Solar Ovens & Sustainable Agriculture
Solar ovens, dryers and small gardens for poor Nicaraguan women as a way to improve health and income while preserving the environment.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Fundacion Proyecto Solar de Mujeres Nicaraguen
Established (the solution has passed the previous stages and demonstrated success)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Secondary Focus Area
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Managua and a demonstation farm near Catarina and Masaya
Location(s) of impact
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, and one reflection of that is rural women's reliance on wood-burning stoves in their homes, which cause not only environmental damage due to small-scale deforestation, but also lead to all manner of lung disease due to smoke inhalation. Additionally, many of the women who work with our organization have received little education on issues of nutrition and small-scale agriculture. Our organization works to address these issues in a collaborative way.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
FUPROSOMUNIC (in English, the Solar Women Project), addresses the issue of smoke inhalation in the home by helping women acquire solar ovens and wood-conserving smokeless stoves. The ovens and solar food dryers as a part of our program are not gifts. Women form groups of ten to build their solar oven or to arrange a loan to buy a wood-conserving stove, and during a ten-day construction workshop also take workshops in nutrition, child care and other topics. FUPROSOMUNIC also promotes biointensive gardening techniques to help families achieve better nutrition or to market produce that they grow. We have a small business to produce and market fruits and teas dried by use of solar technology. An example of this in action is one woman who through this project uses a solar oven and wood conserving stove as a cleaner and healthier method of food preparation, while having access to her own garden for better food to prepare, while also selling excess produce and dried fruits and teas.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
FUPROSOMUNIC has worked with over 900 families since 2004 to improve quality of life. Directly, this impact is in better health due to decreased smoke inhalation for all solar oven and wood-conserving stove users, and through better nutrition for participants in the gardens program. In rural areas, there is a safety component, as foraging for wood fuel can be dangerous for women. However, an important part of the difference we make is in outlook. Women who participate in our program work together to build solar ovens and dryers or to learn biointensive gardening techniques. Many have never handled tools before, and a major emphasis within the program is learning to build and to garden, and at the same time we use this to build confidence and knowledge that can be used in other aspects of life, such as small business formation and local marketing. FUPROSOMUNIC also makes a difference by long-term engagement of our women on staff with women in the communities where we work.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
1. Individual donations or gifts (70%) - about 70% of our income is from a Swiss non-profit established to support FUPROSOMUNIC
2. Grants (10%) - we are currently applying for more grant funding, but at this time only about 10% of our funding comes from current grants
3. Corporate contributions (0%)
4. Earned income (20%) - FUPROSOMUNIC has set up a small demonstration farm where we hold workshops on agriculture and nutrition topics, and where we are also trying to set up processing center for sales of dried fruits and teas
5. Other ()%)
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
What makes FUPROSOMUNIC unique and our initiative innovative is emphasis on cooperative groups, rather than an emphasis on donations or handouts. Participants in our program work together to build their ovens, dryer or garden, and we ask for 15% of the value to be paid on an installment plan. This methodology ensures we work with women interested in what we do, and unlike many other organizations doing similar work, we follow up over the long-term to see that ovens and gardens are in use.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
The founder or FUPROSMUNIC is Mercedes Alvarez, who worked for years in environmental and alternative energy programs. In 2003, Mercedes was visiting family in rural Nicaragua and couldn't sleep due to smoke in the home from cooking dinner. In the morning, she talked about this to an elderly relative who had emphysema and the attitude was fatalistic: the relative said she simply had to be sick because that's what women had to be in order to cook, and pointing to the children in the house, she said it would be the same for them. Mercedes realized a solution was needed, and that any solution could not be complex or expensive. Secondly, any solution needed to involve education for women, in order to break out of the fatalism she saw in how her relative related to her circumstances. Her research into solution led to solar ovens and formation of FUPROSOMUNIC, and its various projects.
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