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2019 | StoveTeam International

StoveTeam International, a Portland, Oregon-based nonprofit, received the 2019 Distinction in International Service Award (DISA) for its international work to promote local production of fuel-efficient cook stoves in Central America.

The DISA is annually awarded by a committee of students and staff at the Martin Institute, part of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Idaho, to recognize noteworthy feats of internationally-focused nongovernmental organizations based in the Pacific Northwest.

“The most dangerous activity a woman in the developing world can undertake is cooking for her family, and most of them have a baby on the front or a baby on the back. For that baby, it’s equivalent to smoking three packs of cigarettes per day,” said Nancy Hughes, StoveTeam International founder.

StoveTeam designs indoor cook stoves that are cool to the touch on the outside. The stoves have more efficient heat transfer to reduce cooking time, fuel usage and the amount of smoke produced. Compared to an open fire, its Ecocina stove, for example, reduces fuel use by 50%, decreases air pollution particulate matter by 86% and carbon monoxide emissions by 68%.

“The Ecocina was designed specifically for Latin American cooking so it took into account the traditional food customs like corn tortillas and beans, which are very common staple food items in most of Latin America. It has a large cement body stove filled with pumice and insulated tile that creates the combustion chamber and insulates it from getting too hot,” said Katie Laughlin, StoveTeam’s former executive director who accepted the award.

StoveTeam works in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua and focuses on advancing local stove production by providing entrepreneurs the opportunity to start their own factories.

“We support local solutions, which are stove designs that are tested by the local people,” Laughlin said. “We implement or integrate their feedback into our design process, ensuring that ultimately the cook will love their stove.”

StoveTeam International also provides educational programs to raise awareness of cook stove technology and the dangers and sacrifices of open fire cooking. The programs seek to address stove cooking barriers such as a cultural shift from a traditional free resource to new cooking methods, stove maintenance and the cost of the stove itself. The time taken on open fire cooking to gather firewood — about 20 hours a week, usually by children — could be spent on education or work that generates income.

“We believe that cooking shouldn’t kill, and we envision a world where no family must sacrifice it’s health, safety and education to cook a meal,” Laughlin said.

Ecocina stoves lined up
A lineup of Ecocina stoves ready for their new homes, photo courtesy of StoveTeam International.
Flavia carries wood on her head
Flavia and a friend haul wood for cooking, photo courtesy of StoveTeam International

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