|Adan Garcia and Don Antonio Garcia building a fogon|
Yesterday, we spent the day at a local Copaneco's house building an energy-efficient fogon - a new twist on the wood cooking stoves that are staples in most Honduran homes.
Electricity is scarce and gas is expensive for a population that in many cases gets by on not much more than a buck a day (you don't know "poor" until you see it up close in Honduras). So wood is still the fuel of choice for poor people - bad news in a country in which more than 60 per cent of the population lives in poverty AND the trees are disappearing at an alarming rate. The other big problem with wood fires is that the poorest families don't even have proper stoves, just blazing-hot fires inside their little mud houses that result in burned children and much lung damage from smoke inhalation.
|The small firebox creates lots of heat|
while burning 45 per cent less wood.
I've seen various ones in my travels with CASM, but yesterday was the first time I got to see the construction process from the ground up. And it really is from the ground up, starting with a big mud cube that forms the base of the stove and making use of all kinds of odds and ends during the process that the average dead-broke Honduran might actually have access to.
CASM foots part of the bill, including labour costs, because $60 is way beyond the reach of the people the organization works with. But the person receiving the stove is expected to buy or scrounge up as much of the materials as possible and to participate in the construction.
So we arrived at the one-room adobe home of Adan Garcia to find a fully-formed mud cube behind the house, two buckets of wood ash for packing around the firebox as insulation, a half bucket of cement for the top of the stove, and the big steel plancha used for the cooking surface. The four-person family has a gas stove tucked into their rough little 8x10 house alongside their two beds, but the wife was clearly looking forward to having a cheaper and roomier option out back.
|Wood ash is poured into the cavity around the firebox|
to keep the stove cool to the touch on the outside.
The river is the sand and gravel source for everyone in town judging by the amount of pickups, dump trucks and excavators I see down there every day, but it's trickier right now because the river's high in the rainy season. We almost got stuck. Back at Adan's house, Don Antonio Garcia was rolling up his sleeves. He's a whiz from La Cuchilla who has built a lot of fogones on behalf of CASM. He was adept at sticking bricks together with mud while keeping the whole thing level and square, and a master at cutting bricks to size with a machete.
|Adan tears a board off his house|
for the concrete form
When it came time to pour the concrete, I was reminded again how close to the bone life is for so many Hondurans. Adan didn't have enough wood to make the form for the concrete, so he had to pull a couple boards off the structure of his house. The nails that were set into the mud to add strength to the concrete were a mish-mash of bent and crooked things in various shapes and sizes that he'd clearly scrounged. Nobody blinked at any of it; that's just how it is here.
|Don Antonio fits the plancha - the cooking surface|
It was a day that reminded me what I like best about CASM. They do practical things using whatever's at hand. They add in just enough of their resources and skills to make things possible.