Partner Spotlight: Soluciones Apropiadas
In Guatemala with a population that speaks more than 23 languages and lives at altitudes ranging from sea level to 3200 meters, the variety of cooking styles, needs and preferences is as diverse as the number of cooks. One obstacle that the clean cookstove industry faces in supporting the 2.7 million different Guatemalan families in need of improved cooking solutions, is achieving a range of stoves wide enough to satisfy every user amidst such a variety of preferences.
We founded the Guatemalan social enterprise Soluciones Apropiadas in 2013 with the goal of serving more Guatemalan families and women micro-entrepreneurs who cook with wood, by increasing user satisfaction and expanding the range of affordable clean cooking options. After a year of design development we now have three stoves that are market ready—a household plancha stove, an institutional stove and our new tortilla stove. Our approach has followed a simple, though often underutilized strategy for stove design—make the cook the protagonist of the design process, and satisfaction and successful adoption will be guaranteed. In Guatemala this means making women the very center of the design process. Within the gender dynamics of Guatemalan households, cooking falls almost exclusively to women. In the case of the tortilla, the Central American dietary staple, nearly the entire industry rests in the hands of women—literally, and women are too often treated as passive bystanders in the design process.
Serving Underserved Markets
Presently, women tortilla producers, known as tortilleras face the option between open-fire griddles called comals, and the more expensive LPG steel griddles. Due to the particular preferences of tortilla consumers and relative cost of gas vis-à-vis wood, Soluciones found that many producers would be unwilling to switch to a gas griddle even when they could afford one. As a result, many women tortilleras have no option but to endure incredibly smoky work conditions cooking over open fires in poorly ventilated spaces and routinely burning between 1.5 to 3 tons of wood a month.
In early 2014, with support from an Alliance Women’s Empowerment Grant, Soluciones Apropiadas launched the development of Guatemala’s first efficient wood cookstove designed specifically for and by small-scale tortilla producers. Using an iterative co-design process, the Soluciones team worked with a group of six women tortilleras in the town of La Gomera to design an efficient stove that would perform exactly as the women co-designers needed for their businesses. After several prototypes developed through focus groups combined with individual interviews and live field performance testing, Guatemala’s first efficient tortilla stove designed by women tortilla makers is now ready for market! Most excitingly, the final product is well within financial reach of the average small-scale tortillería. Like the majority of the industry, all of the study participants purchase their wood fuel. With an average fuel savings of more than 50%, and some participants saving more than 70% of their baseline fuel consumption, all tortilleras would be able to pay for their stove within 6 months through fuel savings alone. With support for financing, this is a highly viable loan term for the sector.
Partnering with the Alliance
Partnership with the Global Alliance has been an incredibly valuable experience for Soluciones Apropiadas. In addition to the funding from the WEF grant, the Alliance resources, as well support and guidance throughout the project have helped us turn an idea into a life changing reality for women tortilleras and helped affirm the vitality of women’s participation in design and the importance of user-led design as a powerful pathway to overcoming the adoption hurdle.