Bulyowa Village celebrates as the community constructs its first stoves
The people of Bulyowa grinned last week as they chopped grass, mixed mud and shaped the stoves aimed at improving their daily lives and the health of the community. The work was strenuous but joyful. The community members sang and laughed because they knew that these stoves were an alternative to the hardships of smoke-filled and inefficient cooking huts.
Open cooking fires pose many problems in households across the Busoga region in Uganda: The wood burns quickly, causing women to spend hours each day collecting firewood; children can easily trip on the exposed wood, causing hot food or liquid to spill on them; the smoke does not ventilate, causing respiratory problems for women and children who spend long hours in the dark huts.
Stoves — constructed from materials found freely around the village — can change all of that.
With the help of Kibo staff members Harriet, Jeska and Tape, village community members gathered on Wednesday to build the first two demonstration stoves in Bulyowa. Together, they wheeled dirt from termite mounds, gathered grass from across the village and carried water from the local well. They mixed the materials in the correct proportions and carried the clay-like mixture into the huts to be shaped into stoves.
As the community witnessed their first stoves coming together, they laughed, danced and clapped as they chanted their thanks to Kibo for training them to create such a useful and sustainable tool with their own hands: "Long live Kibo, for all the good things it has done!" Jeska and Tape launched the bowling-ball-sized hunks of earth onto the site of the new stove to be shaped with a machete and smoothed with the innermost ring of a banana tree. Body heat radiated from the huts, which were filled to the brim with hopeful men and women of all ages, observing the work that they would be charged with completing themselves. Community members cheered as Jeska and Tape carved a hole in the brick wall to ventilate smoke.
This was a community event. Despite the fact that improved cooking facilities affect women more often, men participated in the construction and held the children as their wives sang and danced while building a better future.
After the stoves finish drying in one month, the community will be able to try their safe and fuel-efficient stoves for the first time. In the meantime, Harriet, Jeska and Tape will continue to visit the village weekly to help build stoves until they are confident the community members can make the stoves on their own. Bulyowa is so committed to the stove-building process that it won't be long until the community knows how to build stoves properly and efficiently.
Harriet herself could not answer how many stoves Kibo has helped build. Once an individual or a village learns to build a stove using locally sourced materials and the sweat of a community, new stoves pop up in neighboring villages and towns. People in cooking huts across Busoga hear about Kibo's stoves and ask their neighbors to teach them how to build their own. As with all development work, Kibo's sincere hope is that communities will continue to improve their lives long after Kibo programs are finished.