Bernstein Annex Student Exhibitions
Fire Without Smoke: Images from the Huamanzaña Improved Cookstove Project
Some three billion people in the developing world rely on wood and other organic fuels for their cooking and heating needs. For those who cook indoors—often on three-stone fires or rustic stoves—soot-blackened walls stand as testaments to long hours spent cooking. The smoke from these stoves contains pollutants that can cause serious health effects including headaches, nausea, vision problems, respiratory ailments, and cancer. The World Health Organization reports that indoor air pollution causes 1.5 million deaths annually; the majority of that burden is borne by women and small children.
Huamanzaña is a tiny village of 136 residents in the northern coastal highlands of Peru. Nationally, roughly one-third of all households rely on solid fuels for cooking; in Huamanzaña, each of the 38 households does. Most families spend one morning each week searching for leña (kindling) in their fields or cutting branches off trees for fuel. When they cannot search for firewood, villagers burn tusa, dried corncobs leftover from the harvest.
Engineers Without Borders–Princeton University is a student-run organization that collaborates with communities in the developing world to design and implement small-scale projects with appropriate technologies. The group has gone to Huamanzaña five times since 2005, completing sanitation and solar energy projects. During the solar energy project installation in August 2006, villagers raised concerns about their stoves, whose smoke was causing vision and respiratory conditions among women and children. The community recognized the problem, but needed help finding an affordable solution. In response, EWB–Princeton went to work researching and developing improved stoves.
These images portray stories from Huamanzaña. They were taken between August 2006 and September 2007, during EWB–Princeton’s collaboration with townspeople to design and construct stoves that will meet their needs at an affordable price. The current design eliminates smoke inside the home, improves efficiency and combustion, and can boil water in less than fifteen minutes. EWB–Princeton engineers continue to revise and improve the design, which is scheduled to be implemented in each Huamanzaña home in summer 2008 at a cost less than $50 USD per stove.
About the Photographer
Shannon M. Brink is a junior in the Woodrow Wilson School with an interest in sustainable development in Latin America. Director of the EWB–Princeton projects in Huamanzaña, she has spent nearly three months living in the village. Shannon is from Denver, Colorado. For more information on Engineers Without Borders–Princeton, visit http://www.princeton.edu/~ewb.