Abt Associates: Bold thinkers driving real-world impact
Crucinda Ventura used to spend up to five hours a day collecting wood and dung to fuel her stove. Like so many of the rural poor in Bolivia and around the world, Ventura relied on an open fire for cooking and heating her home. But when Crucinda Ventura cooked dinner for her six children and tried to keep them warm during the Andes’ cold winters at nearly 13,000 feet, she literally made them sick. The black smoke emitted from the kitchen fire was staying inside her home and making its way into the lungs of her young children.
Children are particularly susceptible to toxins in the air because they can breathe more air per pound (from 30 -50 percent more) of body weight when exercising and have fewer detoxifying enzyme
s than adults. Toxic exposure increases the chance of cancer, severe lung damage and other diseases that decrease a child’s potential to develop into a strong, healthy and educated adult.
In October 2010, Abt’s USAID-funded Integrated Food Security Project in Bolivia began building energy-efficient stoves and kitchens to help reduce the impact of climate change and reduce deforestation by promoting adaptation measures. The ecological stove requires 60 percent less wood, emits equally fewer toxins into the atmosphere and sends the burned waste and smoke through a pipe out of the house, unlike the open traditional stoves.
At the small cost of approximately $25 per stove, the project constructed more than 1,900 ecological stoves and kitchens in seven municipalities over an 18-month period and trained 25 construction workers who also act as health agents. The trained agents – most often the trusted community leaders – spread information about the environmental and health benefits of the stoves and teach families how to prepare more nutritious foods. The beneficiaries of the stoves help to pay for the cost of construction.
“My children sleep right next to the stove because it’s warm,” said Ventura. “Before we had a lot of smoke and the open fire was dangerous. The fire in the new stove is closed and the smoke goes out of the house. When I cooked with the old stove, my children were sick more often and would get the flu more easily because they were not as strong. Now their eyes don’t hurt and they don’t cough as much. There’s not much smoke with this stove so now I can boil water more often to give to my children.”
“My children’s health improved in two days of putting in the new stove,” said Ventura. “The project is teaching me how to cook more nutritious foods. I can try new things because I’m not afraid of the smoke.”
Abt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research, evaluation and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.