What do your holiday traditions look like? Across cultures, many traditions begin and center around cooking and food. In just a few days, families and friends will be gathering to celebrate Christmas here in the US and in many other parts of the world, cooking up delicious feasts and spending time with one another to celebrate the end of 2017 and the beginning of a new year.

What we don’t often think about, however, are the technologies we use to cook our meals. In rural Senegal, for a woman to cook a feast for her family, she must first have a fire or cookstove. Traditionally, women would cook on an open “three-stone fire,” balancing their pots on stones over an open flame that could present fire hazards to their huts, children, and animals. The improved cookstoves that CREATE! teaches people to build serve as a safer alternative that still meets the cultural needs and norms of the women who use them.

Building improved cookstoves in Senegal

CREATE! holds cookstove training sessions periodically in our partner communities, as seen here in Keur Daouda, as a “refresher” course on how to build them and to help repair any stoves that may have been damaged during the rainy season.

Because the stoves are enclosed, they hold in heat better than the open three-stone fire, use around 60% less firewood, and are much safer to have around children and animals. Women also report that it saves them time, since they can do other household activities while the meal is cooking, instead of having to constantly tend to the fire. Perhaps the best part about it is that they can continue to eat their traditional meals using their own pots, without having to change their diets, cookware, or customs. Click here to see how improved cookstoves are built.

Technicians teach trainings on how to build improved cookstoves in Senegal

CREATE! technicians teach women to build the cookstoves, and encourage them to teach others in neighboring villages.

As more women learn to build improved cookstoves in Senegal, they pass on the gift of knowledge to other women in neighboring communities by teaching them to build cookstoves in their own households as well.

Each cookstove is built to custom fit the family cooking pot, so there is no need to change the ways they cook or the foods they eat.

As you gather with your own friends and family this holiday season, think also of the families celebrating their own traditions and togetherness around the world, and what that looks like for different people. For many, having a safe, clean cookstove is an incredible gift in itself, allowing women more time to spend with their families, keeping their children safe, and enjoying a meal together.

From all of us here at CREATE!, we warmly wish you happy holidays and thank you deeply for your continued support!