StoveTeam Blog

15 Mar

Stove Factory in Development in Oaxaca

What an exciting two weeks it has been here in the Mixteca! 

On March 1st Nancy, Gerry and Elly arrived in Oaxaca to meet StoveTeam's consultant Bertha, accountants, and future factory owner Fermina to make sure that everything was in place for the arrival of the construction team. Marco Tulio arrived from Guatemala to spend a week at the factory to train Fermina on stove construction, factory layout, marketing, and business operations. Four volunteers came a few days later to survey the site and plan the work for the team.

By the time the construction team arrived on March 8th, the chicken coop and all of the chickens had been relocated, as had the bunnies.  The compost pile had been moved, the plan for construction was ready to go, and Fermina had been trained on stove construction and sales.

During the following week, the small team of volunteers built a fence around the factory, put a roof on the building, poured a concrete floor, stuccoed the factory walls, and built work tables and a desk. They impressed everyone they met with their hard work, enthusiasm for StoveTeam, and positive attitudes. Caesar, our driver, was so excited about the project that he jumped in and worked alongside the volunteers (he also wants to start a factory, but unfortunately for him he lives just eight blocks from Fermina).

Jesus Leon Santos of the local community development organization CEDICAM visited the team to explain how the farmers were planting millions of trees, learning how to properly store seeds and preserve the Mixteca's biodiversity, and returning to organic farming practices to restore soil fertility.

On Wednesday, the group visited the pueblo of Santa Catalina where Fermina gave her first stove demonstration.  She took two stoves inside a small home, and by the time the team arrived, the women had cooked tortillas and beans and were excited about the lack of smoke in the kitchen.  After we had all visited the interior of the house, the two stoves were moved outside, and the women cooked rice on one and empanadas on the other.  They chatted about how great it was to have a small, portable stove so they could cook outside, and mentioned that they had previously received stoves with larger griddles, but had not liked them as they had to heat the entire stove in order to make coffee.  

Later that day the team connected with Ron Spores, an archaeologist from Oregon who has been working in the Mixteca for decades. He gave the team a tour of Yanhuitlan and its famous church. Because of the area's severe environmental degradation and poverty, many of the men of Yanhuitlan (and the rest of the Mixteca) have emigrated to the U.S. in search of better opportunities, and consequently many of the homes are either abandoned or inhabited by women without children or the elderly. The owner of the hotel in Yanhuitlan, Carmen, is the first woman mayor in 450 years and she is using her new office to make sure that there is increased employment and a better marketing plan for local products such as organic wheat and beans.

The hardy construction team left behind a beautiful factory and a staff ready to produce and sell safe, fuel-efficient Ecocina stoves. We couldn't have done it without an enormous volunteer effort and the support of Dining for Women.