for El Carizal, Nicaragua, November 2009
Located roughly 6 km south of San Juan del
Sur, out a long dirt road, El Carizal represents a community
of about 55 families, totaling approximately 200 people.
Most residents are subsistence farmers, spending their
days tending to their crops and livestock.
After speaking with several community leaders, it was discovered
that firewood has become increasingly scarce in the area
immediately surrounding El Carizal. On average, families
spend 1-3 hours 2-4 times a week searching for wood to
fuel to their cooking fires. As one can imagine, time is
valuable in such communities where livelihood rests on
your ability to prepare, tend, harvest, and cook all of
the family’s food. Not to mention that no one in
the community seems to enjoy scouring the hills for firewood!
In addition to the time factor, many Nicaraguan women suffer
from respiratory problems caused by cooking over indoor
fires. Typically fires are started in the early morning
and kept going most of the day in order to prepare meals.
Since there are usually no chimneys, the smoke diffuses
into the open kitchen space. Upon inspection of numerous
homes, it appeared that every kitchen ceiling was coated
with a thick layer of soot, sometimes to the point where
it was impossible to see the original building material
Considering the issues of time and health, Collective Solutions
decided to offer several workshops about the design, construction
and benefits of using solar ovens. Our first workshop was
held at the Carlos Guzman School and was attended by roughly
20 local children and several of their mothers. We went
through simple concepts and designs with them and then
set about constructing simple panel cookers using recycled
cardboard and aluminum foil. The children were very excited
about this project as gathering firewood is one of their
primary chores. The day closed with a series of cookers
built for them to take home as well as a big pot of soup
cooked by the sun for everyone to enjoy.
Over the next couple of days, Collective Solutions and
Casa Llanta led an additional workshop for the adults of
El Carizal and the neighboring communities to construct
several larger, more durable solar ovens for communal use.
Over the 2 days, roughly 25 adults attended classroom sessions
as well as participated in the hands-on construction of
4 large plywood ovens. To demonstrate the various materials
options, the ovens were constructed with varying combinations
of wood, glass, scrap metal, foil, recycled beer cans,
and Styrofoam. These ovens will be distributed on a rotating
lending program between families over the next few months.
Based on the enthusiasm of some of the participants, we
speculate that there will be more ovens built over the
Collective Solutions and Casa Llanta will be working with
the families of El Carizal to manage the follow up of this
For further information about Casa Llanta and El Carizal,
please visit www.casallanta.com and www.carizal.com