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November 20th, 2014

Tom Parrott visits the Onil Stove Project in Guatemala

Tom Parrott, our Picture Editor, shares his report on the Onil Stove Project in the area around Lake Atitlán in Guatemala after his recent visit.

The Journey Latin America Onil stove project is a program set up to supply a new stove and cooking method to the poorer communities around Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. The usual method of cooking in these communities involves using three stones to raise a bowl, pot or kettle above a small wood fire. The Onil stove is a simple stove which compresses the heat of a small fire along a tunnel to provide two hobs with heat for cooking. On average it uses a third less firewood than the three stone cooking method. It also radically reduces the amount of smoke emitted from the fire.

The nerve centre of the Journey Latin America Onil project is based in Santiago Atitlan, and run by Cameron Krummel, along with his wife Isa, and one other helper, Manuel. Cameron heads up the project, and he and Manuel build each of the stoves, and Isa explains how to use the stove to the families. The process of explaining how to use the stove must be done by Isa, who is local to the area. The act of cooking in these communities is usually done by women, and as such, any attempts by Cameron or Manuel (who both speak the local language) to explain how to use the stove is usually ignored!

Before the installation of each stove, the three strong team visit the homes of the families and assess where the stove will placed, to insure the stove is in an appropriate area away from the elements and in a safe area away from where a child may fall and touch the hot plate. Cameron then photographs the method the family have been using to cook so far, and fills out a small form of how much wood the family has been using per month, name and address etc.

The next day, the parts of the stove are driven to the home of the installation from the small warehouse located near Cameron's house, using local transportation (usually a tuk tuk or mototaxi). This is done by the family receiving the stove. The stove is installed in under an hour and after completion, Isa takes around 30 to 40 minutes to explain how to use the stove to the family.

The whole process takes an hour and a half. While we were there, some tortillas where cooked on the new stove and offered round to us all. After one week the families are called on again to see how they are managing with the stoves and again every month for a year, and each year after that. The family which we saw receiving their new stove were very happy with the finished product and as we left, the smiles from all were very infectious.

Onil Stove Project 

We visited 8 stoves in total, including some stoves installed in 2005 after Hurricane Stan. These stoves were given to the local communities by the government, but without proper instruction on how to use them. We saw how the stove would be broken apart to fit more wood in, or parts would be missing or improperly installed. It highlighted the essential need for proper instructions on how to use the stoves.

In total Cameron and his team have installed 1,106 stoves, of which around 684 have been funded by Journey Latin America. The stoves are not given free to the families as the stoves are not kept in good condition when the families are not required to invest in them.

The project is steadily expanding, reaching more and more of the communities around Lake Atitlán. One of the difficulties the team is facing is finding transport to reach some of the further communities, and the lack of man power they have available.


Benefits of the Stoves:
• Large families will go through 2 cord of wood (at a cost of 500Q or £41) per month using non Onil stove cooking methods.
• The Onil stove uses 1/3 of a cord of wood per month (85Q or £7)
• Much less smoke is emitted from the stoves which means much less respiration problems for the families.
• Less wood is used; as such there is less deforestation around the lake.


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