Sunday, January 24, 2016

How This Stove Could Save Thousands of Lives in Mexico

Walter Ángel, Uriel Gracia and Esteban Calderas met at at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). ... Ángel, Gracia and Calderas determined that around 25 million Mexicans still use these simple stoves for heating and cooking. They also realized this wasn’t a problem unique to Mexico.

Globally, around 3 billion people rely on open fires and simple stoves to cook their food every day. Often built indoors, these stoves emit toxic smoke and soot particles from the burning of wood, crop waste, animal dung and other kinds of solid wastes. Daily exposure to and inhalation of this household air pollution leads to a host of respiratory problems, including pneumonia and lung cancer. Every year, 4.3 million lives are lost prematurely to diseases caused by household air pollution. ... Women and young children are disproportionately affected because around the world, they still spend the most time in the nearest proximity to these dangerous fumes, most often preparing meals.
What started as a simple student activity grew into much more. In 2009, Ángel, Gracia and Calderas (two of them engineers) started designing a more efficient stove they named Xalpaneca.... According to the team, more than 4,000 women die every year in Mexico from breathing in the toxic fumes of traditional cooking methods.
The Xalpaneca stove is made from a combination of mud, gravel and cement and consists of four major parts: an opening for the wood, a combustion chamber, burners for cooking, and a chimney for the smoke to escape. Because every community differs, InfraRural always starts by analyzing how to tweak the Xalpaneca model to fit the local specific needs....“For example, a tortilla can measure 11 cm across in Mexico City, 21 cm in Guerrero, and up to 45 cm in Oaxaca. If you install a stove with a small skillet, the amount of tortilla production is going to decrease due to not being able to make a lot of tortillas quickly....

Compared to traditional open fire stoves, the Xalpaneca reduces between 65-80% of the wood needed to cook a meal and up to 95% of the gases resulting from combustion that traditionally remain inside of the kitchen. InfraRural asserts that one of their stoves eliminates the generation of 7.1 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year and saves 20 trees from being cut down—important when Mexico has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world.

The Xalpaneca stove costs around 2,300 pesos (127 USD), which includes the stove, workshops and follow up maintenance. According to Gracia, other clean cookstove models in Mexico cost around 2,500 pesos (138 USD), but they are often built in factories and simply dropped off in communities, with no instruction or maintenance support. InfraRural differentiates itself by supporting the construction of the stoves in-house and including a monitoring and evaluation program.
As many Mexicans living in rural, low-income areas often cannot independently afford to replace their current stove with a new clean cookstove, InfraRural generates revenue by selling their stoves to local governments or NGOs that subsidize the price, as well as accepting donations to help cover costs.

So far, the company has helped over 400 families, benefitting over 2,100 people in several communities across Guerrero, Michoacán, Puebla, Estado de México, Oaxaca and Chiapas. They have reduced emissions by nearly 12,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent and saved over 18,000 trees.
Moving forward, the team plans to broaden its perspective beyond just clean cookstoves and rekindle its approach of determining the most appropriate technologies for each community. According to Gracia, they are pursuing a few other projects, such as the production of biogas, rainwater collection, solar panels, compostable toilets and a new kind of stove that generates electricity—all with the goal of helping communities use them to generate income and support themselves economically.

by Brittany Lane   
editor of for Unreasonable Group
Unreasonable Institute
The Unreasonable Institute 

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