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heat retention cooking vs. solar cooking

having read all the inputs on why solar cooking has not been accepted. sunseed has been working in central tanzania for 5 years trying to introduce solar cooking. a few people are still using cookits made locally from plywood - locally produced - and gift wrapping paper - very cheap. total cost for materials about $5. we have come to the conclusion that the reasons for this low take up include some or all of the following:

  • people can't risk their daily food
  • they have greater priorities for the little cash they have saved
  • cash is controlled by men who are not interested in how cooking is done
  • women are used to cooking indoors and are averse to cooking in public
  • this is a famine area and it is usual to be secretive about how much and what one is eating so as not to loose face
  • solar cookers can't cook in the early mornings or evenings or when it is dark
  • solar cookers need someone around to look after them - to orientate them - to put food in and take it out, to keep animals and children away, and to prevent thieves from stealing the cooker the pans or the food
  • they are not very good for frying or baking, a lot of frying is done on tanzania 

last year we went back to run a pilot project offering to teach and support the use solar cookers of various designs, improved charcoal and firewood cookers, and the haybox concept - we had come across this idea built into a locally make basket or kikapu. we demonstrated them all but at once and at each demonstration to people who had had no contact, they all said this is what we want to try. 

our 2 month pilot in a rural village and 3 wards of a large town was very successful and when we left there were 50 teachers of wonderbasket making and cooking and over 200 families using them. in this short time we had achieved more than we had achieved over 4 years. why?

  • women could immediately see how they could make their lives easier by shortening the time they need to huddle over a fire or stove
  • they could keep food hot for up to 24 hours
  • they could prepare food in 15 minutes using methods they were used to and are happy with, put it in the basket to continue cooking slowly and then do something else, field work, paid work, house work, income generating activities, community work
  • they could afford the fuel to cook foods which normally need hours of simmering, such as beans and whole maize
  • they were exposed to less smoke
  • they could reduce the frequency of cooking by cooking enough for 2 meals and putting half of it into a wonderbasket to keep warm
  • they could save half or more of the fuel they use
  • women consistently reported savings of half or more on fuel bills or usage of firewood
  • they could provide hot food for children who came home from school before they returned from work etc.
  • they could provide hot food for husbands coming home late from drinking

one woman told us the fights had stopped since she got a wonderbasket. - if the food wasn't cooked they could light a fire and complete the cooking - they could keep cold drinks cold.

note that i haven't once mentioned the environment, but i am sure this is the real motivation of those of us who advocate solar cooking and other improved cooking methods. residual heat cookers save 50% of fuel. as much as solar cooking will in practice in the tropics - in california you have much longer days than in tropical countries and less cloud. these women in tanzania are saving nearly half a tonne of charcoal a day - a good sized tree! 

mike bridgwater 
sunseed tanzania trust

you can here an interview with mike bridgwater here.


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