Kakuma Refugee Solar Cooking Project--Report #1
Overall, the first phase of introducing solar cooking to refugees
in the Kakuma camp has been a success. Our original plan required
only modest adjustments, and as February ends we have met or
exceeded all of our phase-one objectives, and the basis is set for phases two and three.
We taught solar cooking skills to 100 women and trained
16 of them to teach others. I fully expect that by mid-year we will serve more than the 500 families we had originally
Speaking personally, work on this project has been thrilling.
Everything has gone much better than we had dared to hope.
The excitment created in the camp by solar cooking, and the warm
feelings shared with our Kenyan counterparts and the trainees,
were deeply moving. Some very grateful women even kissed my hand--I
was a little embarrassed. We send their thanks to all of you
who helped put together this successful first phase.
Specific Objectives Reached
- The new, ultra-simple "Cookit" panel cooker
works amazingly well, as the refugees quickly proved for themselves.
- In 6 short weeks, 100 refugee families have begun solar
cooking. Women were trained in small group sessions involving
6 to 12 at a time. The women were enthusiastic participants,
speedy learners, and happy with the whole business. Trainees
included women from the Sudan, Rwanda, Somalia, Zaire, Uganda
and from the Oromo and Amharic groups of Ethiopia.
The women are using the cookers on virtually every sunny
day to cook their basic rations of maize meal, wheat flour and
beans. They also have adventurously branched out into a variety
of new dishes, including vegetables, meat, fish and a variety
of breads. The women were enthusiastic about the fuel savings,
since their firewood ration is just a few sticks every two weeks;
when that ration was used up, they had to scrounge as they could
for anything burnable--or do without eating.
Women also noted other benefits: cleanliness, nutritional
aspects, freedom from smoke inhalation, etc. One woman
has already set up a small business solar-baking bread and selling
The home visits and follow up meeting with each group were
useful to correct misunderstandings and build confidence among
the new solar cooks. Already, the women see each other as sources
of further cooking tips and adaptations.
- Both interest in and use of solar cooking has spread throughout
the community more rapidly than expected. From the first, our
home visits to new solar cooks drew large crowds. As we moved
from place to place, everyone came along until we were a great
crowd of women, husbands, children, neighbors, etc. in a noisy,
celebratory atmosphere. Each home visit was a public demonstration
of solar cooking--so much the better because the cooks doing
the demonstrating were the people's own peers and neighbors.
Awareness is spreading daily, even when there are no home visits.
Many of our trainees tell of an endless stream of neighbors coming
to taste solar-cooked food, so much that the cooks themselves
had little left to eat. They were good spirited about that, if
not well fed!
- We identified natural leaders from among the new solar
cooks and recruited eight teams of teacher-trainees. They
received extra training and worked alongside us to learn to lead
their own workshops. Each new leader plans to teach about one
workshop per week. Having solar cooking teachers from all the
major ethnic groups here eliminates need for translators during
workshops and will aid dissemination in general. With each
workshop, there will be more solar cooks available to coach those
- Jay worked with local craftspeople to design and construct
solar cookers from a variety of local materials. Some of the
Ethiopian refugees have already built several. We've arranged
for a local company to produce CooKits in Kenya to meet the
fast-growing demand now evident here in Kakuma.
Our problems in this initial phase has been logistics and
language. The lack of predictable transportation in this remote
area has made going anywhere or obtaining supplies an uncertain
adventure. We suffered for a while from the lack of suitable
pots with good lids. We think we have worked out a reliable supply
for the next four months. We have found a good Kenya source for
the bags used for insulating the pots.
Communication is always subject to misunderstanding; translating
from one language to another merely multiplies the problems.
We often worked with double translations in the same room--for
example, from English to Armahic to Oromo. Now there are trainers
from among our first 100 students who speak each of the major
We recognize the success of the overall project must be measured
with follow-up surveys to determine ongoing use and spread of
the solar cookers and clear benefits to the users. However, the
initial introduction has been a complete success. There is
great interest among various UN and non-governmental agencies
involved in managing the Kakuma camp.
Our success here has been largely thanks to the skillful,
enthusiastic, hard work of our staff of Kenyan solar cooking teachers,
especially Emily, Soshima, Faustine, Gladys, and Anna. Their
key role here also underscores the value of SCI's long time strategy
of empowering local people to disseminate solar cooking in their
By Fall we think we will be ready to share what we've
learned--and also share some of the new trainers--with some of
the other refugee camps in East Africa.