Smokeless Stoves: the Tacán de Sapón Family

“For twenty-two years, we cooked with a stove that was bad in every way you can imagine. It was unsteady and the grill was destroyed from overuse. There was smoke, always smoke. It didn’t cook our food well and burned us.”

It is difficult to imagine that this was once the daily reality of Transito Ajpacajá Tacán de Sapón (48). The scene where we find her now is the opposite of the hardships that she describes. In this moment, her family of ten (which includes her sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren) gathers in Transito’s kitchen to feast on a lunch of soup, tortillas, and tamales. Their dining room table? A new, fire engine red stove that has counter space to spare for bowls, silverware, and elbows knocking together.

Between sips of tamarind juice and bites of tamales, the children and teenagers grin, and giggles reverberate through the room. This is a scene of contentment, of health, of family.

Transito is proud of her stove, which has granted her a multitude of benefits. “The stove cooks well. You don’t need to feed it as much wood, it’s less work to maintain, and I’m so grateful for it. I hope that my sons have the same blessings and projects wherever they may go.”

We ask if, before the new stove, if she had frequently gone the doctor. “Yes,” she nods. “I went a few times and got some medicine from the pharmacies. For my lungs,” she clarifies.

Making any sort of purchases, such as medicine, is a burden for Transito. She discloses that having money on hand is a luxury to this family. Her husband, Pedro (50), works all day in the corn fields. Her sons, Ismael (19) and Nelson (18), have started a carpentry business, which is still getting off of its feet. While the family is dedicated to work, there is no steady income that supports them. “There is so much that we need,” she says. “Food, herbs. Most of what we use in our daily life, we look for or plant ourselves.”

Having a stove that does not consume as much wood has made her life significantly easier. “We used to buy wood, because our old stove used so much,” Transito remembers. “If we couldn’t buy it, we would look for it, taking hours out of our day. Now, it’s one sack of wood a week, which feeds all of us.”

Transito is grateful for the group who made her stove possible. “They were a good group of people. Friendly, beautiful. May God bless them, and they came to build this stove and to visit us with Habitat Guatemala. I send them my greetings, and my family sends their blessings.”