Late last year, I visited Guatemala on assignment for Ripple Effect Images, accompanied by National Geographic photographer, Lynn Johnson, to produce a short film for StoveTeam International. StoveTeam International's unique business model sponsors local factories throughout Latin America to produce and distribute clean cookstoves throughout the region.
Over the course of a week we visited numerous families–many living under extreme poverty–cooking over traditional open flame cookstoves. We heard tragic stories from women and children of burns and injuries caused by these stoves. But they also shared bright stories of change brought by the introduction of a simple solution: the clean cookstove.
EcoComal, a stove factory in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Guatemala, founded eight years ago by Marco Guerra and Ana Luisa Herrera, aim to eradicate the dangers of traditional cooking methods in their country by distributing safe cooking options to the population. Having forged a partnership with the municipal government and StoveTeam International, EcoComal can sell stoves to its customers at one-third the cost, making more stoves within reach of the local community.
To EcoComal, the clean cookstove represents more than a stove. Rather, their stove is a way to engage the local community, to enter the family household and to begin to inspire change. Most notably was the founding of Paso a Paso, a small elementary school that provides education, hot meals and vocational skills to the children of their clients. What EcoComal has succeeded in creating is an ecosystem of services and support that began from one simple idea: the clean cookstove.