The Coci-Nica – A Better Christmas “Canasta”

Most people in Nicaragua cook over wood fires, especially poor people. More often than not, their stoves are of the simple, open “three rock” style. You’ve probably seen a Nicaraguan woman cooking in a hot, semi-enclosed, suffocating space. She and her family are breathing lung and eye-damaging smoke while being exposed to frequent accidental burns. The wood fuel (leña) is either cut and gathered by the family and carried long distances on their backs or purchased at prices that may consume up to 50% of the family’s cash income.

Worldwide, two million women and children die annually due to complications from breathing smoke from wood-fueled cooking fires. The smoke emitted from these fires contributes more to greenhouse gases than do automobiles. Gathering the fuel causes deforestation which, in turn, further accelerates climate change. The good news is that projects are underway all over the world to address this problem. Most of the projects involve the use of one or another variation of the simple “rocket stove” principle.

A recent study funded by the United Nations(1) compared several such stoves being promoted here in Nicaragua. Outstanding among these offerings is the Coci-Nica(2), designed, developed and built in Nicaragua by Nicaraguans and using 100% local materials. The design is outstanding in its minimal use of wood fuel (60% less than an open fire) but, even more impressive for its very low price. The Coci-Nica sells for 200 Cordobas (US$8). The philosophy behind its design and marketing is simple but unique among “improved stoves” worldwide, namely that the price of the Coci-Nica must be within reach for the very poorest families. There is simply not enough charity in the world to make a dent in the problem!

The Coci-Nica cooks faster, more safely, and more efficiently than an open fire and emits far less smoke. A typical family of five will save over $100 per year by using less fuel. The benefits in terms of improved health and quality of life are cannot be measured.

The Coci-Nica is manufactured in a poor community near Granada known as Las Comarcas de la Laguna de Apoyo(3). The small factory provides work for five people from the community and, to date, 1700 stoves have been sold and are in daily use throughout Nicaragua, making a difference in the lives of these families that is way out of proportion to the stoves’ modest cost.

If you would like to learn more about the Coci-Nica, or you would like to purchase one or more stoves for a friend or employee who cooks with wood, contact Maribel Alonzo at 8888-5168 (Spanish) or Brian Davis at 8991-0543 (English). Or how about giving a Coci-Nica to your employees in place of the usual Christmas “canasta”? The benefits will last far longer!

(1) http://community.cleancookstoves.org/files/435
(2) The Coci-Nica was formerly known as the Cocina de Apoyo.
(3) For more information about this community, see: http://nicafund.org/initiatives/nica-communities/laguna-apoyo

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