Nahua Expeditions


NOVEMBER 28, 2023 | Nahua Expeditions

In the heart of the remote rural villages we work with, a transformative movement is quietly unfolding. One that promises to not only enhance the health and well-being of families but also to preserve the precious natural resources that surround them. At Nahua Expeditions, we are so incredibly proud to be at the forefront of this change with our sustainable brick stove initiative. As of today, we have successfully built over 100 stoves, and this is just the beginning

The Problem with Traditional Cooking Methods

For many families in rural areas, cooking on open fires inside their homes is a daily reality. While this method has been used for generations, it comes with significant health and environmental costs. On average, a person cooking on an open fire inhales the equivalent of three packs of cigarettes each day. This alarming statistic highlights the severe respiratory issues faced by many, particularly women and children who spend the most time near the stove. Moreover, the constant need for firewood to keep these fires burning leads to increased deforestation, further exacerbating the environmental impact.

We’ve written a more in-depth article on this topic, which you can read here: The Problem with Traditional Cooking Methods: An In-depth Look

Our Sustainable Solution

Our sustainable brick stoves offer a powerful alternative. Designed to channel smoke out of the kitchen through a metal vent, these stoves drastically reduce indoor air pollution. This simple yet effective design means that families no longer have to inhale harmful smoke with every meal. Additionally, these stoves are far more efficient, retaining heat under the griddle and requiring about 60% less wood than traditional open fire cooking setups. This not only eases the demand on local forest resources but also reduces the time and effort families need to spend gathering firewood.

Local Impact and Economic Benefits

The benefits of our sustainable brick stoves extend beyond health and environmental improvements. By sourcing all materials and labor locally, we stimulate the local economy and provide valuable employment opportunities with each stove construction. Every masonry job we create offers an alternative source of income, reducing the reliance on logging and other resource-exploitative jobs as a means of livelihood. This holistic approach ensures that the economic benefits of our project are felt within the community, also fostering a sense of ownership and sustainability.

Our Journey to 100 Stoves

Reaching the milestone of 100 stoves has been a testament to the hard work and dedication of our team and the support of our partners and guests. Our journey began in 2019 before Nahua Expeditions was conceived. Conrad Tanner, Nahua’s eventual founder, was staying in one of the remote villages nestled in Chiapas. During his extended stay, he noticed the kitchens in these rural homes were so smoky that spending any length of time in them was unbearable. Inspired to make change, he used his high school savings to source some building materials, and together with a few of the local boys, built the first prototype cookstove in the home of the family who was hosting him.

Despite their inexperience with mixing cement, and multiple initial attempts resulting in stoves that collapsed upon heating, perseverance eventually paid off. Through trial and error, they eventually created their first fully functional stove, which continues to stand strong to this day. In the weeks that followed, Conrad noticed that the impact his first stove had was remarkable. Smoke inside the home was reduced to almost zero, and the rate of firewood usage reduced by nearly two thirds. Word spread quickly throughout the villages, and before long, there was waitlist of families all interested in having a stove built in their homes.

The demand at that time, was simply too great to meet. Conrad knew that resources and funding beyond his own would ultimately be needed to take on this challenge. This is what sparked the idea to establish a sustainable ecotourism model, where the beauty of the very region could be used to fund projects that would go hand in hand with preserving it. Soon after, Nahua Expeditions was officially born.

Over the past few years, we’ve been able to allocate full funding to training and stove construction in three of the key surrounding villages adjacent to the canyon. This initiative has not only improved the health for beneficiary families, but empowered locals with skills and job opportunities, and saved over 220 hectares (545 acres) of trees that would have normally been logged under conventional open-fire stoves!

With our trips, as visitors through these regions, we wanted to directly involve our guests in the construction of the cookstoves. After finishing the expedition, before exiting the jungle, our group constructs a stove in the home of a local family. This hands-on experience allows our guests to directly contribute to the well-being of the community and witness the life-changing impact of their efforts. By involving our guests in these projects, we wanted to ensure that every expedition leaves a lasting, positive mark on both the people and the environment.

Looking Ahead: Our Vision for the Future

While we celebrate this milestone, we are acutely aware that our journey is far from over. Our mission is to continue building these life-changing stoves until every household in need has access to one. We envision a future where the air in every kitchen is clean, where forests are preserved, and where communities thrive economically and socially.

Join Us in Making a Difference

The success of our sustainable brick stove initiative is a powerful reminder of what can be achieved when communities come together for a common cause. Here at Nahua Expeditions, your participation in our trips fuels the resources needed for these critical conservation efforts. By joining us, you are directly contributing to the health and sustainability of the rural communities, which in turn, drastically improve and protect the ecosystems you will visit. We invite you to be part of this journey. Whether through traveling with us, donating, volunteering, or spreading the word, your support is crucial in building a healthier, more sustainable future for these unique and delicate regions.

At Nahua Expeditions, we are not just building stoves; we are building hope, health, and a sustainable tomorrow. Together, we can ensure that this movement continues to grow, one stove at a time.