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Web Extra: Fall 2012 Departments

Engineers Without Borders Students "Stoving" in a High-Mountain Peru Village

Silvester in peru

Bren School students in the UCSB chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) have made multiple visits to Araypallpa since 2004, when EWB launched a water-filtration project in the Peruvian village. In the past year and a half, five Bren students — Fernando Accame, Joel Cesare, Marina Feraud, Greg Soulages, and Alex Silvester — (all MESM 2012) have played key roles in another Araypallpa project, this time to build improved cooking stoves.

The traditional Araypallpa kitchen has small windows and no chimney, and the inefficient wood-burning mud stove belches smoke. Working in collaboration, Silvester (the team’s stove design manager), Cesare (the Peru project manager), Accame, Feraud, Soulages, and UCSB engineering students developed a prototype of an improved stove based on the community’s needs. They then built one in a Goleta backyard, complete with their own handmade bricks and mud mortar.

Their intention was to test the stove in Peru last September, when they, along with other UCSB EWB students and their professional mentor and stove expert, Dr. Charlie Sellers, would spend two and a half weeks in Peru.

But they had to redirect their efforts when they discovered that the village, which is located near Cuzco at an elevation of nearly 11,000 feet, had already received new stoves from the Peruvian government as part of a nationwide program. Shifting their focus, the students were able to meet with government officials at a stove building and testing facility in Lima and then travel to Araypallpa on a new mission, to evaluate how the new stoves were being built and used.

That meant spending a lot of time “stoving” — or cooking with villagers while assessing whether they were using the stove correctly or had any questions or complaints. The team produced a video of best practices starring the community members so that knowledge could be shared among them.

“The cool thing about EWB is that it requires you to go through a rigorous engineering approach to a project so that funds aren’t wasted and you go into a community with a plan that has been thought through,” says Cesare. “It trains students like us to be better professionals. It was rewarding helping people who wanted our help, and a unique experience to live among people who live off their land.”

“It was a great opportunity to learn about the new stoves and work with the community to ensure that they were using them correctly and liked cooking with them,” says Silvester. “It reminded me of my Peace Corps experience — working with a community to solve problems together.”

EWB strives to ensure that its projects fit into local culture. In Araypallpa, guinea pig, known as cuy, is a delicacy. But it is apparently a little more difficult to cook in the new stove, so when one villager figured out a good method, the team added her “recipe” to the bestpractices video — an ancient tradition updated for the benefit of all.

More on the web at: www.ewb-ucsb.org/peru-project

——Bren News, Spring 2012, a publication of the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management.
UC Santa Barbara