In Nicaragua: 700,000 familes cook with wood
If one of them were your family, which would you prefer?
What’s the problem? Many Nicaraguan families cook over an open, “three-rock”, fire in a semi-enclosed space. For many hours each day, the cook and other family members breathe lung-damaging smoke. Thousands of children are burned every year. The family may spend up to 30% of its income to purchase wood. Or women, children and elderly family members must carry wood on their backs for miles. The harvesting of wood is rapidly deforesting the country and cooking fires are sending tons of climate-changing CO2 into our atmosphere. Respiratory illnesses are common, almost universal among women and children. Preparation of family meals, the very center of home life, is often dirty, expensive, unhealthy and dangerous.
What to do? Cooking with wood is not inherently inefficient or unhealthy. All things considered, wood may even be more efficient and less polluting than other fuels. After all, the wood is energy-rich, readily available and totally renewable. Unlike fossil fuels, it doesn’t have to be transported from thousands of miles away.
Equally important, cooking with wood is an important and integral part of Nicaraguan culture.
So what’s needed is a way to use wood efficiently, cleanly, safely and inexpensively.
There are a number of “improved stoves” currently being promoted in Nicaragua. Some of them are excellent, but their prices put them way out of reach for a typical poor family. A family can only acquire one of these stoves through charity; and charity is both limited and culturally debilitating.
That’s where the Coci-Nica comes in. Our Nicaraguan friends designed a simple, realistic solution that fits the problem, the economy and the culture. We helped them with encouragement, capital, business and technical advice to build a Nicaraguan-owned business that is putting that solution to work for poor families throughout the country.
At $18.75 the Coci-Nica is inexpensive. It is efficient, portable and almost smoke-free. Compared to a traditional open fire, it uses about 50% of the wood and is made with 100% Nicaraguan materials and labor. It is consistent with both the Nicaraguan culture and economy. As used by a typical family, the Coci-Nica pays for itself in less than three months. After that, the family continues to save money and improve their health for a minimum of two years. The Coci-Nica cooks much more rapidly than an open fire and makes it possible to use even small twigs or charcoal for fuel.
A Rare Case of – Win – Win – Win –Win – Win
Leadership, Training, Employment: Coci--Nica has five fulltime employees. Ownership in the business is gradually being turned over to Frank Arcia, Production Manager and Maribel Alonzo, Sales Manager. As they’ve built the business we’ve provided capital and advice. But most of the initiative and hard work has been theirs. They have developed a working system of computerized spreadsheets to track inventory, sales and financials, and they report their outcomes monthly. They have quickly improved quality control, production efficiency and marketing methods. We encourage this by funding new equipment and other costs of experimentation. Coci-Nica also employs three full-time workers from the local community. Frank and Maribel compensate themselves and their workers with realistic family wages and Clínica Apoyo provides free medical care for all of the workers and their families.
Innovation: The design of the Coci-Nica is constantly being tweeked to improve performance and durability and reduce cost. And Frank and Maribel keep adding new products as customers ask for them. They now offer:
The Hogareña for the typical family
The Profesional for churches/schools/merchants
The Fiesta for barbeques
Efficiency and Speed: The Coci-Nica works on the well-proven “rocket stove” principle. Despite its name, it’s really not “rocket science”. The combustion chamber is isolated so that minimal heat is lost to the environment. The energy released is used to cook the meal, not to heat the surroundings (which are already hot enough!). The Coci-Nica’s dimensions and materials optimize complete combustion and minimize polluting smoke. So it cooks faster and with less fuel.
Modelo Stove Metal Table Combination Stove &Table
C$ C$ C$
Hogareña 600 600 1200
Profesional 700 600 1300
Fiesta 900 600 1500
Special orders available Quantity discounts
Marbel Alonzo 8888-5168
Francisco Árcia 8481 9386 email@example.com
Prices in C$ effective June, 2019
Safety and Health: By far the most common illnesses in Nicaragua are respiratory diseases (asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia). Just looking at the black tar on the walls in the semi-enclosed cooking structures in our community. You can easily imagine what people’s lungs look like. The Coci-Nica goes a long ways toward minimizing inhaled smoke.
Also, every year in Nicaragua, thousands of children are burned by open fires. The Coci-Nica protects children from burns
Much Lower Cost: There isn’t enough charity in the world to solve the problems created by cooking on open fires. We believe that the best solution is a stove that can be produced and sold within Nicaragua at a price that poor Nicaraguan’s can actually afford to pay- currently $18.25. And by reducing their fuel use by about 50%, a typical family will pay for their stove investment in less than two months and continue to save over $150 each year for several years.
Less Deforestation and Climate Change: It’s simple; by using less wood, the Coci-Nica helps to minimize deforestation and puts less climate-changing CO2 in the air. It even uses small twigs that would otherwise be left on the ground. The objective is to have enough stoves in any given area to reach equilibrium between growth and use.
Sustainable Business - Not Charity: The Coci-Nica business can break even by selling 300 stoves per month and, at the same time, produce an extra 100 stoves per month to fund future growth and profits. The revenue from selling the 300 stoves pays for all materials, labor, utilities, tool/vehicle maintenance, sales and fuel costs. Actual monthly sales have ranged from 75 to 500 stoves. No other improved stove effort in Nicaragua comes close to being this self-sustaining.
Respecting the Culture: Nicaraguans have a very conservative culture. They have been cooking with wood for millennia. Even the transition from an open fire to a manufactured stove may not be culturally easy. Most efforts to drastically change how people cook in Nicaragua have not succeeded. For example, we see abandoned solar cookers all over Nicaragua. Many more complex and expensive “improved” wood-burning stoves end up unused and may actually use more fuel than what they replace. The Coci-Nica respects the tradition of cooking with wood. It is built by a Nicaraguan-owned and managed business in a rural Nicaraguan community using 100% Nicaraguan materials and labor. It is not charity.
Coci-Nica has sold over 6000 stoves, a good start.
Will you help?
Cash or stock: Donations of cash or stock are used in two ways, (a) to provide stoves at reduced prices to the very poorest families or (b) to make capital investments in tools, vehicles or new marketing and sales approaches. Tax deductible donations can be made through our partners, the NICA Foundation. To make a donation, click on the "Donate" button below.
Purchase stoves for resale: Many NGOs and individuals have purchased Coci-Nicas and provided them, either free or at reduced prices, to families in the poor Nicaraguan communities they serve. It’s a straight-forward, inexpensive and effective way to improve people’s lives.
Share connections: Do you have connections to other resources that could help Maribel and Frank build on their success? These might be sources of publicity, funding, materials, tools, work clothing.
Share expertise: Do you have specialized engineering, marketing, sales or business expertise that could help improve the Coci-Nica business?
Sponsor another Coci-Nica factory: A great way to reduce transportation costs, provide local employment and bring hope to another community. We’ll be happy to help.
Coci-Nica: An investment with a guaranteed return
English-only speakers; contact Brian Davis: Spanish speakers; contact Maribel Alonzo:
USA: (503) 501 6501 Nicaragua: 8888-5168 (Movistar)
Nicaragua: 8991-0543 (Movistar)