The mud stove program in Ndianda began with a conversation about cooking fuel with my host aunt, Yacine. She told me about how she and the other women in the village primarily cook using cow dung, as fuel wood is scare due to deforestation. I told Yacine about mud stoves – mud walls around cooking fires that increase fuel efficiency and reduce cooking time. Yacine expressed strong interest in having a mud stove, so I did some research. I referenced both Peace Corps resources and outside resources from NGO’s in Africa to see what stove models already exist. Synthesizing these resources with my own experience with mud construction in the states, I came up with a model I believed would work in my village.
One afternoon I sat down with Yacine to discuss the prototype I had designed. We talked through important questions such as resource availability, technical skills, and the benefits and drawbacks of the design. With a finalized model created, Yacine and I created a prototype in her kitchen. I was an immediate success. My aunt Yacine reported increased fuel efficiency, decreased cooking time, and high satisfaction. Within days women from my neighborhood were requesting I build them one too.
Instead of building hundreds of stove for my village, I worked with Yacine and my neighbor Mariama to set up a training. We invited women from the neighborhood to learn the technique at a hands on training which included the building of a mud stove. Many of the women who attended were skeptical about their ability to make the mud stoves at first. I made them an offer: I would go to their houses to ensure they were making them correctly and check the finished stoves myself. This gave an initial group of women the confidence to make their own mud stoves.
With my support, Mariama went on to set up a program amongst the women in the neighborhood. They helped each other prep the materials and build the stoves, even teaching new women the technique. Now, almost every house in the neighborhood has a mud stove. If you ask the women if they like the stoves you can see their eyes light up as they give you a litany of ways the stoves have improved their lives.
From here I will organize one or two more small trainings for women in my village followed by a training of trainers for exceptional women, such as Mariama. My hope is to develop their skills and ability to carry on the program without me. I am also interested in developing media such as a video guide that can be shared on mobile phones. Only by training local leaders can the mud stoves program in Ndianda have a positive impact in the long run.