"The stoves make my family so happy. Before, mamas and children cooked over open fire. They would cough and get sick a lot because of the smoke. Sometimes, they would get burned or have pain in their eyes too. Women and children would also spend a lot of time gathering wood, and now we do not need as much. We are so thankful."
- Elisha Clemence, former OBSM student, current secondary school student.
It was my first time back to the O'Brien School for the Maasai in a couple of years, and I just couldn't pinpoint what was different about the village. As I walked with Elisha, I kept asking him: "What is different in the village? It seems different!" His response: "Nothing but the power lines." I assumed he was right. But then we approached his family's homes, and I knew.
Smoke. Smoke leaving chimneys. Smoke leaving chimneys and not filling the lungs of the young children and mothers while they cook over open fire.
Many villagers in Sanya Station used to cook over three-stone fires. They inhaled harmful pollutants and smoke each time they cook a meal. Because of this, illnesses like chronic coughing, low-level carbon monoxide poisoning, and upper-respiratory infections plagued the villagers—especially women and children. They often experienced burns and dealt with constant eye pain from the particulates too. In addition, these fires also consumed literal tons of firewood (that women and children gathered) and significantly contributed to global warming through carbon dioxide emissions.
My former Office Manager, Rachel Brigell, and I first heard of Maasai Stoves and Solar in 2012/2013. However, there were so many other things going on at the school that we were unable to make a partnership. Then, one fateful day in graduate school in a suburb of Boston, MA, I attended a guest lecture out of pure coincidence. I was leaving a class as the guest was setting up his presentation. As I was leaving, I noticed the unmistakeable colorful fabric of the Maasai. Bob Lange, founder of the International Collaborative Maasai Stoves and Solar project, was there to speak.
Long story short, the O'Brien School ended up partnering with Maasai Stoves and Solar. Zoom forward to last year, funding from Christ Church of Oak Brook enabled 100 families in our village to have clean-burning, efficient cookstoves.
These stoves reduce local deforestation and carbon emissions by 60%, and they reduce smoke in the home by 90%.
Clean cookstoves and the corresponding women's project also helps to save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and protect the environment. Clean cooking can contribute to an enabling environment for achieving 10 of the SDGs (see them here), and learn more about that impact on the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves website.