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Mandorani 2009 Stove Project Follow-up Two Years Out

Hi everybody,

Time for our first LVM update from Mandorani! We´re very happy to report that the project seems to have been successful even beyond what we had hoped for. At this point we have visited all but two of the houses that have stoves, and re-tested most of the people we had results from previously.

All of the stoves are being used in their original form, in marked contrast to our experience in Sipascancha two years ago. Of the 15 stoves in Mandorani, two were supposed to be built after we left, but that never happened. The chimneys are still there, they just didn´t get built for whatever reason. (And, of note, we originally had parts for 20 stoves and parts for 5 stoves were given to a small NGO here, Hampy. Despite attempted contact, we have no word on that outcome.) So we are working with a total of 13 stoves. The 11 we have seen are all in good condition, many were still warm from the morning fire. Anecdotal evidence from our interviews indicates that people are using about half as much wood as before (or at least consistently less). Cooking times are also reduced according to the women using them. Expiration volumes from the lungs (as measured with our peak flow meter) seem to be consistently higher, but we’re going to have to crunch those numbers later on
for more definite results. Blood oxygen levels seem about the same, which isn´t surprising.

Only one stove showed significant signs of wear, we think it was because they just didn’t know how to use clay to patch it up. Victoria, our friend who runs a local store, was in the process of rebuilding her kitchen, so hers was deconstructed for the time being. The other nine looked great. Our friend Florencio said that he had started having problems with draft and smoke, but once he cleaned the chimney it went back to normal – another good sign.

Everybody is telling us that they use the retention cooker baskets, some more often than others. But we haven’t actually SEEN one, and we get the feeling that maybe people are just telling us what they think we want to hear. That’s always a bit of a problem here. We always thought of the cookers as a kind of bonus or extra credit project, so it isn’t a high priority.

Yesterday was an almost perfect day, from the moment we got out of the taxi we ran into everybody we needed to see like it was pre-planned. We are still hoping to make it to Florencio’s house tomorrow, but he is the farthest away and we may not have time. We were also able to return the money we had promised (30 soles repaid, plus five in interest and five to buy a chimney cleaning brush) to every family. Due to some disagreements within the village from the last time, we weren’t sure how we would be received, but only one person seemed standoffish (she still took the money, though). Learning from bitter past experience, we included receipts with every envelope, plus copies of the contract and a one-page “operating manual.”

There were a few other things that were really inspiring. One was that the family who had seemed to have the most problems before (the ones who were throwing all their trash into the neighbor’s yard) was a lot more together, and the son had built his own kind of chimney setup in another of the houses. It was kind of like a range hood, not perfect but a lot better than nothing. On a similar note, everywhere we went in the village we saw other chimneys that we hadn’t built! People told us that it was another project, but we still don’t have all the details. We really really want to look at one, but we haven’t been able to yet. So the idea is out there and being copied, which is what we had hoped for.

Tomorrow we are going back out for the last time, and hopefully we will be able to test the last three families (one of which is a single elderly lady). Then we will be completely done in Mandorani, and move on to Ollantaytambo. We’d like to look at the five stoves that went to Jorge’s Hampy project in Choco, but that may not be possible. In Ollantaytambo, our friend Carlos has two projects he wants us to look at – a guinea pig farming project and a nascent eco-village which is still in the planning stages. We will be happy to leave Cusco’s horrific air pollution and oxygen-starved atmosphere. We think we are really truly done here, if/when we return it will be to work in smaller cities at lower altitudes.

For those of you who want to read more about our personal takes on things, you can check out Laurie´s Facebook page and Steve’s thread on ILX at http://www.ilxor.com/ILX/ThreadSelectedControllerServlet?boardid=40&threadid=52987#unread (scroll down to the bottom for the recent writing).

Photos are also up at the Flickr site, http://www.flickr.com/photos/stovesforperu, or you can just click at the tab on the right under “Blogroll” labeled “Our Flickr site”.

Thanks to everybody for their support, we couldn’t have done this without you.

Laurie, Steve, and Las Vidas Mejoradas

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