by burning more efficiently. For example, up to 85% of the energy generated by a three-stone open fire is wasted, which is a real problem isconsidering that poor families spend up to 20% of their income on solid fuels and/or spend one quarter of their time gathering wood. The closed combustion chamber of an improved stove creates a more efficient transformation of wood into heat, and breaks down toxic products of incomplete combustion before they reach the atmosphere. By burning wood more efficiently, less fuel is needed for each...