Mama Tito, an elderly Maasai woman in Suswa, Kenya, walks 10 km each way (approximately 6 miles) to the mountains near her home in search of firewood to cook. Like most of the women in rural Kenya, cooking with wood or charcoal is the only way they have to prepare food. Approximatelly 7 million women still cook with primitive fuels. But demand for biomass fuels like wood has led to deforestation, and women have to travel farther and farther to find enough to cook. These women, and often young girls, may spend the better part of a day in the quest for wood, putting themselves at great risk. Often, they are attacked by wild animals, or by men who assault or rape them. Mama Tito says, "this is normal, because as women, it is our responsibility to gather the fuel." Sometimes, they return with very little or no firewood, and have to undertake the journey again tomorrow.
Often, these women live in very small huts with poor ventilation. Cooking over an open fire has its risks: children tumble into the open fire and receive severe burns, which can get infected due to lack of adequate medial care; smoke inhalation can lead to chronic eye and lung problems, and even death. Children are often left alone all day, and do not eat unless mother comes home with wood to cook.
In addition, women and young girls suffer what we call the poverty of time. Because so much time is spent gathering wood and water, there is little time for school and education that could elevate their economic status. And there is not enough time to work on other jobs that would increase their income.
For this reason, A Villager's Hand has embarked on the Stove Project, working with Prosol, Ltd. in Kenya to provide safe and environmentally friendly cookstoves that run on bioethanol, a renewable fuel source. So far, 55 women in Kenya have received the stoves, and the reactions have been remarkable. Mama Tito thinks it's "genius!" She has never seen cooking without smoke before, and says these stoves are so much more efficient. The new stoves not only will improve health, remove the time burden that keeps them in poverty. Jobs are also created locally as women are trained to sell the fuel to others in their village.
We have hopes of seeing the Stove Project grow into more villages in Kenya, and spread to women who work with us in Uganda and Ghana, and eventually to other continents! Please visit our support page if you would like to help.