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Solar Cooker Review
Volume 10, Number 1
In This Issue
News you send
AFRICA AND EUROPE
In January 2004 Vincent Nnanna, an experienced solar cooking advocate, held a two-day workshop with members of Canadian World Youth who are volunteering in the south-central part of Benin near Bohicon. The 25 participants learned how to build and use solar box cookers and panel cookers (Solar Cookers International’s CooKits). Project Coordinator Ed Carswell took the opportunity to demonstrate how heated water and a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI) work in conjunction to pasteurize drinking water. Since the workshop the youth have been traveling around the rural outskirts of Bohicon teaching households how to make and use solar cookers. Subsequent workshops are being planned for schools in Cotonou.
Contact: Vincent Nnanna, 01 BP 1126, Cotonou 00229, Benin. Tel: 00229444619, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The La Trame documentary film studio has released Bon appétit, Monsieur Soleil, a film about solar cooking in Burkina Faso. (It has French subtitles.) The film covers the essential points of solar cooking, the acceptance of these devices by the population, the advantages achieved by using them (savings in money and/or time), and their contribution to fighting deforestation. The film is a tool to inform people living in countries with energy problems about other ways to cook. It also serves to introduce this cooking method to decision makers in government agencies and NGOs. La Trame plans to release versions of the film subtitled in English, Spanish and German, and dubbed in Bambara, Dioula and Mooré.
For more information visit La Trame’s Web site: www.la-trame.org.
Here’s a tip from the Solare-Bruecke Web site (http://solare-bruecke.org): you can bake with a parabolic cooker by placing your baking pan inside a larger, covered pot with space all around the baking pan. In this way, you don't get a “hot spot” on the baking pan. Instead, inside the outer pot it is more like an oven and the heat is more evenly distributed.
Lilongwe Rotary Club has embarked on a solar cooker project in the central region of Malawi. The project is organized by a team of researchers led by Mr. Hosana Nyirenda, a solar cooking advocate who first contacted Solar Cookers International in 1998. The pilot phase is expected to last one year, with a budget of US $27,000. Additional funds are needed.
Contact: Hosana Nyirenda, c/o e-mail: email@example.com.
Many foods ― such as beans, grains, stews and soups ― require long, fuel intensive simmering periods to cook properly. A retained-heat cooker can finish off these dishes without fuel (or sunlight if solar cooking) and can keep cooked foods warm for long periods of time. A retained-heat cooker, also known as a fireless cooker or “hay box”, is an insulated enclosure in which is set a pot of food that has been brought to a boil, allowing it to continue to cook after being removed from its heat source. Solar product designer Richard Pocock calls his version the Wonder Cushion. It is a great companion to a solar cooker, allowing for food to cook or stay warm as the sun sets.
The Wonder Cushion is made from two large disks of material sewn together in such a way as to create a base circle, on which the pot rests, and a series of pockets like the petals on a daisy. These pockets, and the base circle, are filled with an insulating material such as vermiculite, sawdust, feathers, shredded paper or wool. When sewing up the pockets make a fold over tube for a drawstring. A carrying handle can also be added. An insulated, circular pillow must also be sewn. This pillow is placed on the pot’s lid before cinching the unit with a drawstring, preventing heat loss through the top of the pot. Mr. Pocock suggests placing the pot in a heat-resistant bag before it goes in the Wonder Cushion in case of food spillage, but it isn’t necessary.
Contact: Richard Pocock, Solarworks, 81 Archer Crescent, Manor Gardens, Durban 4001, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Tel/fax: 27(0)31 2616881, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
An inexpensive solar collector, developed in Brazil, has been used by growers and nurseries for the past decade to disinfest soil. Solar methods reduce or eliminate the need for methyl bromide, a toxic, ozone-depleting pesticide.
The solar collector is comprised of six dark-colored metal tubes, each 15 centimeters in diameter, placed in a wooden box 1.5 meters long, 1.0 meter wide and 0.3 meter deep. Transparent plastic film allows sunlight in through the top of the box, while aluminum foil lines the bottom of the box to increase heating. Soil or other substrates are placed in the tubes through an upper hatch during the early morning and recovered through the lower hatch 24 hours later. Midday soil temperatures in the tubes reach 70-80ºC. According to Dr. Raquel Ghini, a plant pathologist, one sunny day is enough to control several plant pathogens, including Fusarium, Pythium, Sclerotium, Sclerotinia and Meloidogyne.
Contact: Raquel Ghini, Embrapa Meio Ambiente, C.P. 69, 13820-000 Jaguariúna SP, Brazil. E-mail: email@example.com.
United States of America
Dr. Paul Funk, a solar cooking expert and previous Solar Cookers International (SCI) board member, sends news that after many years of effort an official standard for testing and reporting solar cooker performance has been adopted by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers. (Food and process engineering fall under the realm of this organization.) These efforts were initiated by the Test Standard Committee at 1997’s Third World Conference on Solar Cooking sponsored by Avinashilingam University and SCI. The standards are available on SCI’s Solar Cooking Archive: www.solarcooking.org/asae_test_std.pdf.
Abe McBride, a student in Greenville, Tennessee (USA), researched solar cookers for a science fair project. He found them to be fairly expensive so he decided to make some for himself using salvage materials. The amazing part of this story? Abe did all the work by himself, and he is five years old! He built three types of solar cookers ― a solar box cooker, a panel-type cooker, and a concentrating cooker ― using tools his grandfather gave him. When the cookers were finished, Abe tested several recipes and pasteurized water in them.
ASIA AND PACIFIC
Pre-formed parts and cutting jigs for 400 “SOS Sport” solar box cookers from the Solar Oven Society were shipped to Afghanistan last year. These cookers were assembled locally, providing needed work opportunities. Gordon Magney ― formerly of SERVE, a relief organization that spread solar cookers in Pakistan and Afghanistan ― is leading a pilot partnership project implemented by International Foundation of Hope and Global Hope Network in Istalif village, a suburb of Kabul. Nearly all of the SOS Sport cookers have since been purchased. Tests are now being conducted as to the usefulness of parabolic solar cookers in that area.
Thanks to Virginie Mitchem, Task Force Coordinator of Solar Cookers International’s Ad Hoc Committee on Afghanistan, for keeping us posted on these and other events.
Horn Relief, a local Somali NGO, recently imported several solar cookers from China with the assistance of a small grant from Mrs. Li Hsiao-li of Beijing. The cookers are being used in the Bosaso region of northeast Somalia. It is an arid region with a lot of sunshine and limited fuel wood resources so solar cooking has obvious attractions. (The head of Horn Relief won the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2001 for her work in environmental conservation, in particular her efforts to control the charcoal trade in northeastern Somalia that is decimating the little remaining tree cover in the country to supply an export market to the Middle East.)
The cooker’s parabolic mirrors are made of cast iron with a highly reflective aluminum tape comprising the reflective surface. This tape has proved to be durable, yet repairable if necessary. Weighing 80 kilograms, the cookers are sturdy and stable in high winds. Tracking of the sun is simple due to rotational capabilities around its vertical axis. Tilt of the reflective panels is also adjustable. The cookers come with reflective areas ranging from 1.5 to 2.5 square meters.
“The solar cookers are great,” says a new Bosaso solar cook. “One of them is working at our office. There is always something on it. Food, tea, water. Some months ago the solar cooker cooked for 28 persons.” The Chinese cookers cost approximately US $100 each including sea transport charges from China.
For more information about the cookers, contact: Mr. Zhang Zang, Sangli Solar, Sheng Zhou Road # 8, Yan Du Industrial Zone, Yan Cheng City, 224005 Jiang Su Province, China. Tel: +86 515-8466966 x 8008, fax: +86 515-8466877, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.chinasangli.com/2oven.htm.
Dr. Mahnaz Saremi, former project director at Solar Cookers International, presented a seminar titled “Environment, NGOs and Community projects, Case Study: Solar Cooking in East Africa” at Shiraz University in December 2003.
Contact: Mahnaz Saremi, 7624 Amber Way, Stockton, California 95207, USA. Tel: 209-478-7925, e-mail: email@example.com.
Amir Mahdi Komarizadeh, a graduate student at Azad University in Iran, has designed, built and tested a concentrating-type solar cooker called Vafa. It consists of a segmented frame and four mirrored fiberglass panels with an aperture area of 1.5 square meters. Each panel is adjustable. For safety reasons the panels are designed to provide a focal area of 225 square centimeters instead of a focal point. This design allows for maximum temperatures of about 250ºC. The advantages of his semi-parabolic design include lower material cost compared to full parabolic design, easy access to the cooking pot, and protection of mirrored surfaces from possible food spillage. Additional stability is gained by allowing wind to pass between the four panels. On clear days in Tehran most dishes will cook in 30-90 minutes in a pressure cooker.
Contact: Amir Mahdi Komarizadeh, No. 3, 24 Alley, Bimeh 3 St., Ekbatan Minisity, Azadi Sq., Tehran, Iran. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saveur magazine recently published a 1955 photo showing Mr. Seizo Goto of Tokyo demonstrating his parabolic solar cooker on top of the 72-story RCA building in New York City, where he successfully cooked rice despite cool air temperatures of -6ºC. The photo originally ran on the front page of the New York Herald Tribune, and the event was reported on television and radio. Ms. Yasuko Torii, an avid solar cook and promoter, was inspired by this discovery of early solar cooking research in Japan and reports her findings on Mr. Goto’s pioneering work.
Schematics of Mr. Goto’s 600-watt solar cooker
Seizo Goto (1891-1982), founder of telescope and planetarium company Goto Optical Manufacturing, built two parabolic solar cookers in 1947 with a subsidy from Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Over the years he built several other solar cookers ― some quite sophisticated ― and displayed them throughout Japan and China in the 1950s. Mr. Goto was invited by Stanford University’s Dr. Marjil to display a solar cooker at an international solar energy symposium in Arizona (USA) in November 1955. After this event he was invited by the Rockefeller Foundation to cook atop the RCA building.
Contact: Yasuko Torii, 2-8-12 Kamitsuchidana, Kita, Ayase, Kanagawa 252-1111, Japan. Tel: 81-467-793334, fax: 81-467-793334, e-mail: email@example.com, web: www5.ctktv.ne.jp/~y-torii.
Since 1996 Rotary has funded small solar cooker projects in the village of Bhandar, Nepal. Since our report on these efforts last year an additional 56 SK-14 parabolic solar cookers have been disseminated, bringing the total to 122 cookers in this village of roughly 400 families. Leading these efforts has been Klaus Schulte, a Rotarian from Sweden. The cookers were produced by silversmiths in Kathmandu, transported by bus and carried over the Himalayas in big baskets. The Project Manager is Temba Lama.
Excerpts from a report by Devendra Ghimire, a beneficiary of the solar cooking projects in Bhandar, follow: “I received a solar cooker in November 2000. … It can boil up to 40 liters of water during solar day. The water is used for taking baths, cleaning dishes, making tea and for cooking food. … It is very easy and useful to boil beans, potatoes and other beans, which usually consumes more kerosene. It is found that it saves from Rs. 1350 to Rs. 1500 in Kerosene in a month. … It protects environment from pollution and protects diseases caused by smoke. It helps to preserve natural environment. It reduces from eye diseases, like eyes hurt, eyes being black and eyes being swelled. … It is very easy for us to make tea and cook food in the solar heater together even when I am studying books in a day. It also makes easy to farmers they can consume more of their time for farming by cooking their food in the solar cooker easily. … I have to tolerate a lot of smokes coming inside my house when someone cooks food for us and make animal seeds. Now we don't have such problems. It is like a reviving medicine to my family and to the entire [village].”
Solar cookers benefit the Bhandar economy: here, a solar cooker is used to melt honey for saleable skin ointment
Contact: Klaus Schulte, Stenbyvägen 12, 15021 Mölnbo, Sweden. E-mail: Klaus.Schulte@telia.com.
The EMACE Foundation continues its efforts to spread solar cooking in Sri Lanka, particularly war-torn northern and eastern regions.
Workshops were recently held in the Vavuniya district and orders for 50 solar box cookers were filled. Twenty parabolic solar cookers ― designed and provided by Dominic Michaelis of Solar Energy Ltd. ― were also distributed. According to EMACE, “Women in particular are benefiting from the cookers as they enable them … to spend more time away from cooking and to save money otherwise spent on firewood. Many have used the extra time and money to start their own micro-businesses ― some have even used the cookers themselves to gain extra income by selling cakes and sweets prepared in them.”
Demand for cookers among these communities is currently outstripping supply. EMACE is looking for additional support to assist with production and transport costs. EMACE recently began to produce its own solar box cookers, helping to keep costs down and ensure the project’s viability.
Contact: Oliver Walton, Solar Project Coordinator, EMACE, 1/72 Sri Rahula Mawatha, Katubedda, Moratuwa 10400, Sri Lanka. Tel: 94-11-2611 857, fax: 94-11-2611 857, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.emace.net; Solar Energy Ltd., web: www.solarenergyltd.net.
SCI board looks toward 2010
By Bev Blum, SCI Executive Director
At its exciting spring meeting, Solar Cookers International’s dynamic, diverse board of directors set six program goals for the year 2010, each embracing major new initiatives. You’ll be hearing more as we map out the details and seek support for major undertakings. The discussions were enriched by three professional facilitators who generously donated their services: Heidi Kolbe, Shahrzad Saderi and Leslie Parks. To them we are most grateful.
SCI’s top priority for 2010 is independent spread of solar cooking beyond Nyakach ― its “Sunny Solutions” project community in western Kenya ― to all suitable parts of Kenya. We also continue to support a refugee-run solar cooking cooperative in Kakuma refugee camp.
Refugee Shadrack Alumai finishes painting the new Solar Cooking Cooperative (SOCOCO) building
A close second priority is the mobilization of solar cooking leaders worldwide for joint advocacy toward public and private support to spread solar cooking for health, economic and environmental benefits in the twenty most needy countries. This will include two international meetings.
Two other priorities are 1) to provide technical assistance in several selected countries to governments or other major institutions wanting to promote solar cooking, and 2) to select one or more additional countries for multi-year projects over the next decade.
Our often-copied and translated educational resources support all of the above initiatives and need expanding in scope and accessibility. Our respected worldwide query-response service continues to assist thousands of solar cooking advocates worldwide.
The board elected a new board member, Bruce Stahlberg, an energy efficiency expert and businessman who has promoted household energy efficiency in Latin America. The board also created two adjunct groups ― SCI Advocates and International Advisors ― to honor SCI volunteers and key solar cooker promoters respectively.
You, our supporters and advocates, help shift the paradigm toward sustainable solutions for future generations. If you haven’t yet joined or renewed for this year, please do so. We’ll put your gift to work immediately. Thanks for your visionary support.
Preview of coming attractions: a worldwide solar cooking movement
By Ramón Coyle, SCI Database Coordinator
Responses to a recent Solar Cookers International (SCI) survey indicate that a few hundred individuals, nonprofit organizations, research centers and alternative energy businesses have produced well over 100,000 solar cookers.
By January 2004, 234 individuals and organizations had responded to SCI’s 2003 survey of solar cooking promoters.
Responses came from solar cooking promoters in 67 different countries, including 18 in India, 12 in Nigeria, 11 in Kenya, 11 in Uganda, 10 in Tanzania, nine in South Africa, six in Nepal, six in Haiti, and five each in Argentina, Nepal, Mali and The Gambia.
No single type of solar cooker stands out as the “cooker of choice” for promoters. Respondents are involved with promoting the very large and powerful Scheffler community kitchens, SCI’s humble, low-cost “CooKit” panel-type cooker, and many cookers in between. Other cookers include parabolic-type cookers, concentrator trough cookers and a variety of box cookers.
Of the 234 respondents, 130 teach others to solar cook, 120 build solar cookers and 107 demonstrate solar cooking in various public forums. For example, Dr. Michael Götz of Switzerland demonstrates solar cooking at various fairs and festivals, serving delicious solar pancakes to stimulate people’s appetites for more solar cooking knowledge.
Fifty-four of the respondents report that they sell solar cookers, in many cases at subsidized prices. Seventy respondents report that they teach people to be solar cooking instructors. Collectively they have trained over 1,700 instructors.
Some leading promoters
Gordon Magney, now based in Kabul, Afghanistan, reports 21,000 solar box cookers produced in a long career involving service to Afghani communities both in refugee camps in Pakistan and in Afghanistan itself. He has also promoted solar cooking in Tajikistan.
Rotarian Wilfred Pimentel reports that 20,000 solar cookers have been produced as a result of his efforts to teach solar cooking through partnerships among Rotary organizations, frequently supported by Girl Guide solar cooking instructors.
Supporting Mr. Pimentel’s estimate are the responses from an alliance known as “Four Rotary Clubs of Bulawayo” and the Girl Guides of Zimbabwe. These groups jointly have produced and distributed 6,500 cookers in southern Zimbabwe in a little over six years. Meanwhile, in Zambia, the Girl Guide Association, with aid from a local Rotary group, has taught 500 people to make and use their own solar cookers.
The Seyhan Rotary Club in southeastern Turkey reports nearly 2,000 solar panel cookers produced and distributed — over 800 through training workshops and 1,000 supplied in an earthquake disaster relief effort in Turkey.
Dieter Seifert ― inventor of the SK-14 and similar parabolic cookers ― estimates that about 16,000 of his cookers have been produced worldwide.
The Sunstove Organization, based in South Africa, says it has sold 12,000 of its Sunstove® box cookers. Mission Mazahua, in Mexico, is one of the producers of the Sunstove®, and it reports 600 cookers made at its center in Mexico.
Group ULOG of Switzerland reports 10,000 cookers distributed. ULOG is best known for its sturdy box cookers that are used in many countries, but ULOG also promotes parabolic cookers and the Scheffler solar kitchens.
A grassroots organization in Uganda — Solar Connect Association — also reports 10,000 solar cookers produced. These are mostly cardboard solar panel cookers made by and for the new solar cooks themselves.
Javahar Maniar, a retired solar box cooker business owner in Baroda, India, reports that in his career he produced and sold 10,000 solar cookers.
Other survey respondents who reported producing/distributing 250 or more cookers included these:
In a show of inspiring persistence, Noel Bourke of Sola Kookas in Perth, Australia, reports hand-building 45 solar box cookers per year for the past 10 years.
Ideas for spreading solar cooking
Many solar cooking promoters try to make use of existing institutions whose mission is compatible with teaching solar cooking. For example, even though our survey did not ask a specific question about schools, nearly 10 percent of the respondents volunteered the information that their strategy involves spreading solar cooking through universities, colleges, secondary schools, primary schools or training centers.
Salifu Mahama in Ghana, for example, reports teaching 1,000 students how to make solar box cookers using packing cases and cardboard. Hans Bekaert of Belgium reports that his organization developed an educational program for the Belgian government to promote renewable energy in schools. In Sagara, Karnataka, India, K. Venkatesha reports that a solar cooking awareness program exists in 20 schools. Rayner Sturton in Australia notes that by teaching solar cooking to his primary school students, he is able to get the parents interested and involved in solar cooking.
The Girl Guides Association of Zambia looks at the question from a fresh angle. When they invite adults to a workshop on solar cooking, they provide a day school environment for the children, so that the parents are free for the workshop and the children are also stimulated.
Besides schools, a number of promoters make use of existing health networks to promote solar cooking. “Rural primary health clinics are centers for spreading solar cooking,” reports Alice Hoenecke of the program she initiated in Madagascar, where 1,400 families have built solar panel cookers for themselves. The Solar Health/Samburu Health Project in Kenya trains community health workers and traditional birth attendants to promote solar cooking along with their other community work.
Women for Peace in South Africa teach people to make their own cardboard solar cookers. After people have mastered solar cooking, they can then apply for help in making permanent, metal cookers.
Help SCI identify solar cooking leaders in your country
In mid-2003, SCI again began taking the pulse of the solar cooking movement by surveying 4,000 international readers of the Solar Cooker Review and some selected promoters based in the United States. A story on this page discusses preliminary results of that survey.
Most have not yet responded to the survey. If you are promoting solar cooking and have not returned your survey, please do so soon. Completed surveys should be mailed to: Solar Cookers International, 1919 21st Street #101, Sacramento, California 95811, USA; or faxed: +1 (916) 455-4498. The survey is available online at www.solarcooking.org/surveys/survey1.htm.
SCI especially hopes to hear from those currently listed in our Web site’s International Directory of Solar Cooking Experts and Advocates. Those not heard from may be dropped from the directory.
The International Directory makes it easy for people working in the same part of the world to find others who share an interest in and experience with solar cooking. The directory, which is updated monthly, is available online: www.solarcooking.org/directory.asp. For those without Internet access, hard copies of specific country listings may be obtained by contacting the SCI office at the address above, or by e-mail: email@example.com.
Survey results have thus far helped us to update nearly 300 listings in the directory with improved contact information and expanded notes on solar cooking activities.
SHE, Inc. awarded grant for Mexico promotion
Solar Household Energy (SHE), Inc., in collaboration with the Mexican Nature Conservation Fund, was recently awarded a World Bank “Development Marketplace” grant. (Out of 2,700 applicants, 47 received grants.) Funds will be used to distribute 2,000 “HotPot” solar cookers in remote rural Mexican communities this year. (The HotPot is a panel-style solar cooker similar to Solar Cookers International’s CooKit, but including a custom bowl-shaped cooking pot encased in a glass bowl and lid.) HotPots will be sold to users by newly trained micro-retailers. The project will involve cooperation with community-based Mexican NGOs. Purchasers will receive thorough training to ensure that they become long-term solar cooks.
“We are looking forward to getting down to work in Mexico,” says Louise Meyer, a SHE founder who led a solar cooking pilot project in the Sierra Gorda region of Mexico in May 2003. Meyer and Lorenzo Rosenzweig, Executive Director of the Mexican Nature Conservation Fund, will manage the project. HotPots will likely be manufactured in Monterrey, Mexico.
Contact: Solar Household Energy, Inc., PO Box 15063, Chevy Chase, Maryland 20825-0063, USA. E-mail: inquiries@SHE-inc.org, web: www.she-inc.org.
Solar cookers: a tool for reaching UN Millennium Development Goals
By Pascale Dennery, SCI Program Manager
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals, adopted by all 191 United Nations Member States, are a roadmap towards the next decade of human development on a global scale. Solar cookers are a boon: they address all eight goals with their multiple social, health and environmental benefits for sun-rich communities, as illustrated below:
Goal: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Solar cookers free up scarce money as a result of savings on purchases of traditional cooking fuels ― a significant expense for those with incomes less than one dollar a day. These savings can be used on additional food.
Goal: Achieve universal primary education
Children, particularly girls, start helping at a young age with the collection of small branches and agricultural residues for use as cooking fuel. In areas of acute shortages, this task interferes with school attendance and eats up study time. Solar cookers allow children to spend more time in class.
Goal: Promote gender equality and empower women
The harsh realities of fuel wood scarcity have a disproportionate impact on women and undermine their ability to generate income through agriculture or small businesses. Solar cooker use at home or work allows women to fulfill their responsibility as the main provider of food and fuel for daily meals.
Goal: Reduce child mortality
Waterborne diseases are a primary cause of death among children under the age of five. When fuel is scarce and expensive, it becomes even harder to heed public health messages about boiling water. Solar cookers can heat water to pasteurization temperatures using free solar energy.
Goal: Improve maternal health
Smoke from cooking fires is increasingly recognized as a major health threat, particularly for women and young girls in developing countries. The health effects include acute respiratory infections, eye infections, asthma and increased risk of tuberculosis and cataracts. Smoke is also linked to low-birth weight and infant mortality. Solar cooking is clean and smoke-free, and can benefit the health of all family members.
Goal: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Acute and chronic illnesses are related to many aspect of family social-economic status. Caring for a sick family member takes time away from various livelihood activities and death of an adult family member can lead to loss of income. Solar cookers can be left unattended, so that they are user-friendly for the sick as well as those caring for them.
Goal: Ensure environmental sustainability
Over half the world’s population relies on wood and charcoal for cooking daily meals. The environmental impact of this dependence is far reaching ― loss of tree cover, soil depletion, carbon dioxide emissions, etc. Solar cookers transform clean solar energy into valuable heat for cooking and water pasteurization.
Goal: Develop a global partnership for development
Widespread access to solar cookers by those who will benefit most will require partnerships between the public and private sectors, on a local, national and international scale.
Many tool and strategies will be needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Solar cookers deserve recognition as one of these tools.
Portrait of a new solar cook
Susana Mazzolli, an active solar cooking promoter in Argentina, provided this portrait of Josefina Araujo, a new solar cook living on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.
Ms. Araujo is married, with one adult child, but she is also raising her three teenage nephews. In 2002 she took a solar cooking course offered by the government of the city of Buenos Aires as part of poverty alleviation program. Ms. Araujo works three hours per day in a local school in exchange for the city’s aid.
In July 2003 she was supplied with one of the cookers built in her course and has become a regular user. She keeps it on the small patio behind her kitchen. Although her neighborhood is dense with houses, Ms. Araujo’s patio has a good northern exposure. Since Buenos Aires is nearly 35 degrees south of the equator, a northern exposure is essential for solar cooking. The cooker is on a small stand and can be easily covered with a plastic sheet and moved under a small roof on rainy days to keep it perfectly dry.
Because the adults eat lunch at work and the children eat lunch at school, the main meal of the day is the evening meal. Ms. Araujo’s approach to solar cooking is to start the food in her solar cooker before she goes to work. After her three-hour shift, she returns in the early afternoon to find everything cooked. She then keeps it in the cooler until dinnertime and quickly reheats it on a gas stove before serving it to her family.
By using solar energy, each canister of cooking gas lasts an extra 15 days or longer, saving the family substantial funds.
“It is a great help,” Ms. Araujo says of the solar cooker. “The meals don’t burn. I can happily leave the pots with the food until whenever I return home, and the food will be cooked without being burnt or sticking to the pot.”
Ms. Araujo says that, except for fried foods, everything can be cooked in a solar cooker. Her favorites dishes include rice, polenta, vegetables, potatoes, soups, seeds, sauces, biscuits, rolls, cakes, eggs and lentils.
Contact: Susana Mazzolli, Av. Santa Fe 1159 3F, Buenos Aires 1059, Argentina. Tel: 54-11-4815-2999, fax: 54-11-4815-2999, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Cooking in a piece of cardboard … you have to see it to believe it”
By Wietske Jongbloed
For the past three years a group of professional women ― The Association of Women Engineers (AFIMA) ― have worked to spread solar cooker use throughout Mali. Their promotional slogan is “Cooking in a piece of cardboard … you have to see it to believe it”.
AFIMA invited me in May 2001 to introduce the CooKit (Solar Cookers International’s panel-style solar cooker) and its fabrication to their members. About 30 participants took the week-long course. At the end of the week they organized a big reception to mark the launch of their CooKit activities.
After the course I went with two AFIMA members to two villages south of Bamako (the capital) and two villages far to the northwest of the country to introduce the CooKit. People were astonished about the cooking heat generated by the sun. Some women could not believe that there was no fire under the cardboard. On the covers of some of the pots I placed an oven thermometer and some people thought that we were cheating, that the thermometers were producing some sort of cooking gas. (We no longer use thermometers when demonstrating!) Not only women but also men took interest. Men said that they could take the CooKit and ingredients to the field and in that way their wives would not be obligated to follow them ― often more than six miles ― to bring them their midday meal.
Larger CooKits are often requested so that meals, particularly millet porridge, can be cooked in greater quantities. Research on larger CooKits is being conducted. We find that poor rural women dare to spend their precious money on the CooKit only if it is highly subsidized, and packaged with the requisite black cooking pot, heat-resistant cooking bags, and a cotton carrying bag. They have very little money, if any, to spend on apparatus they have to try out.
Two hundred CooKits for these early courses and demonstrations were graciously provided by the KoZon Foundation. AFIMA now organizes hand production of CooKits. Since the CooKits will be sold they must look as much as possible like CooKits produced in a factory. This can be challenging with hand production. In May 2003 I worked with five AFIMA members to develop a method to accomplish this. These instructions are posted (in French) on the KoZon Web site: www.kozon.org. Quality cardboard is not readily available in Mali and must be ordered from Senegal, adding to the price of the final product. Though KoZon provides AFIMA with aluminum foil and cooking bags, the pricier cardboard (and black cooking pot) drive the price up to nearly US $18, which urban people with jobs may be able to pay. In rural areas, however, the most people seem able and willing to pay is around US $4.75.
Since 2001 AFIMA has continued to promote solar cooking throughout Mali. It developed a program to demonstrate the CooKit in the nine administrative regions of Mali. AFIMA received funding from the Islamic Education and Science Organization to demonstrate the CooKit in the Koulikoro region and the district of Bamako. The KoZon Foundation found two organizations in the Netherlands willing to finance demonstrations in the Ségou, Mopti and Kayes regions. Funds are still being sought for the Sikasso, Gao and Timbuktu regions.
Last May I accompanied seven AFIMA members to two villages ― Niamana and N'Tororo ― in the Segou region. The 250-mile journey was taken by rented school bus, in which we endured temperatures over 40ºC without air conditioning. Nobody complained. To pass the time we sang and clapped, or dozed. For both demonstrations women from 10 to 12 neighboring villages were also present. On arrival in the early morning our group first went to the village elders to be introduced and then moved to the place where the participants were waiting. In both villages about a 100 women attended, accompanied by many men and hundreds of children.
Tororo workshop participants insert a food-filled pot into a CooKit
AFIMA follows a fixed program during these demonstrations in which they include as many of the spectators as possible. First, ingredients are prepared and put in the pots. A group then takes about 30 CooKits to a sunny place nearby, unfolds them and learns to set them up, and finds stones to stabilize them in the wind. On and off women arrive with the filled pots, which are put in the transparent, heat resistant plastic bags and tied closed. Pots contain, rice, meat and chicken combined with vegetables; eggs to hard bake; and syrup preparations. While the sun is doing its work there is dancing and singing. After that, every body gathers around a microphone, some welcoming speeches are made, and a folded CooKit is put on a table and set up. We proceed to explain how the CooKit works and why the black pot is heated up by the energy of the sun. Two women out of the audience are then asked to repeat the explanations to show that they are well understood, which sometimes ends up in hilarious situations with lots of laughter. Then many questions are asked: Why do you blacken the pot? Can we find plastic cooking bags in our village? Why is aluminum foil used? How long will a CooKit last? Why don't you add water when cooking meat, vegetables and eggs?
Next, practical tips on CooKit storage and maintenance are shared, followed by more singing and dancing until the food is cooked and ready to be shown and tasted. At the end, two CooKits are given to representatives from each village so the women can test them and further explore solar cooking.
The women in these villages all cook over wood fires. We had a list of simple questions and, during the demonstrations, collected answers from 60 women. Sixty-five percent said that they belong to large families and cook for 10 to 30 persons. They prepare food three times daily starting at 5 am, 10 am and 4 pm. They collect their own wood, which takes three to four hours to find. Seventy-five percent of the women heat water to wash babies. As stated before the CooKit is not large enough to accept big cooking pots used to prepare millet broth and rice for large families. One CooKit is adequate for families of up to five persons, but two is better.
In this area the best way to popularize the CooKit is to use it to produce warm water. (Heated-water can be kept warm in a heat-retention cooker.) As they become more comfortable with the CooKit’s ability to heat water they will likely begin to utilize it more for cooking. Eggs and groundnuts are good starter foods.
Contact: Wietske Jongbloed, Stichting KoZon, Hollandseweg 384, 6705 BE Wageningen, Netherlands. Tel: 31-317412370, fax: 31-317410732, e-mail: email@example.com.
Incentives offered to motivated Haitian solar cooks
On December 18, 2003, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert presented Paul Munsen, president of Sun Ovens International, with the US Commerce Department’s Export Achievement Certificate. The award recognizes Sun Ovens International (SOI) for exports to Haiti that were made with the assistance of the Department of Commerce’s Foreign Commercial Service. SOI has been involved in Haiti since 1997. It has partnered with a number of Rotary clubs and faith-based organizations, notably the Free Methodist Inland Mission in Port-au-Prince. Sun Ovens International recently launched a new solar cooking program in Haiti that will reward motivated solar cooks with subsidized Global Sun Ovens® (GSOs) ― a popular, high-quality solar cooker that has stood the test of time.
Through the Programme Energie Solaire (PES) ― a project of the Free Methodists ― over 5,000 Haitians have learned to solar cook. This three-day training program includes sessions on solar cooking principles and concepts as well as local environmental education. Participants build their own panel-type solar cooker (modeled after Solar Cookers International’s CooKit) and solar cook lunch each day. These efforts culminate with a solar potluck on the final day. Most participants pay a fee to cover the costs of the workshop and materials.
Sun Ovens International will employ the PES training model in its new project, in which 500 women will build their own solar panel cooker. Each woman will receive a log in which to document her solar cooker use and the amount of money saved by not buying cooking fuel (charcoal). Participants who use their solar panel cooker at least 70 percent of sunny days during a 90-day period will be eligible to buy a GSO at a subsidized rate.
Creole chicken cooked to perfection in a GSO
A similar, smaller project in 2000 provided GSOs at a subsidized cost of US $50 each. (GSOs retail in the US for $229.) Of the initial people trained, 65 percent continued to use their solar panel cooker one year later on a regular basis. 92 percent of the people who obtained the GSOs continued using them regularly after the first 12 months.
The GSOs will be assembled at a vocational school located at the Evangelical Baptist Church in Lambert, Haiti. This process will provide students with vocational training and a source of income. The tooling and training required to assemble the ovens in Haiti is being provided. This will reduce the final cost by more than 50 percent. Leaders anticipate the project will expand with revenue from user fees, sales of GSOs to Haitian Americans for delivery to family members in Haiti, sales to other NGOs and solicitation of additional donors.
Contact: Sun Ovens International, 39W835 Midan Drive, Elburn, Illinois 60119, USA. Tel: 630-208-7273, fax: 630-208-7386, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.sunoven.com.
Peace Corps duo enthusiastic about Lesotho project
U.S. Peace Corps Volunteers Nancy Bailey and Mary Simonson spent two years (2001-2003) in the Butha-Buthe district of northern Lesotho. A favorite project of theirs was solar cooking. “The amazing thing about the solar oven project is the unprecedented level of community interest and investment,” says Ms. Simonson. “Previous workshops … were historically poorly attended if there wasn’t food offered or if participants were required to contribute money. The fact that people paid to attend these workshops where they built their own oven and only tea was served is a testament to their level of interest in this project.” A summary of their reports follows.
Lesotho is a high-altitude country with environmental degradation and cooking fuel shortages. Cow dung patties are the primary cooking fuel, supplemented with shrubs, dried aloe plants, and rootstalks of corn and other crops.
Ms. Bailey and Ms. Simonson learned about solar cooking during their Peace Corps service. They received a CooKit (Solar Cookers International’s panel-style solar cooker) from a friend, as well as plans for various types of solar cookers from SCI’s informational website the Solar Cooking Archive (http://solarcooking.org. They experimented with the CooKit and a homemade solar box cooker, testing many local foods and making modifications to optimize efficiency. Since Ms. Bailey lived at the popular Liphofung Cultural Heritage Site, many passers-by witnessed her cookers in action. Word spread and local residents began asking how they, too, could become solar cooks.
Ms. Bailey taught her colleague, Ntate Mohau, general principles of solar cooker construction and use. She then translated construction guidelines and cooking tips into the local language, Sesotho. After locating needed materials, some of which came from neighboring South Africa, Ms. Bailey offered a “build your own solar oven” workshop to friends and neighbors. Participants paid half of the materials cost (roughly US $1.40) and brought their own aluminum pots to paint black. With Mr. Mohau’s assistance, Ms. Bailey taught an initial 20 people how to build their own solar box cooker. Ms. Simonson began to lead workshops as well, concentrating on a panel-style solar cooker based on the CooKit because it was simpler to construct. Workshops generally had 10-12 participants lead by a teacher and two assistants. Workshops began with an explanation of basic solar cooking principles and cooking tips. Then participants would build their own solar cooker and paint their pots black.
Recent solar cooking “graduates” and their hand-made solar box cookers at Liphofung
During their last six months as Peace Corps Volunteers, Ms. Bailey and Ms. Simonson taught over 100 people how to make and use solar cookers. The project continues through the commitment of several Basotho solar enthusiasts and current Peace Corps Volunteers. Mr. Mohau continues to lead workshops in surrounding communities, and display and demonstrate several types of solar cookers at Liphofung. He recently led a workshop at a school for developmentally disabled children in Butha-Buthe. Now, the school has three solar cookers with which to cook the children’s lunches and each of the teachers have a solar cooker that they use at home. Another workshop participant, Mr. Mpiti, was intrigued by the design possibilities and constructed several different solar cooker prototypes including an efficient concentrator-type solar cooker made from cardboard and foil. He has shown his designs at trade shows in Butha-Buthe and hopes to begin selling the cookers. Local shops in the area now carry large oven roasting bags (a necessary component of panel-style cookers and an inexpensive glazing option for solar box cookers) and have agreed to sell the bags individually to make them more affordable. A current Peace Corps Volunteer has taught her women’s handicraft group how to solar cook and now the women use the ovens to cook their meals at work and at home. Now the women have more time to devote to their weaving, resulting in higher incomes for their families.
Contact: Nancy Bailey, Site 9 Box 7, Hoopa, California 95546, USA. E-mail: email@example.com.
Sunstove founder passes away
Richard “Dick” Wareham passed away this past January at his home in Brookfield, Wisconsin (USA). He founded the Sunstove Organization and spent much of his retirement years promoting solar cooking, particularly in South Africa.
In an obituary, his colleague Margaret Bennett wrote: “As a businessman with investments in [South Africa], Dick became aware of our environmental and social problems, especially those worsened by energy and water shortage. … He was determined that any technology designed for rural people had to be within their power to purchase. The Sunstove®, still selling today, is the result of many hours of drawing, dozens of trial models and eventual capital input from Dick. He was a tireless and enthusiastic attendee at solar conferences both in his US homeland and elsewhere in the world.”
Solar cookers and the HIV/AIDS pandemic
By: Pascale Dennery, SCI Program Manager
In addition to saving food, money and time, solar cookers offer significant health benefits via 1) reduced exposure to indoor air pollution from smoky cooking fires, 2) improved nutrition by eating slow-cooked foods, 3) fewer injuries associated with fuel wood collection and working around open fires, and 4) solar water pasteurization. These benefits are all the more life enhancing for families affected by HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS places an enormous economic and social burden on affected families. They have to:
Once an adult dies from the disease, the remaining adults and children struggle to survive day to day. The burden on elderly relatives and orphans increases as they need to get food and the fuel wood to cook it with, and raise money for many needs ― such as soap, clothing, school fees, and maintenance of their own health. Solar cookers have the potential to benefit those that are ill and those who care for them. Solar cooks that are ill may experience some or all of the following:
Mothers who are HIV positive can solar pasteurize water for infant formula with freely available solar energy. Further, according to Bob Huff, formerly with the American Foundation for AIDS Research, some exciting research is being conducted on the possibility of pasteurized, expressed breast milk reducing (or eliminating) transmission of HIV from mother to child. Initial results are favorable.
Adult caregivers who solar cook can devote more time for income generating activities and care of their ill family member(s), plus save the money they would have otherwise spent on cooking fuel to purchase additional food and other essentials. Children can attend school more regularly or take the time to study as they spend less time helping with collecting fuel wood or tending a cooking fire. In sunny communities where severe shortages of traditional fuels exist and where there is a prevalence of HIV/AIDS, solar cookers address many of the challenges faced by families in the midst of the AIDS pandemic.
Architects, builders offered built-in solar cooker option
The Solar Wall Oven (SWO) has been solar cooker pioneer Barbara Kerr’s pet project for nearly two decades. Since 1985, when she first built one into her house, she has tried to make this cooker available to the world. Now it is.
Ms. Kerr’s SWO as seen from inside her kitchen … and outside her home
The Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center has developed do-it-yourself guidelines for architects, builders and remodelers to incorporate SWOs into their own designs. These guidelines allow for adaptability to a variety of circumstances and materials. They contain instructions on how to position and mount the oven to receive sufficient sunlight. The guidelines are freely available on the Internet: www.solarcooking.org/bkerr/swo.htm. Further instructions are available for US $5-25 depending on level of detail needed. A SWO costs approximately $150 to build. A limited number of complete units are slated for production and sale. Contact: Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center, P.O. Box 576, Taylor, Arizona 85939, USA. Tel: 928-536-2269, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tribute gifts have been given to SCI by:
Spread the light by giving securities
By Virginia Callaghan, SCI Resource Coordinator
When you decide to donate appreciated securities to SCI you help fuel the spread of solar cooking. It’s quick, easy and tax-efficient! If your broker holds your securities, your donation can be transferred to:
Mr. David Hayward AG Edwards Tel: (800) 998-0832 Solar Cookers International Account #726-027056 DTC #0201
Please inform us of the transfer so that we may accurately identify and acknowledge your gift. For more information about making gifts of all kinds to SCI, please give me a call: +1 (916) 455-4499. Thank you!
First- and second-graders from Edgerton School in Kalispell, Montana (USA), earned a dime for each fact they learned during a unit about African cultures. They collected all the dimes in a bucket and donated them to Solar Cookers International. Their scholarly efforts brought in nearly $50. Way to go!
In the November 2003 Solar Cooker Review we erroneously stated that Manuel Collares Pereira lives in Spain. He actually lives Portugal. We regret the error.
Solar Cooker Review
Solar Cooker Review is published two or three times per year with the purpose of presenting solar cooking information from around the world. Topics include solar cooker technology, dissemination strategies, educational materials, and cultural and social adaptations. From time to time we cover related topics such as women’s issues, wood shortages, health, nutrition, air pollution, climatic changes, and the environment.
Solar Cooker Review is sent to those who contribute money or news about solar cooking projects. The suggested subscription price is US $10/year. Single copies are sent free to select libraries and groups overseas.
We welcome reports and commentary related to solar cooking for possible inclusion. These may be edited for clarity or space. Please cite sources whenever possible. We will credit your contribution. Send contributions to Solar Cookers International, 1919 21st Street, Suite 101, Sacramento, California 95811-6827, USA. You may also send them by fax: (916) 455-4498 or e-mail: email@example.com.
Solar Cooker Review is compiled and edited by the staff of Solar Cookers International (SCI), with layout graciously provided by IMPACT Publications located in Medford, Oregon, USA.
Back issues are available at http://solarcooking.org/docs.htm#backissues.
SCI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization assisting communities to use the power of the sun to cook food and pasteurize water for the benefit of people and environments. We do not sell, rent or trade names of our donors. Tax ID # 68-0153141.