Working with the Maya

Woman WeavingFounded in 1999, the Guatemala Stove Project builds masonry cookstoves for impoverished households in rural Mayan villages in the mountains of Guatemala.  These stoves dramatically improve the health, life expectancy and overall well being of indigenous families, particularly those of the women and children.

About the Maya Families

The families served by the Guatemala Stove Project are part of Guatemala’s impoverished Maya majority. The sixty percent of Guatemalans who are members of indigenous Mayan groups own only six percent of the land. Most survive on less than $2 a day.  Basic resources such as health care, electricity and potable water are extremely scarce in the highlands, where the majority of the Maya live. Yet these people endure, maintaining pride in their ancient languages and rich cultural traditions, while seeking ways to overcome the obstacles of poverty and discrimination by the larger society.

open cooking stone FireFor centuries, the Maya have cooked on three-stone fires built on the dirt floors of household kitchens. As a result, many homes are perpetually filled with toxic wood smoke that causes serious health problems, particularly for women and children. Tuberculosis is common and children often die from pneumonia. Eye infections, chronic respiratory illness and other health problems are frequent. Some women go blind in their forties from smoke from the cooking fires, and it’s estimated that this smoke shortens the average person’s life by 10 to 15 years.

With a simple masonry stove, this situation is improved dramatically. The smoke from cooking fires travels through the stovepipe, leaving the house relatively smoke free. There is less disease, children receive fewer burns from fires, and women are significantly less likely to lose their eyesight prematurely. As the general health of the family improves, children can be in school more often and parents can be more productive. Because masonry cookstoves use about 50% less fuel than three-stone fires, families — including children — are less burdened by the need to gather wood and carry it long distances on their backs. And in an area where deforestation is a major problem, the stoves help save precious natural resources.

It costs $300 CAD to build a stove.  Your donation can add years of life to each member of a Maya family, and help us change the future.