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A simple, decent environment -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

A simple, decent environment

In Latin America, smart building strategies reduce disease and improve access to clean water



In Varjada, a cistern provides Marcone Ramos Herculano’s Habitat house with water.


As in most parts of the world, Habitat for Humanity’s goal in Latin America is to build decent, affordable houses that provide the families that live in them a warm, dry place to eat, sleep, study and work. It is a happy consequence that in several instances, the resulting houses tread a little lighter on the environment, as well.

In Honduras, Habitat has been working with 75 families in an indigenous Mayan subgroup, the Chor’ti’, to improve their housing to address multiple health concerns, one of which is poor indoor air quality. But by improving the stoves the Chor’ti’ families use for cooking, they also can significantly reduce the amount of forest wood burned.

“By improving cooking efficiency through thicker stove walls and a hot plate and incorporating smoke ventilation via a chimney, Habitat will increase stove fuel efficiency by an estimated 75 percent, reduce families’ exposure to smoke inhalation and support the local municipality drive to combat deforestation,” says Javier Angulo, a project-based-funding manager in Latin America.

In Varjada, Brazil, Habitat has partnered with a group of civil service organizations in this semiarid part of the country to build a 16,000-liter cistern for each Habitat house. The cisterns capture rainwater for household use because the local soil is too dry and salty for wells to be a cost-effective option. Before the first cisterns were built in 2005, families had to travel 3 kilometers, or nearly 2 miles, to the nearest source of water.