If you’re anything like me, you have probably never worried about how you would cook your next meal. In homes in the United States, we are equipped with stoves, ovens, microwaves, and toasters. And most of us have the electricity or gas connection necessary for said appliances.
But that’s not the case everywhere. Especially not in rural Bangladesh, where good firewood for ovens is scarce, specifically in the winter months. People like 45-year-old Nondita Rani Howlader, and those who came before her, had to get creative to find ways that would allow them to cook food year-round to enable them to maintain their livelihoods.
Nondita Rani Howlader (45) covers a large stick in cow dung. This will serve as an alternative to firewood.
The solution? Cow dung. Yes, you read that right: poop.
“Every morning I collect the cow dung and use it to cover large sticks,” Nondita said. “I make 20-30 per day depending on how much dung I get from my seven cows.”
After covering the sticks in cow dung, the sticks are set to dry. Once dry, they can be used just like firewood because the dung catches fire easily.
“We make the sticks in the dry season,” Nondita said. “I store mine under a store house that I have just for wood and sticks. Then in the rainy season, we use the dung for fertilizer because it would not be able to dry on the sticks anyway.”
This is a tradition that has been passed down in this community for generations.
“My mother made the sticks and taught me how to make them,” Nondita said. “I have taught my daughters. They were slow at first, but now they can make the sticks very quickly.”
Nondita saves 10-15 sticks per day for the rainy season and uses 10-15 every day for regular use around her home and to cook puffed rice, which she sells in the port near her community.
“During Ramadan, the puffed rice market is very high,” Nondita said. “Without the sticks, I would have to use more firewood, which is very difficult to collect here.”
The money she makes from her puffed rice business helps to provide for everyone in her household: her husband and two of her children.
Learn more about how to help entrepreneurial women like Nondita here.