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close this bookGATE - 2/84 - Cookstoves (GTZ GATE, 1984, 56 p.)
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View the documentLorena stoves - A guatemalan success story
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Lorena stoves - A guatemalan success story

by Ruth Erlbeck

Guatemala has one of the best-known stove programmes. More particularly, it is the only successful ongoing project in Latin America.

In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of 1976 the CEMAT (Centro Mesoamericano de Estudios sobre Tecnologia Apropiada) was founded as a non-governmental organization. Amongst other things, CEMAT introduced the Lorena stove (from Spanish loco (mud) and arena (sand)) in Guatemala. As its name says, this stove is made of a mud/ clay mixture. It is a solid stove with a chimney, three pot-holes, and another large opening for the sheet-metal or clay plate on which the famous tortillas (maize pancakes) are cooked; these latter are indispensable to any Guatemalan meal.
The Lorena stove is made on an "owner-built" basis, i.e., local masons who have completed a CEMAT training course build the stove together with the members of a household which wants one. This is a semi-commercial approach, and payment is made according to the amount of work and time invested by the mason. An important point concerning the Lorena stove is that each stove is designed exactly in accordance with the needs of the user; in other words, no two stoves are the same. The height of the stove is "made to measure" for the housewife, so that she can maintain a comfortable posture when cooking.
The problem with the "owner-built" method and the variability of the stove is quality control. Nevertheless, CEMAT has managed to achieve some success with its stove project. Today between 5,000 and 7,000 Lorena stoves are in use in Guatemala, and between 200 and 300 multipliers have been trained. One interesting fact is that the Lorena stove was generally accepted in the highlands, while being more frequently rejected in the coastal regions.
Statistics concerning the fuel economy of the Lorena stove are disputed. While the users of the stoves confirm without exception a fuel saving of 50%, scientific test results refute such a high fuel saving. The Lorena stove project is a typical example of the ongoing dispute among stove specialists: the specialist knowledge of engineers and physicists mainly interested in quantifiable efficiency and fuel economy, versus the socio-anthropological approach, in which only the socio-cultural factors such as acceptance and improvement of the living conditions of the target group play a part. I believe that the champions of the two approaches should try to reach a consenus and join forces.
In August 1983 the government of Guatemala decided to create a Ministry for Energy and Mines (Ministerio de Energia y Minas). In this ministry there is a department for renewable energies, which is attempting to coordinate the activities of the institutions (approx. 20, including government, non-government and international organizations) currently working in the field of appropriate technology in Guatemala. Following a first session with these institutions it was agreed to treat stoves as a priority. In Guatemala City, which has hitherto been neglected in the dissemination of fuel-saving stoves, a cooperative project is to be started to distribute stoves for approximately 300,000 people in the poor districts of the city. The respective institutions are to contribute their individual know-how. CEMAT will use its "owner-built" method with the Lorena stove, while ICAITI (Instituto Centroamericano de Investigacion y Tecnologia Industrial) will distribute its prefabricated stove frames through local craftsmen.
The initiative taken by the new ministry was welcomed on all sides. It remains to be seen what results it produces.