[Editor’s note: "News you send" is compiled by Ramón Coyle, Solar Cookers International’s information exchange specialist. E-mail your news items to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Ramón Coyle, Solar Cookers International, 1919 21st Street #101, Sacramento, California 95811-6827, USA. We want to hear from you — especially if your program is growing or if your work has not been featured in the Solar Cooker Review before. Please include your contact information. Submissions are subject to editing if printed.]
Based in Nairobi, AltEner is a "business with a philosophy" that promotes renewable energy and delivers custom solar energy solutions. In addition to solar cooking, the company works in the fields of solar water heating, solar electricity, wind energy, and energy planning and management. AltEner has installed large scale, concentrator-type cooking systems, based on the Scheffler community kitchen concept, in several countries. The company can also design high temperature trough solar cooking systems. Charles Onyango-Oloo, the principle force behind AltEner, wrote an interesting paper titled "The Special Challenges of Solar Cooking." In his paper, Onyango-Oloo urges solar cooking promoters to endorse a mix of technologies instead of only one type of cooker. "Because technology can be intimidating to the uninitiated, the technological simplicity or sophistication of the solar cooker should match the background of the prospective user as closely as possible to avoid ‘socio-technologic disconnect.’… Where promoters of particular technologies aim to justify their choices by playing down the role of other technologies in the appropriate technological matrix, the end result usually is an overall loss of faith in the entire process of solar cooking amongst the intended beneficiaries." Onyango-Oloo’s paper also urges that projects be designed in phases, so that lessons learned in early stages can be applied to later stages as the project grows. Contact: AltEner Energy Technologies, P.O. Box 8876-00300, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: +254 721-727830, e-mail: email@example.com, Web: www.solarenergykenya.com
McDonald Ganisyeje of Malawi teamed up with Dr. Jan Snyder of United States in mid-2006 to build 53 panel-type solar cookers similar to the CooKit. These cookers will be sold, with the proceeds used to purchase supplies to build greater numbers of solar cookers to reach ever greater numbers of families. The project will target the Lilongwe and Nkhotakota areas first, and if all goes well will expand to other areas. Contact: McDonald Ganisyeje, Land & Lake Safaris, Box 2140, Lilongwe, Malawi. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
As part of a teaching program to promote pasteurization of drinking water, Earl Stanley sent 100 of Solar Cookers International’s Water Pasteurization Indicators (WAPIs) to the Touching Hearts organization for use in Malawi. The WAPIs were distributed by Rev. Max Jawati. "It fills me with great joy and satisfaction," Jawati said, "to report to you that the WAPIs we received … were successfully tested by 50 families in the rural villages and are life and cost effective." He noted that the WAPIs not only worked well when pasteurizing with solar energy, but also when pasteurizing over wood or charcoal fires. Contact: Michele Dixon, Touching Hearts, Inc., P.O. Box 761, Novi, Michigan 48376, USA. E-mail: email@example.com
J.P. Martin-Vallas of Montpellier, France recently traveled with his partner to Mali. They took two solar cookers — a box-type cooker based on a design by Gnibouwa Diassana of Bla, Mali and an SK14 parabolic-type cooker. The pair visited several experienced solar cooker promoters: Diassana; Bernard Ledea Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso, who assembles SK14s; and Maï Kamate, who works with carpenters to make solar box cookers based on a Bolivia Inti design. They also met with solar cooks and led a few solar cooking demonstrations at hotels and markets they patronized. Martin-Vallas saw several locally made and imported solar cookers, but many were in poor condition or seldom used. During the trip, Martin-Vallas inquired how much people spent on firewood. Prices from one city to another varied greatly depending on scarcity. Free firewood collection is still possible in some rural villages, particularly in the north. The following chart shows some sample annual firewood expenditures for households of 10 people. (Note: 500 CFAs is approximately US $1.)
Based on knowledge gained from visiting solar cooking promoters and appropriate technology organizations, Martin-Vallas has developed some recommendations for solar cooker dissemination in Mali:
Martin-Vallas concluded that imported parabolic-type solar cookers are currently too expensive for most Malians. One way to lower prices, he says, would be to import bulk aluminum sheets and cut panels on site. Contact: J.P. Martin-Vallas. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wietske Jongbloed reports that she and a team of three others in Tahoua trained 14 women, all teachers and civil servants, in the complimentary technologies of solar cookers, fuel-efficient wood stoves, and heat-retention cookers. The first two days of the training were cloudy, so the focus was on fuel-efficient stoves ("poêle économe") and heat-retention cookers ("bitatoré"). Heat-retention cookers are insulated enclosures in which is set a pot of food that has been brought to a boil, allowing the food to continue to cook after being removed from the heat source. Rice, meat, and legume dishes were cooked successfully using this method. On days three and four the sun started to shine. Peanuts and sweet potatoes were cooked in solar CooKits and shared with five visiting directors of ministries. The directors praised the solar-cooked food, along with the dishes prepared with the other devices. Jongbloed recalled, "They asked where the cooked peanuts were, which I thought were meant for the children, and just ate the peanuts up and praised the CooKit in which the peanuts were cooked and made speeches telling us that they would help in all ways if the women of Tahoua could all be taught to use these complimentary devices." On the final day, several banana cakes were baked in CooKits, as were a couple dozen eggs. After the 14 women gain more experience using the three complimentary devices, several of them will be chosen to lead future trainings. The goal is to train close to 200 women, and to provide them each with a CooKit. Affordable purchase plans for the fuel-efficient stoves and heat-retention cookers are being explored. Contact: Wietske Jongbloed, Stichting KoZon, Hollandseweg 384, 6705 BE Wageningen, Netherlands. Tel: 31-317412370, fax: 31-317410732, e-mail: email@example.com, Web: www.kozon.org
Fatima Jibrell of Sun Fire Cooking traveled to Capetown, South Africa in August where she presented a new video about Sun Fire Cooking’s work to the United Nations Global Environmental Facility. Its work in Somalia was also featured on a BBC television program in October. Sun Fire Cooking hopes to make a longer video to help spread the word about the transformative power of solar cooking. Contact: Sun Fire Cooking, above Dalsan Bank, Bosaso, Somalia. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.sunfirecooking.com
Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement organized a regional solar cooking conference this past August in Vogan. Over 60 people from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Togo attended, including Mr. Joseph Odey, a leading solar cooking promoter in Nigeria and Vincent Nnanna, who has been teaching solar cooking in Benin for years. Youth groups and women’s groups from Togo sent representatives as well. Also attending were Togo’s Deputy Minister of Energy and Water, the Attache to the Minister of Environment, and the Prefect of the Vo District. Many people learned to make and use solar cookers and were shown how to use the cookers to pasteurize drinking water. Some of the attendees from outside Togo were happy to take their newly constructed solar cookers back to their home countries.
A parabolic-type solar cooker was assembled and presented to the District Hospital of Vogan. In addition, participants from several countries agreed to form the Network of Solar Actors of West Africa to promote further discussion and to foster the spread of solar technologies in the region. The Togolese Ministries of Energy and Environment sponsored the conference. Additional support was received from Norges Naturvernforbund, a Norwegian nongovernmental organization. Contact: Sena Alouka, Jeunes Volontaires pour l’Environnement, 131, Rue Ofe, Tokoin Casablanca, Box 8823, Lome, Togo. Tel: +228-2200112, e-mail: email@example.com, Web: www.ong-jve.org
In April 2007, two dozen young adults will embark on a human-powered trek from the North Pole to the South Pole, following an Eastern Hemisphere route. Canada’s Pole to Pole Leadership Institute, which is organizing the trek, "captures the imagination of youth world-wide by undertaking epic journeys that demonstrate how youth can overcome obstacles, become leaders in their own right, and effect positive global change." Working in conjunction with the trek team will be 80 members of advance teams that "work to produce tangible and positive results world-wide by assisting charitable projects addressing social, environmental and sustainable economic issues." One of the 10 advance teams will work on a project to provide solar cookers and training to over 1,000 African families. Contact: Pole to Pole Leadership Institute, Suite 503, 280 Nelson Street, Vancouver, British Columbia V6B 2E2, Canada. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.poletopoleleadership.com
Solar Energy International’s next "Renewable Energy for the Developing World" workshop will be held 22-27 January, 2007, at Rancho Mastatal environmental learning and sustainable living center. The center is located in the last virgin rainforest of Costa Rica’s Puriscal County. The property shares a significant border with the splendid La Cangreja national park, in Sabana Grande. Much of the six-day workshop will be hands on: participants will help a women’s cooperative build and use solar ovens, design and install a solar-electric system, and build a methane biodigester, amongst other things. The workshop will also include overviews of social and cultural issues related to working in the developing world. The registration fee of $650 covers food, lodging and all in-country transportation. Contact: Solar Energy International, P.O. Box 715, Carbondale, Colorado 81623, USA. Tel: 970-963-8855, fax: 970-963-8866, e-mail: email@example.com, Web: www.solarenergy.org
Global Sun Ovens® — the durable box-type solar cookers developed by Sun Ovens International — are now being assembled in the Dominican Republic for use there and in Haiti, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kevin Adair, owner of Force of the Sun, says his company offers the ovens for sale at a significant discount to nonprofit organizations. He predicts the company will distribute 50,000 solar cookers regionally in the next three years. Force of the Sun began full production of Global Sun Ovens® in May, and shipped its first cookers to Haiti in June. The factory was designed by solar cooking expert Jack Anderson and is located in the Higuey Zona Franca Ecological in Altagracia Province. Additional space is available for rent to other nonprofits and manufacturers of ecologically sensitive products. Adair believes that by networking with other groups in the Dominican Republic, he will be able to spread the solar cooking idea faster. The company offers training to nonprofits that will distribute solar cookers. Force of the Sun is seeking volunteers to teach solar cooking skills in Haiti. Contact: Kevin Adair, Force of the Sun, c/o Adair Performance CxA, Higuey Zona Franca #7, Higuey, Dominican Republic. E-mail: KevAdair@aol.com, Web: www.forceofthesun.com
A group led by Herbert Aguilar and Dr. Antonio Gonzalez is developing a workshop for building and teaching about solar cookers. They plan to begin with solar box cookers targeted for lower income families, but hope to add parabolic-type solar cookers to be sold to families of higher incomes. The new workshop is located at kilometer 6 on the Carretera Planes de Renderos, with activities initially set for Saturday mornings. Contact: Herbert Aguilar. E-mail: MEAguilar@cel.gob.sv
Solar Oven Partners, based in Brookings, South Dakota (USA), recently shipped 500 unassembled solar box cookers to Haiti as part of its ongoing efforts there. Working with local volunteers, a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission team assembled 250 of the cookers and also helped to convert a donated 40-foot (12.2-meter) sea container into a solar cooker storage and assembly facility. Solar Oven Partners is working to train a local Haitian woman to lead future production efforts in Haiti. Contact: Solar Oven Partners, Brookings 1st United Methodist Church, 625 Fifth Street, Brookings, South Dakota 57006, USA. Tel: 605-692-3391, Web: www.gbgm-umc.org/solarovenshaiti
Veteran solar inventor Carroll Hampleman recommends aluminized polyester film (Mylar®) blankets as material for solar reflector applications. He tested the 52-inch x 82-inch blanket available for $2.50 from American Science and Surplus (www.sciplus.com) and found that, "The material is paper thin, can be cut with household scissors, yet cannot be torn by hand." He measured the material’s reflectivity and says, "It is as good as a clean mirror, approximately 86% or higher." [Editor’s note: Some aluminized polyester films do not retain their reflectivity very well, some melt when used as reflective surfaces inside solar box cookers, and some are difficult to glue to other materials. Solar Cookers International recommends testing samples of these products before committing to production using them.] Contact: Carroll Hampelman. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ASIA AND OCEANIA
An article by M.A. Siraj, appearing in the November/December 2005 issue of Refocus magazine, highlights a solar cooking system installed by Gadhia Solar Energy Systems for the Indian Army. Here is an excerpt:
"The Indian Army has commissioned a giant solar cooking system at Leh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Located in the Ladakh region at 4,000 meters, it is said to be the world’s highest altitude solar cooking system with the capacity to prepare food for 500 army personnel. Mr. Deepak Gadhia of Gadhia Solar Energy Systems … [said] this was one of the most challenging projects undertaken by his company as the team had to work in extremely adverse climate conditions such as snow, cold winds and sub-zero temperatures. … Prior to solar cooking being introduced, the army kitchen at this base was using nearly 50 kilograms of liquefied petroleum gas and 70 liters of diesel each day to cook food. Described as an icy desert, the region has no vegetation and hence no firewood. Diesel and gas cylinders are transported by air for the Army and the tribal population. The solar cooking system has halved the consumption of these fuels. Gadhia says the heat is generated by five pairs of 9.5 square meter parabolic reflectors which produce steam that is piped down to the kitchen for cooking purpose."
Due to the cold climate, the system requires thick pipe insulation, and must be regularly drained of water when not in use. Contact: Gadhia Solar Energy Systems Pvt. Ltd., 86, Old GIDC Gundlav, Valsad - 396 035, Gujarat, India. Tel: +0091-2632-222423, e-mail: email@example.com
Professor Ajay Chandak of Promoters and Researchers In Non-Conventional Energy (PRINCE) won a "Renewable Energy Award 2005" from the Maharashtra Energy Development Agency. Of the state-level award for excellence in renewable energy, Prof. Chandak says, "Such awards are small milestones on our way and keep us pushing forward." He thanks friends from around the world for their contributions, adding, "They are equal partners in the award." Contact: Professor Ajay Chandak, PRINCE (Promoters & Researchers In Non Conventional Energy), Jankibai Trust, Shamgiri, Opp. Swagat Lodge, Agra Road, Deopur, Dhule 424005, India. Tel: +91-9823033344, tel/fax :+91-2562-271795, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.princeindia.org
This year, the Solar Serve organization has been introducing solar cookers to the Raglai minority south of Phan Rang. Many Raglai cut and sell firewood for a living, and were a little hesitant to try solar cooking. They warmed to the idea over time. Solar Serve organized workshops, trained a person to conduct follow-up house visits, and ultimately provided 100 solar box cookers and 30 concentrator-type solar cookers to the community. One kind Vietnamese donor provided funds for 20 of the solar cookers. To celebrate International Environment Day, 70 Raglai solar cooked a feast of fish, beef, vegetables, rice, and curry for dozens of people, including some local authorities. Contact: Nguyen Tan Bich , 222 Nguyen Tre Phuong, Da Nang, Vietnam. Tel: 84-55-520018, e-mail: email@example.com, Web: www.vietnamsolarserve.org
Ulrich Zimmermann wrote to describe his experiences with solar cooking during vacations in the Alps mountains. He takes two cookers on his trips. He uses a small solar box cooker, designed by Group ULOG of Switzerland, for cooking meals at the Alpine cottage where he stays. The cooker is placed so that the broad eaves of the cottage protect it from rain, but allow the sunshine to reach the cooker’s window. Zimmermann also uses a solar CooKit, which he carries on hikes. Partway to his destination he sets up the CooKit and starts the meal cooking. He then continues hiking, and on the return trip he arrives back at the CooKit to find a tasty, hot lunch waiting for him. Zimmermann cooks his food in glass jars that are wrapped in aluminum foil. The outside surface of the foil is painted black to absorb the sunlight and heat the jars. [Editor’s note: Canning jars and lids are recommended because they release excessive steam pressure if needed. Alternatively, poke a small hole in the lid or leave it slightly loose.] Zimmermann says that his trips to the Alps also testify to the importance of solar and other alternative energy sources to reduce greenhouse gasses and climate change. "In the Alps," he says, "you can’t avoid looking at the damage. … All the glaciers around have lost much of their length in the last decades by man-made climate change." Contact: Ulrich Zimmermann, Buchrainstr., 32, D-60599 Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
Browse the countries on a globe or map; there’s a good chance that Solar Cookers International (SCI) has played a role in the advancement of solar cooking in many of them. You might be thinking that an impact of that magnitude is beyond SCI’s resources. It is, to a degree, but we’re stretching your donation dollars and multiplying their impact by providing several key services to solar cooking promoters across the globe. These services have enabled dissemination of tens of thousands of solar cookers worldwide. Often all it takes is a dedicated, energetic person or group, equipped with knowledge from SCI. The result? Healthier communities, greater economic and energy autonomy for families, and, of course, delicious food.
So, what are these key services SCI provides?
Let’s start with the Internet. The SCI-sponsored Solar Cooking Archive (www.solarcooking.org) is an unparalleled repository of solar cooking and solar water pasteurization information. It has been visited nearly 2 million times since its launch in 1996. On the Archive you can find construction plans for over two dozen models of solar cookers, an entire solar cookbook, and potentially life-saving resources for solar water pasteurization. If you’re new to solar cooking start with “Frequently Asked Questions,” which are available in several languages. In fact, large sections of the Archive have been translated (by humans!) into French, Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese, and translations of articles can be found in languages as varied as Farsi, Chinese, Vietnamese, German, Italian, Urdu, and Arabic.
Also available via the Internet are several key booklets published by SCI to help solar cooking promoters succeed. Our plans booklet, “Solar Cookers: How to Make, Use and Enjoy,” provides step-by-step construction plans for panel-type and box-type solar cookers; our field guide, “Spreading Solar Cooking,” helps promoters plan solar cooking projects; and our trainer’s manual, “Teaching Solar Cooking,” helps solar cooking instructors stay on task and monitor their students’ progress. All three booklets are available for download on the Archive, or for sale — along with solar cookers, cookbooks and related supplies — inside the back cover of this publication and on SCI’s organizational Web site at www.solarcookers.org. Booklets are mailed free of charge to select individuals and groups in developing countries where Internet access is difficult.
SCI’s Solar Cooker Review is another tool aimed at helping independent solar cooking promoters everywhere. In it, promoters exchange stories about solar cooker technology and dissemination, and learn from the successes and challenges of others. Thanks to you, our members and donors, each Review is mailed free of charge to over 2,000 promoters and supporters outside the United States.
SCI’s international directory enables solar cooking promoters working in Mexico or Mali, Senegal or Sri Lanka, or most anywhere else, to communicate and collaborate with others in their area. The directory is updated periodically and posted on the Archive. The directory currently lists about 600 individuals and organizations from nearly 90 countries.
To hasten the global spread of solar cooking, SCI hosts regional and international solar cooking conferences, bringing promoters together to exchange strategies and explore collaborations. As reported in the August 2006 Solar Cooker Review, SCI recently spearheaded formation of an international association of solar cooking advocates and experts. As this association grows and its system of regional networks takes hold, promoters in many regions should find it easier to get regionally-specific information and guidance.
Last, but certainly not least, is SCI’s query response service. With custom responses to over 100 inquires each month, SCI has helped thousands of people answer important questions, find local experts, and access critical resources needed to successfully achieve their solar cooking goals.
Only with your continued support can SCI meet the ever-expanding needs of the worldwide solar cooking community.
The new Solar Cookers International Association, formed under the umbrella of Solar Cookers International, now has 19 organization members. This number will hopefully double by January 2007, when collective actions are launched. The volunteer steering committee is currently refining key advocacy messages and prioritizing policy makers to target.
Regional subgroups are expanding information exchange networks. The Asia network plans to meet in early 2007 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Action groups in humanitarian aid, health, business, education and youth, technology and food processing are also developing strategies for collective actions.
An Internet forum that will allow association members to freely share ideas and experiences has recently been launched at www.solarcooking.org/phpBB2/index.php. Association questions and comments can also be directed as follows:
Dear SCI Friends,
Thank you for your greetings, support, and patience during my initial months at Solar Cookers International (SCI). It has been a compressed period of travel and insights into SCI’s mission and programs.
One of my most enlightening experiences thus far was a visit to SCI’s Kenya programs, which are under the able leadership of Margaret Owino and her dedicated staff. Spokespersons we met in the rural communities agreed that solar cookers save hours of toil in searching for firewood, are safer than open fires that exacerbate the prevalence of illnesses and burns, and reduce destruction of diminishing tree resources. They also agreed that solar water pasteurization is reducing prevalence of diarrhea among children.
The thoughts about solar cooking, among community members, were consistent from village to village and were told with an enthusiasm and poignancy that was a direct result of personal experience. Every community generously offered solar-cooked foods such as ugali, fish, red meat, rice, potatoes, greens, eggs, and an assortment of vegetables. In one day, we ate three cake samples and turned down a fourth. Visits to these communities often started with a prayer, dancing, or singing, and sometimes all three.
Equally important are SCI programs that focus on education, advocacy and humanitarian assistance. In future editions of the Solar Cooker Review we will bring you more news of these efforts. For example:
Just as there are effective SCI advocacy groups on the eastern coast of the United States and in Europe, we hope to establish a counterpart group on the western coast of the United States to emulate some of the efforts of our Atlantic supporters. Approximately 80 countries are represented with consulates in California, to whom we will provide information about the practical use of solar energy to help alleviate conditions related to cooking fuel shortages and non-potable water.
There is a pressing need for an awareness effort across the United States and other world regions regarding the benefits of solar energy. One of the ideas we are exploring is a national or world solar day to demonstrate the use of solar energy for cooking and water pasteurization. It has been suggested that we start with efforts in state capitols and seek support from public utility companies as well as water distributors. We welcome your thoughts.
Priorities, consistent with SCI’s strategic planning, include:
Challenges include finding financial support for these efforts and collaboration opportunities with other organizations that manage complementary programs. Am I optimistic? Absolutely! We have a committed U.S. and Kenya staff, a dedicated group of supporters, and almost twenty years of experience to draw upon. I would like to offer special thanks to Bev Blum for her dedication.
As SCI approaches its 20th anniversary, we thank all of you who have pioneered the efforts of this organization and who provide support and experience to help set future priorities.
I look forward to hearing from you, and the opportunity to continue moving SCI forward with your support.
Patrick T. Widner
A company in China reports that it produces 80,000 solar cookers per year, selling 50,000 in China and exporting 30,000 to countries such as Pakistan, India, the United States, and Brazil. Tom Rick, a spokesman for the Yancheng Sangli Solar Energy Co., Ltd., says that 1.84 million solar cookers have been produced by the company since it began manufacturing them in 1983.
The concentrator-type solar cookers are comprised of two reflectors totaling 1.5 square meters of collection area. The reflectors are made of thin cast iron with a highly reflective aluminum coating. Each reflector focuses a concentrated beam of light onto an area five centimeters in diameter under the cooking pot. The cooker is rated at 800 watts and is designed so that the reflectors are close to the ground, giving the cooker a low center of gravity for greater stability in wind.
The company reportedly was the first to standardize production of solar cookers in China, and its cookers were selected by the Chinese government for distribution in fuelapped Tibet. The sunny western provinces of China, such as Sichuan, Xinjiang, and Guizhou, are other important markets for the cookers.
According to Rick, most of the exported cookers are purchased by commercial dealers who re-sell the cookers to consumers.
For export, the unit price is about US $105 if delivered to Shanghai. The minimum purchase is 10 units at a time in a package that weighs about 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). Shipping costs to other locations vary. For example, shipping 10 units to Karachi, Pakistan may only add about $18 to the price of the cookers, while shipping to Lagos, Nigeria will add close to $260. National governments might impose additional customs fees on imported cookers. The cookers must be assembled after delivery.
Readers of the Solar Cooker Review have seen pictures of the Sangli cookers in the August 2006 edition, as used by the Sun Fire Cooking project in Somalia (see photo at right).
Solar Cookers International’s eastern Africa director, Margaret Owino, has been to the Sun Fire Cooking project and has seen the Sangli cookers. She expressed some concerns about the size and weight of the cookers, noting that they would be hard to move into a small cottage or hut when not in use. Her conclusion was that they would be suitable for areas where people feel they can safely leave the cookers outside over night.
James Lindsay, one of the principles of the Sun Fire Cooking project in Somalia, is much more upbeat about the Sangli cookers. The choice of the Chinese cookers for the Somalia project, he says, “was the result of a search … over 10 years’ time to find an effective cooker that people in Africa like using.
“Somalis were interested only in using [this] type of solar cooker because its cooking speed is comparable to charcoal,” he adds. “The Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children, in its March 2006 report Beyond Firewood, reached a similar conclusion.”
Sun Fire Cooking has tested the dual reflector “butterfly” style cooker produced by Sangli in comparison with other concentrator-type solar cookers of parabolic shape. Sun Fire reports that the butterfly cooker boiled a liter of water in seven minutes, compared to 42 minutes for the parabolic cooker.
"Both solar cookers have been left outside in an open courtyard in Bosaso, Somalia for over six years,” Lindsay reports, attesting to both the durability of the cookers and to the fact that, at least in Bosaso, the cookers are not stolen if left out at night.
According to Lindsay, the weight of the cookers not only makes them more stable in the wind, but discourages theft. He notes they can also be chained and locked, but says that so far theft has not been an issue.
“The only limitation on the use of the [Sangli] solar cooker,” Lindsay says, “aside from rainy and overcast days, is where housing is so crowded that there is not sufficient room for the solar cooker to receive direct sunlight during the day. Most village and rural housing in eastern Africa does have sufficient space.”
Rick of Sangli says his company also produces a parabolic cooker that weighs 20 kilograms (44 pounds) instead of 50 kilograms (110 pounds). He adds that his company does more than just sell the cookers to wholesalers; it helps “open up the solar market together with the client.”
Contact: Yancheng Sangli Solar Energy Co., Ltd., No.8 Shenzhou Road, the New District of Yandu County, Yancheng, Jiangsu Province, China. Tel: 86-515-8552974 or 86-15951557758, fax: 86-515-8562977, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.chinasangli.com/website/index.htm
Have you visited the Solar Cooking Archive lately? The Web site (www.solarcooking.org) has grown exponentially since its launch over a decade ago, and it is nearing a milestone: 2 million visits! This invaluable Internet resource, sponsored by Solar Cookers International (SCI), is undergoing some exciting changes aimed at enhancing its functionality. This is not an easy task given the sheer volume of content on the site, as well as the diverse needs of its end users.
During the coming months we will work to accomplish three goals:
1. Reorganization of the site for easier and quicker access to pertinent information
We have already begun this process. The first step was to develop a keyword system that represents solar cooking and solar water pasteurization concepts. Next, we grouped keywords into five major headings:
This structure serves as the basis for the new home page navigation. (See image.) Future content will be organized following this keyword system, allowing for quick access to relevant information. In addition, we are beginning to tag content with date, country, language, and author information, and hope to develop a system that allows content to be sorted by any or all of these designations.
2. Creation of centralized Internet forums for improved communication
The Archive has a diverse audience — solar cooks and potential solar cooks, solar cooking promoters and advocates, teachers and students, researchers, journalists, etc. One thing they share, however, is the need to communicate. They need a place to ask questions, to share ideas, and to collaborate.
Regional and topical discussion forums have recently been added to the Archive. Please visit www.solarcooking.org/phpBB2/index.php to register and begin contributing to these discussions. (Note: You do not have to register to simply browse the discussions.)
3. Expansion of content for greater usefulness
The Archive contains a wealth of knowledge, but inevitably there are some outdated materials and information gaps. We will work to fill those gaps by updating or adding a number of quality documents and multimedia files.
A recent example of expanded content is a series of audio interviews with solar cooking experts and promoters from around the world. These interviews, conducted by Webmaster Tom Sponheim, are on the Archive at www.solarcooking.org/media/broadcast.
Additionally, we are also liberating hundreds of documents from our file drawers and will gradually be uploading them to the Archive.
Though sponsored and maintained by SCI, the Solar Cooking Archive is a resource for everyone. It would not be what it is today without input and content from you, the end users of the site. If you haven’t done so already, we encourage you to spend some time using the Archive and to provide feedback as to its usefulness and ways it can be improved. Please also think about what you can contribute, in terms of content, time, and/or funds, to help make the Archive even better.
by Ed Carswell, film director/producer
Upon arrival in Accra, Ghana I was to meet a fellow named “Old Man.” I’ll admit I was a bit concerned, traveling alone and with all of my camera gear. However, Old Man greeted me at the airport with a wide Ghanaian smile and I instantly felt welcome and safe. Old Man insisted on calling me Mr. Edwin, and, although his real name is Ibrahim, he insisted I call him Old Man. As he drove he talked about his enthusiasm for solar cooking, and he invited me to stay at his home. Old Man led me through a maze of markets and helped me acquire materials to make CooKits (simple panel-type solar cookers). After a heart-warming stay in Accra, Old Man saw me off on a bus to Tamale, in northern Ghana.
In Tamale, Dr. Mercy Bannerman has been promoting solar water pasteurization with CooKits for years. Northern Ghana is second only to Sudan in the number of guinea worm infections, and Dr. Bannerman is trying to put a stop to it. Guinea worm is a parasite that effect humans through the contamination of drinking water.
Dr. Bannerman met me for a video interview and spoke of her successes and challenges. “When I first showed up in the region with the cooker, people had a good laugh” she said. “People would say if the sun could cook, we’d all be cooked by now!”
Dr. Bannerman’s tenacity gave me confidence to continue north to Bolgatanga, where Canada World Youth has an exchange program comprised of nine Ghanaians and nine Canadians ages 17 to 22. Together we built 10 CooKits and organized a solar cooking demonstration for educators and community leaders. “It’s very hot! Now, I believe!” exclaimed Joseph Azumah, of the Red Cross.
The community demonstration was a key factor in the success of the program. The youth and teachers alike were empowered, and gained the confidence to spread the message of solar cooking. After four months I returned home and produced a 27-minute film, "Thirsty Planet," about solar water pasteurization in West Africa.
[Editor’s note: “Thirsty Planet” and other products can be purchased on-line at http://184.108.40.206/catalog/thirstyplanetdvd-p-31.html?osCsid=ee7f2ed77bdb76a1cce73bc1342e8a59]
by Margaret Owino, SCI eastern Africa director
As development practitioners often quip, “A well designed project must have inbuilt phase-out systems.” Several elements of Solar Cookers International’s Sunny Solutions project in western Kenya will help provide a smooth transition at phase-out.
SCI is poised to take Sunny Solutions to the next level by increasing the capacity of SCOREPS to serve areas neighboring Nyakach. Expansion of this initiative to two new sites is already underway. An evaluation of the Sunny Solutions project is forthcoming, perhaps in late 2007.
by Jose Albano, solar cooker promoter
Salete Salomoni, just a friend’s friend at the time, stopped by my house a few months ago for lunch. Salad aside, all of the food was cooked in my two solar box cookers. Salete was very excited to see how the cookers worked and amazed when told I had collected most of the construction materials from the garbage: cardboard boxes, sheet metal, broom sticks, newspaper, etc.
Salete, a social worker, had helped a group of “garbage collectors” that push carts in the outskirts of town (Parque Santa Rosa) to collect and sort recyclable materials for sale to recycling plants. Suddenly, an idea struck her: Would I be interested in teaching this group how to make and use solar cookers in their garbage sorting facility?
Besides their own benefit, she thought, using the cookers in their low-income neighborhood might get friends and relatives interested in solar cooking. The garbage collectors could sell solar cookers they make using abundant materials they pick up daily on the streets.
Immediately we saw the opportunity to teach solar cooking skills to a group that could benefit greatly. I agreed to cooperate, and Salete wrote a project proposal that was readily accepted by the social assistance agency responsible for the garbage sorting facility. The agency, Caritas, provided funds to buy lidded cooking pots, black paint, transparent plastic glazing, aluminum foil, and glue, as well as groceries for a training workshop. All other materials would come from collected garbage.
Salete researched solar cookers on the Internet. She downloaded information from the Solar Cooking Archive (www.solarcooking.org), the site that inspired me to make my solar cookers.
We conducted a four-day workshop for the garbage collectors, and ultimately constructed 23 solar box cookers, which the proud owners rolled home on their garbage collection carts. Each participant was given a couple of cooking pots (painted black), a few basic recipes and a set of practical instructions on solar box cooking.
We are eager to know whether the novelty will catch and spread in the outskirts of Fortaleza, in northeastern Brazil. Located less than 4° south of the equator, the sun shines most days in Fortaleza, making it one of the best areas in the world for solar cooking.
Contact: Jose Albano, Rua Mar del Plata, 265, Lagoa Redonda, 60832-300 Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil. Tel: (85) 3476 8625, e-mail: email@example.com
[Editor’s note: As reported in the March 2006 Solar Cooker Review, Vajra Foundation Nepal (VFN) was recently awarded nearly $1 million to expand its solar cooker program to six additional Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal. What follows is based on a report of VFN’s decade-long solar cooking program by Dor Bahadur Bhandari of VFN; Maarten Olthof of Vajra Foundation Holland (VFH); and Ralph Lindeboom, a science and policy student.]
Maarten Olthof (left) with a refugee family and their solar cooker (photo: Vajra Foundation)
Bhutanese exiles have sought refuge in Nepal since 1990. Today, more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees live in seven camps in southeastern Nepal. Cooking fuel shortages have led to rising deforestation in the areas around the camps. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has provided cooking kerosene to the refugees, helping to discourage the collection of firewood. But as kerosene prices rose, its delivery became uncertain. Each year, kerosene claimed a larger portion of UNHCR’s shrinking budget. Alternatives to cooking with kerosene had to be found. Over the past several years, Vajra Foundation has worked tirelessly to promote an alternative: solar energy.
In 1996, biologist Maarten Olthof launched a few small-scale solar box cooker projects in Nepalese villages. After initial enthusiasm among the local users, the cookers were neglected.
Looking for advice, Olthof attended the third international conference on solar cookers, held the following year in Coimbatore, India. Ramkaji Paudel, a Nepalese citizen, accompanied him. With advice from former Solar Cookers International Executive Director Bev Blum, as well as other conference participants, Olthof and Paudel drafted a plan to teach solar cooking to Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal and formed the Vajra Foundation Holland in the Netherlands.
In 1998 VFH received funds from the Dutch Refugee Foundation for a pilot refugee project. Vajra Foundation Nepal was established to monitor the activities locally, and several Nepalese engineers were selected to teach the refugees to build solar box cookers. Two hundred thirty-four box-type solar cookers and 14 parabolic-type solar cookers were distributed in Beldangi-I, one of the seven Bhutanese refugee camps in southeastern Nepal. To receive a solar cooker, refugees had to pay a symbolic fee and sign a use and maintenance agreement.
By 1999 Vajra Foundation had determined that the box-type solar cookers they were promoting were not holding up well — hinges were rusting, reflectors and glazing were breaking. Other solar cookers were tried, including cardboard CooKits and solar cookers made of earthen materials, but they were also vulnerable to damage and not as efficient as hoped. In the end, EG-Solar’s SK14 parabolic-type solar cookers proved to be a good combination of durability and efficiency, and a good match for traditional Bhutanese foods.
Parabolic cookers are generally more expensive, but their efficiency allows for sharing among families, which lowers the per-family cost somewhat. Though the reflectors were imported from Germany, the stands were manufactured locally, also helping to keep costs down.
The cookers proved popular, and demand quickly outgrew supply. Families that didn’t use their cookers, or didn’t maintain them according to signed user agreements, had to return their cookers to Vajra Foundation to be redistributed.
While exploring ways to expand the project, VFN worked on an awareness creation campaign that included regular solar cooker demonstrations and lunches for refugees, government officials, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) including UNHCR, Lutheran World Federation, Oxfam, and the Nepal Red Cross Society. Continued solar cooker use was encouraged through participation in cooking groups, as well as contests.
Hay boxes keep pots of food warm for several hours (photo: Vajra Foundation)
To keep food warm after sundown, when evening meals are commonly eaten, VFN introduced insulated “hay boxes” in which pots of food can be stored. These devices not only keep food warm for up to eight hours, but can also be used to continue the cooking process after pots have been removed from the heat source.
From 2001 to 2003 several hundred solar cookers, hay boxes and black painted pots were distributed, covering the main sectors of Beldangi-I camp. EG-Solar provided some of the cooker materials free of charge.
To reduce variations caused by the manual nature of the cooker construction process, two Dutch mechanical engineering students developed an assembly system using molds for production of the cooker stand, ultimately reducing production time as well.
Napalese locals began to take more interest in the project, as did UNHCR officials, and Vajra Foundation won awards in both Nepal and the Netherlands. This recognition paved the way for a future donation from the Dutch Refugee Foundation. During this period improvements were made in the training procedures for new solar cooks and refugee supervisors.
Three hundred SK14s and twice as many hay boxes were distributed in 2004. By the end of 2005 about 12,000 refugees were benefiting from the solar cookers.
In eastern Nepal, UNHCR began to consider supporting the project to help offset the rising cost of kerosene and their own shrinking budget. Two Dutch students from Utrecht University surveyed 100 refugees about their solar cooker, kerosene and firewood usage, and found that solar cookers could save 3.14 kilograms of CO2 per meal compared to cooking with firewood, and 0.64 kilograms compared to kerosene. (Average firewood usage was 2.25 kilograms per meal.) Solar cookers could be used for approximately seven months each year in the camp, and their purchase cost could be recouped in kerosene savings in just over two years.
In 2006 both UNHCR and the Dutch Refugee Foundation asked Vajra Foundation to submit a proposal to expand the solar cooker program to the other six Bhutanese refugee camps in the area. Ultimately, the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the Dutch Refugee Foundation will provide nearly $1 million for the program, enough to disseminate 6,300 solar cookers and 12,000 hay boxes to families in the camps as well as provide extensive use and maintenance training. (Each cooker will be shared by two families.)
Project leaders Maarten Olthof from the Netherlands, and Dor Bahadur Bhandari and Ramkaji Paudel from Nepal, estimate that 100,000 refugees will benefit from the solar cookers by 2008. A new parabolic solar cooker from the German company Sun and Ice will be used to meet this large demand. The cooker — called the “LongLife Premium 14” — uses less material and simpler construction equipment than the SK14.
Vajra Foundation considers five factors as having been essential to its successes:
1. Unwavering belief that solar cookers can improve lives and environments.
From the start Vajra Foundation has considered solar cookers to be an appropriate technology for the Bhutanese refugees. Whereas other solar cooking projects have folded after minor setbacks, Vajra Foundation has fully supported the project from day one. As stated in a Vajra Foundation report, “How can one expect local people to be in favor of solar cooking when the NGO introducing it does not support it fully?”
2. Continuous drive to adapt and improve the technology.
As the program has progressed, adjustments have been made to the solar cookers to better meet the needs of the users and assemblers. Local materials have been used when possible to help lower costs. Design modifications — like cooker frame adjustments — have been incorporated as needs were assessed. Perhaps most importantly, the hay box was introduced as a compatible technology, addressing the need for warm food after sundown as well as the need to share solar cookers between families. Vajra Foundation believes strongly in pairing hay boxes with solar cookers, stating, “They are two sides of the same coin: one cannot go without the other.”
3. Willingness and ability to incorporate user feedback.
Refugees have been involved in the project from the start, setting up user meetings, trainings, etc. Feedback from the users is incorporated into the project plans, helping to identify technological and programmatic areas for improvement.
4. Strong teamwork between cooperating partners.
The relationship between the Holland branch and the Nepal branch of the organization was critical. While VFH had access to funds and specialist knowledge, VFN knew how to best incorporate solar cooking into lives of Nepalese and Bhutanese refugees. While VFH solicited and organized volunteers, VFN hosted them with great care and was eager to learn from them.
The chairmen of both foundations, Ramkaji Paudel and Maarten Olthof, were the backbone of the project. Jointly, the two visited partner agencies, refugee camps, workshops, etc., and solved issues that arose. Importantly, responsibilities were given to staff members, such as Dor Bahadur Bhandari, and to the refugees, who did the fieldwork and organized solar demonstrations and lunches that ultimately convinced authorities that the project was worth supporting.
5. Monitoring, follow up, and evaluation.
With proper monitoring, follow up, and evaluation, useful program adjustments are made continuously. Regular visits with the new solar cooks highlighted areas of need, as did feedback from user group meetings. Weather records were kept for purposes of determining actual solar cooker use versus potential solar cooker use. Funds were tracked and adjustments made to maximize their use.
Contact: Maarten Olthof, Vajra Foundation Holland, Oudegracht 246-B, 3511 NV Utrecht, Netherlands.Tel: 31302300741, fax: 31302300830, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.vajra.nl
Barbara Kerr received the “Women in Solar Energy” award from the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) last July. The award “recognizes a woman who has contributed significantly to the acceptance and advancement of women in solar by any of the following means: advocacy, education, technical efforts, contracting or implementing social change.”
An early cardboard solar box cooker developed by Barbara Kerr (left) and Sherry Cole.
From an ASES news release: “Barbara Kerr is recognized as one of the primary founders of the solar cooking movement. In the early 1970s she designed a cardboard solar box cooker and an early solar wall oven.” She later helped develop a panel-type solar cooker known as the CooKit. The release continues, “Solar cookers are in widespread use in Africa and elsewhere, especially in refugee camps, both to cook food and to pasteurize water. [Her] designs are currently used and promoted by Solar Cookers International, of which Kerr was a founding board member. She co-founded the Kerr-Cole Sustainable Living Center in Taylor, Arizona (USA), at which numerous solar applications and sustainable practices can be learned.”
Contact: Barbara Kerr, Sustainable Living Center, P.O. Box 576, 3310 Paper Mill Road, Taylor, Arizona 85939, USA. Tel: 928-536-2269, e-mail: email@example.com, Web: http://solarcooking.org/kerr.htm
Ulrich Oehler, developer of a world famous solar box cooker and founder of the influential ULOG group of solar energy promoters, died peacefully on 6 August, 2006.
Oehler enjoyed a long, successful career in industrial engineering and design before moving with his wife Lisel in 1974 to Botswana, where they served as development aides. Oehler, believing that technical accomplishments would have no meaning if the earth was destroyed, sought to work for a better world environment.
In Botswana, a Canadian teacher named Richard Carothers introduced solar energy applications to the Oehlers. They tried promoting solar cooking in Botswana, but were met with skepticism from Botswanans who asked whether solar cookers were used in Switzerland.
In 1980, the Oehlers returned to Switzerland where they built their first solar cooker. By 1984, Oehler had developed a design for a sturdy, effective box cooker that was adaptable to a variety of materials and common hand-crafting skills. He also founded a group that would eventually take its name from the initials of Ulrich and Lisel Oehler. ULOG developed a variety of box cooker designs and a solar food dryer, and also promoted German SK14 parabolic-type cookers and Scheffler community solar kitchens.
ULOG members have spread thousands of solar cookers in many countries, including Argentina, Burkina Faso, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mali, and Sudan. The Cuisine Solaire website notes that “ULOG clone” solar box cookers are sold over the Internet.
ULOG members follow their founder’s counsel to “practice what you preach” and endeavor to reduce their own ecological impacts in the world and to promote solar cooking in Switzerland. Over 10,000 solar cookers have been sold in Switzerland, making that nation one of the highest per capita users of solar cookers in the world, despite its distance from the equator.
Oehler was as much a great collaborator as a greater designer. Many of the people he inspired and has partnered with are among the leading names of today’s solar cooker movement, such as Wolfgang Scheffler, Michael Götz, and Christine Lippold. Organizations such as Globosol, Solare Brucke, Solar Energy for West Africa, VER-Solaire and others are closely associated with ULOG and many others have felt its influence.
Kawesa Mukasa of Uganda was a graduate student in Switzerland in the early 1990s when Oehler introduced him to solar cooking. Mukasa now heads one of the leading solar cooker organizations in Africa. Jean-Claude Pulfer, once a protégé of Oehler, now works in Paraguay where he is a partner in one of the most successful solar cooker programs in South America.
With so many people following in his footsteps, the impact of Oehler’s work will not only live on, it will grow far, far greater in years to come.
According to Darwin Curtis (in photo with HotPot), founder and president of Solar Household Energy (SHE), World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz recently singled out SHE’s “HotPot” solar cooker as an example of a product that “helps poor people seize the opportunities they need to transform their lives and to create better futures for their children.”
Speaking at World Bank headquarters in May, at a ceremony for the latest round of Development Marketplace grant winners, of which SHE was a grant recipient in 2004 for work in Mexico, Wolfowitz said that some grant winners like SHE “have gone on to achieve remarkable results,” citing SHE’s HotPot project in Mexico as one of two projects worthy of mention.
Noting that one-third of the world’s population still relies on firewood for cooking, and that sufficient sunlight exists in 67 countries to facilitate solar cooking, Wolfowitz told the Washington, DC audience that SHE “brought those two facts together to make an affordable, efficient, healthier solution … the HotPot.”
[Editor’s note: the HotPot and other products can be purchased on-line at http://220.127.116.11/catalog/hotpot-p-34.html?osCsid=ee7f2ed77bdb76a1cce73bc1342e8a59]
Over one million U.S. federal employees participate annually in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the world’s largest workplace giving campaign. This year federal employees have the option of supporting Solar Cookers International (SCI) with a one-time gift or recurring payroll deductions through the Aid to Africa Federation. SCI is proud to qualify for CFC’s rigorous financial, accountability and governance standards. (CFC #9985.)
More information is available on the Internet: www.africacharities.org/index.shtml
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Solar Cooker Review ("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.
The Review is sent to those who contribute money or news about solar cooking projects. The suggested subscription price is $10/year. Single copies are sent free to select libraries and groups overseas.p> 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 to Solar Cookers International (SCI), 1919 21st Street #101, Sacramento, California 95811-6827, USA. You may also submit by fax: +1 (916) 455-4498 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Review is compiled and edited by Kevin Porter, SCI’s education resources director, with assistance from other staff. Layout is graciously donated by IMPACT Publications located in Medford, Oregon, USA.
SCI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization assisting communities in using the power of the sun to cook food and pasteurize water for the benefit of people and environments. SCI is a member of InterAction. We do not sell, rent or trade names of our donors. Tax ID # 68-0153141.
The Review is available online at www.solarcooking.org/docs.htm#newsletters