Cooking in Haiti is done mostly with charcoal in urban areas and with wood in rural ones. Excessive use of wood for cooking together with natural and other anthropic factors let to major deforestation. Which is leaving Haiti unprotected in front of natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, water scarcity and land slides. The soil is also consequently unable to retain water, which harms agriculture. Even though people realize the effects of deforestation they do not have many other options. They need to use either wood or charcoal which are expensive, damage their health and have negative impacts on the environment. In our studies, we identified that more than 30% of a family income is used to buy charcoal. To this vicious circle there are solutions such us reducing the use of charcoal and wool by using improved cooking stoves or introducing propane gas stoves.
Improved cooking stoves are made out of more resistant materials and are engineered to retain heat. In this way, cooking is done in a more efficient way, reducing the consumption of charcoal and wood by 50%, depending on the model. The improved cooking stoves have a little door which is used to control the intensity of the fire (heat). By doing this the consumption of charcoal is reduced. Some stoves have a ceramic grill which is very efficient since the ceramic radiates heat, which otherwise would escape through the regular metal bars. Regulating the intensity of the fire and heat retention are functions which are almost impossible to accomplish with regular metal bars stove or the traditional cooking on the rocks.
Gas stoves are very efficient because you can turn them off and on as needed, however propane gas is expensive, and refill stations are still developing in urban areas. At the same time people are not used to this type of cooking, creating a risk to missuse the propane tanks, which can lead to dramatic effects. Thereso, intensive programs of education need to be implemented in parallel with building the infrastructure.
We are currently providing access to two models of efficient cooking stoves. One has a ceramic grill and is produced locally; and the second one is produced by a Haitian company in Port au Prince. Both stoves reduce the consumption of charcoal by 50%, and can be used inside. Our community advisors are promoting both models and are teaching the communities about the advantages of using this improved stove. Women in particular respond positively but are usually skeptical at first. In order to be convinced, they need to see somebody using it or need to test it themselves.
In contrast to rural communities, the urban ones are more interested in adopting the gas stoves, which are seen as a cleaner and more dignified solution. As an organization we are exploring the introduction of gas stoves in urban communities and as always we keep listening to our communities’ needs!