Stoves Protect Health and Environment in Central America

Why a Stove?

A SHARE stove is an an intervention that helps alleviate rural poverty and improves health and quality of life for rural women and their families in communities where SHARE works. Women can cook meals more efficiently allowing them to participate in a SHARE literacy circle or in a small agriculture enterprise.

The benefits to family health and the environment are immense; the cost savings significant, the time-savings important and the empowerment of the poor rural women is “transformational”.

“No more tears in my kitchen,” said one grateful recipient of a new SHARE stove in Guatemala.

Indeed, this indoor air pollution has been called “the killer in the kitchen.”


The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes pollution from open fire pits as a significant health risk killing 1.6 million people a year and causing chronic illness in many more. However, open cooking fires using wood are the common cooking method in rural homes in Central and South America where families cannot afford other fuel.

The walls in homes are dark with soot and the indoor air quality is dangerous and causes eye and lung disease in rural women and upper respiratory disease in young children. Children may stumble and fall on the fires and suffer burns.

A SHARE stove reduces health risk to women and children and improves the environment. The new stoves are made of cement blocks and mortar forming a wood-burning chamber and have a chimney that removes the toxic smoke.

These stoves use half the amount of wood; this means cutting down fewer trees and less time spent hunting for wood. In countries with great rural poverty and deforested hillsides subject to erosion and landslides during the rainy season, reducing the use of wood is a priority.

These Stoves Change Lives

One woman said she could get up an hour later, at 5 a.m. each morning to prepare her husband’s food before he headed to the fields because the beans and tortillas cooked much faster on her new stove. “I can store all the wood I need for a week indoors where it doesn’t get wet,” said one pleased cook who lives on a Salvadoran mountaintop. In one stove project in Honduras two women shared one new stove. One happy stove recipient who has a large family said she could cook 10 tortillas at one time on the new stove surface and boil water all at the same time.

Women testify that their lives have been “transformed”. 


Families haul the cement and sand up steep hills, carry cement blocks and assist the trained local mason to construct their new stoves. Community meetings are used to inform about the benefits of the program. In some communities stove building is connected to a tree planting project. When recipients are trained in stove maintenance these stoves will last for years making a difference in the lives of the rural poor.

Household Water Filters

Why a Water Filter?

The Other Water Cycle by Craig Frayne

The “other water cycle”, the cycle of unclean drinking water, sickness and poverty, is a deadly relationship that disproportionately affects the poor. Drinking unclean water that contains harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites contributes to 80% of illness in developing-countries causing 1.8 million annual deaths around the world (World Health Organization). Young children are most vulnerable but everyone is affected in the isolated rural communities where SHARE works. Parasites in contaminated water consume nutrients, aggravate malnutrition, and hamper physical development. The repeated sickness keeps women and men from their work and their children from school thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

“Simple techniques for treating water at home and storing it in safe containers could save a huge number of lives each year”. (UNICEF)

To end this misery and to help break this poverty cycle SHARE is funding a cost effective solution, a household biosand water filter, an appropriate, simple to use, durable technology. The biosand water filter, a Canadian invention, has been successfully used for over 20 years in the developing world. ( As the unsafe water flows through layers of sand and gravel natural processes eliminate contaminants.

An education and follow up program are essential for long term effectiveness. Worming medicine is given, a covered pail is provided to eliminate recontamination and a schedule for long term monitoring is set up. Families immediately have improved health and energy. Men and women have increased productivity and their children’s school attendance improves; less of the families’ meager income is spent on medicines

A biosand water filter transforms lives!


“My name is Carmen Sanjay and I am from the village of Paraxaj, Guatemala. I received my water filter on December 2011 and since the day that we started drinking the water we no longer suffered stomach aches. Every family in my villages that has already received a filter is so happy due that their lives have improved so much; they are no longer ill. And the other families that have not yet received a filter are anxious to be part of this.”

What is the Cost of Clean Water?

A biosand water filter, worming medicine, a covered storage pail and the essential education and long term follow up visits cost approximately $220 per family.

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