Cook Rocket mass stove to help improve wood use by rural families in the North Patagonian Steppe (Argentina)

By Manuela Fernandez and Juan Cabrera, 2022 GEN Seed Funding Recipients 

Gabriel and Manuel talk about the changes in the house (by Juan Cabrera)

Energy sources such as electricity, natural gas, canned gas, oil or wood are not equally available for all of us. Large inequalities in energy availability and consumption exist within populated cities and between urban and rural areas.

The northern Patagonia territories are comprised of a few small towns along a route between the Andes and the Argentinian Sea surrounded by dispersed rural population occupying a land subjected to severe desertification processes, structural vulnerabilities that include inefficient road network (lack of connection and communication), limited availability of telecommunications, poor infrastructure and houses without electricity, gas, water reservoirs,  exodus of young people and access to wood.

Needless to say, the people living in the rural areas described above have very limited access to energy sources for heating their homes and only few of them can afford to pay for a truck of wood. In this sense, “Rocket” burning technology incorporated into masonry stoves(mass heaters) are highly efficient in the use of wood and present an opportunity to level the field with regard to energy consumption. These stoves are not new, although they are not as popular as we believe they should be. Rocket mass stoves are highly efficient due to the doble combustion of wood on the one side and particulate materials and gasses such as carbon monoxide, methane and hydrogen on the other, which likewise makes them safer compared to steel wood burning kitchens like the one in the picture below.

Photo: Martín and Manuel work on the front of the stove while Santiago watches (by Juan Cabrera)

Moreover, the “mass” in masonry stoves can take any form, usually we build a couch or a bed to have a warm surface to sit or lay on when you are inside the common area (the living room) of the house, but it can also take the form of a stairway or the fume conducts can go through a wall and become a bed or a couch in the next room. The stove can also be adapted to the form of the room it will be built in to better serve its purpose and the users.

Photo: Nilda sitting in the couch one year after the rocket was built (by Virginia Velasco)

Our project aims to promote wellbeing and to empower family farmers and rural extensionists through participatory learning processes in the self-construction of Cook Rocket mass stoves. We also aim to reduce the use of wood promoting a very efficient technology, due to the burning process and to the accumulation of heat, released to the kitchen after the stove hours after the stove is already “off”, heat that is otherwise lost to the environment.