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Published on September 10th, 2009 | by Derek Markham


Clean Cook Stoves Fueled by Million Dollar Prize

More than 80% of families in Central America cook their meals over open wood fires because they  don’t have access to alternative fuel sources, and they can’t afford to buy electric or gas stoves. This practice has serious negative health effects, such as acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, tuberculosis, and eye diseases for the families, and because these inefficient open wood fires require a great deal of fuel, they also contribute a great deal to deforestation. One organization working to change that received a million dollars in funding for their efforts.

Image: kevindooleyOpen Flame

Open Flame

Trees, Water & People (TWP), the developer and distributor of clean-burning, high-efficiency cook stoves for the world’s poor, is the 2008 winner of the US$1 million Rio Tinto Prize for Sustainability. The group, based in Fort Collins, Colorado, is concerned about the wasteful burning of wood for cooking by the world’s poor populations, which may be counteracting global efforts to reduce the effects of global warming.

“We now have the opportunity to expand our community reforestation and improved cook stove programs in Honduras, Nicaragua, and Haiti. In particular, we will look to use the Prize to leverage additional sources of funding, and increasingly share the work we are doing with other interested organizations.” – Stuart Conway, TWP founder

The stoves developed by TWP and Aprovecho Research Center emit 80% less smoke than open fires, which cuts the risk of respiratory illness for users, and they also use up to 70% less wood than traditional open fire stoves, which eases the pressure on local wood supplies.

The stoves, which range from the size of a paint can up to the size of an oil drum, can be manufactured using local materials and adapted to meet local cooking customs. The clean cook stoves were designed to be simple and low-maintenance, and sell for as little as $5.

TWP and their local partners have built more than 20,000 fuel-efficient cook stoves in Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and in 2003 they began introducing the stoves in Mexico, Brazil, and Bolivia, and in 2007 in Haiti.

The Rio Tinto Prize for Sustainability was designed to recognize and reward not-for-profit, civil society and non-government organizations for significant contributions to the goals of economic, environmental and social sustainability.

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About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

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