Pop Wuj - Building Safer Stoves in Communities near Xela

The Safe Stove Project

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For more than a decade, Pop Wuj has been building safe stoves in communities outside of Xela.   In many households in the Western Highlands, cooking is still done by firewood, and in some cases over an open fire.  Without a proper stove, cooking produces large amounts of toxic smoke, and poses a risk for family members, particularly young children.

Pop Wuj has designed a safe stove for families made out of cement and clay bricks, with a chimney that exhausts smoke outside of the house/cooking area.  In addition to increasing safety, the stove increases the efficiency of firewood use by up to 25%.  

Before participants enter the program, Carmen and students from the social work program conduct interviews to ensure that stoves are distributed in each community according to need.  Families that have sufficient resources to purchase or build their own stoves will not be eligible to receive a stove through the program.  The stoves are provided at no-cost to the family, with the exception of few inexpensive building materials such as dirt, and panela (un-refined sugar that is used as a binder).

Photos: Top:  Gina and Carmen conduct an interview; Bottom two: participants from the July/August cohort


Once the next group of participants is identified, there is a mandatory information session, and a material collection and distribution day.  On distribution day, all the participants must help in delivering the building materials to the recipient's houses.  Even though all of the families in this cohort lived in the same community, it still makes for a long day (and unlike a number of the women, I wasn't carrying a baby on my back).

The stoves are built in three stages with the assistance of students studying at the Pop Wuj Spanish Language school.

Below are photos from stage one led by Carmelina, the most efficient stove-maker I have ever seen, wearing nontheless, her traditional traije and sandals!