Smokeless Stoves: the Gutierrez Family

Emiliana Josefua Gutierrez (58) settles comfortably on the mat on the floor. One of her many dogs trots up to her, nudging her arm, and she shoos it away. Concerned, we ask her if she would like a chair. “Oh, no, I’m very content here,” she beams. On her mat, she sidles up to her Habitat Guatemala smokeless stove, which she built over a year ago with the assistance of volunteers. Post lunch, the stove simmers with warmth, which is just what Emiliana likes.

“We didn’t have a stove for a long while,” Emiliana recalls. “Our old stove was old and didn’t work very well. It originally belonged to the owner of the house. When it broke down, she handed it down to me.” Emiliana shakes her head. “I didn’t like that very much.”

Emiliana, her husband, Timoteo (59), and their three children all currently live atop of a small hill in Totonicpán Aldea la Esperanza, a small village that borders the western side of Sololá. Together, they raise animals for market, such as hens, sheep, and pigs. The family’s predilection for dogs is also clear; her sixteen-year-old daughter, Silvia, is playing with a gaggle of them in the yard.

Since building a new stove, Emiliana is happy with how it works. Before, where her old stove was difficult to maintain and leaked copious amounts of smoke, the new one is just the opposite. “The new stove is easier to clean. It’s unique, too, because the chimney leaves through the wall to the back and doesn’t let smoke in.”

Emiliana also reflects on the economic impact of the stove as well. “The other stove used a lot of wood. We save more money by only having to buy one large bundle of wood, which lasts about fifteen days. The slot entrance to the stove is also smaller, so we aren’t tempted to use as much wood to burn.” Emiliana says that she has since been able to invest more in her farm work thanks to the extra money from saving on wood.

As for the volunteer group, Emiliana speaks of them fondly. “They arrived to build, and build they did. Also, they were hardworking and friendly, and they played with my children and my dogs. I have beautiful memories of them and send them my greetings.”