In Nicaragua, 700,000 families cook with wood.
So what’s the problem? Most of these families cook over an open, “three-rock”, fire in a semi-enclosed space. For many hours each day, the cook and other family members breathe lung-damaging smoke. Thousands of children are burned every year. The family may spend up to 30% of its income to purchase wood; or women, children and elderly family members must carry wood on their backs for miles. T he harvesting of wood is rapidly deforesting the country and cooking fires are sending tons of climate-changing CO2 into our atmosphere. Respiratory illnesses are common, almost universal among women and children. Preparation of family meals, the very center of home life, is often dirty, expensive, unhealthy and dangerous.
What to do? Cooking with wood is not inherently inefficient or unhealthy. All things considered, wood may even be more efficient and less polluting than other fuels. After all, the wood is energy-rich, readily available and totally renewable. Unlike fossil fuels, it doesn’t have to be transported from thousands of miles away. Equally important, cooking with wood is an important and integral part of Nicaraguan culture. So what’s needed is a way to use wood efficiently, cleanly, safely and inexpensively.
There are a number of “improved stoves” currently being promoted in Nicaragua. Some of them are excellent, but their prices put them way out of reach for a typical poor family. A family can only acquire one of these stoves through charity; and charity is both limited and culturally debilitating.
That’s where the Coci-Nica comes in. Our Nicaraguan friends in the Comarcas de la Laguna de Apoyo designed a simple, realistic solution that fits the problem and the culture. We helped them with encouragement, capital, business and technical advice to build a Nicaraguan-owned business that is putting that solution to work for poor families throughout the country.
The Coci-Nica is inexpensive; $12 to NGOs and $10 for “national” sales. It is efficient, portable and almost smoke-free. Compared to a traditional open fire, it uses about 35% of the wood and is made with 100% Nicaraguan materials and labor. It is consistent with both the Nicaraguan culture and economy. As used by a typical family, the Coci-Nica pays for itself in less than two months. After that, the family continues to save money and improve their health for a minimum of three years. The Coci-Nica cooks much more rapidly than an open fire and makes it possible to use even small twigs or charcoal for fuel.
The Coci-Nica factory employs five young men from the community of Las Comarcas de la Laguna de Apoyo. This is a community with about 50% unemployment among young men. Frank, Juan, Jackson, Ulman, Jaime: they work incredibly hard and are proud to be building a business that has a bright future and contributes to the well-being of their community and their country.
For more information see: Coci-Nica
Coci-Nica has sold over 5000 stoves, a good start.
Will you help?
Cash or stock: Donations of cash or stock are used in two ways, (a) to provide stoves at reduced prices to the very poorest families or (b) to make capital investments in tools, vehicles or new marketing and sales approaches. Donations can be made through the NICA Foundation at http://nicafund.org/support-nica/donate-now (Click on “Laguna Stove Project”)
Purchase stoves for resale: Many NGOs and individuals have purchased Coci-Nicas and provided them, either free or at reduced prices, to families in the poor Nicaraguan communities they serve. It’s a straight-forward, inexpensive and effective way to improve people’s lives.
Share connections: Do you have connections to other resources that could help Maribel and Frank build on their success? These might be sources of publicity, funding, materials, tools, work clothing.
Share expertise: Do you have specialized engineering, marketing, sales or business expertise that could help improve the Coci-Nica business?
Sponsor another Coci-Nica factory: A great way to reduce transportation costs, provide local employment and bring hope to another community. We’ll be happy to help.
Coci-Nica: An investment with a guaranteed return
English speakers; contact Brian Davis:
USA: (503) 227-2278
Spanish speakers; contact Maribel Alonzo:
Nicaragua: 8888-5168 (Movistar)