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Publication Title | Solar Cooking in Kenya Progress at the Kakuma Refugee Camp

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Barbara Knudson, Ph.D. & Mark Aalfs ©1998 Barbara Knudson, Ph.D. and Mark Aalfs

Photographs by Robert Metcalf, Barbara Knudson, & Bev Bluhm

Above: Gathering fuelwood requires many hours per week, while damaging stressed ecosystems.

n a remote corner of Kenya at the Kakuma refugee camp, housewives struggling to meet the needs of their

families are conducting a remarkable experiment. In a hot and dry region where firewood for cooking is virtually unavailable, they are learning to use the energy of the sun to prepare food for their families.

Solar Cooking

In the last three years, Solar Cookers International (SCI) has introduced over 70,000 people in East Africa to solar cooking. These pilot projects utilize the CooKit, which is a simple and inexpensive cooker made of cardboard and aluminum foil. In a time of diminishing resources while literally half the world’s people use fuelwood to cook their food, imagine the possibilities and benefits of widespread solar cooking.

So how did refugee women in Kenya come to apply basic solar principles and experiment with a simple cardboard solar cooker? In a word, need. These refugee women, with very little food and not enough fuel for cooking, were understandably open to alternatives. SCI, working to find people with the most need, offered a powerful solution to these Kenyan women: a new way to cook, using the sun.

Solar Cookers International (SCI)

Established in l987, SCI is a small non-profit, US-based organization advocating solar cooking worldwide. Originally, the focus of SCI was educational, promoting the potential of solar cooking. During this first phase, the organization developed and disseminated teaching materials to individuals, groups, and schools, enabling people to build and use solar cooking devices.

In the second phase, SCI focused on networking with solar cooking enthusiasts around the world, in a collaborative and global attempt to promote solar cooking. Their most dramatic work, however, has been during the third phase. During this time, field projects have been initiated in Africa to test both the new simple solar cooker and the feasibility of broader use of solar cookers in sunny, fuel-scarce areas.

Solar Cookers

Solar cookers can be traced back to the Swiss scientist de Saussure’s wood and glass “bread box” solar cooker in the 1750s. Since then, they have evolved into a variety of focusing, box-type, and hybrid ovens. Solar cookers have effectively cooked food and purified water for decades. Today, a wide range of devices for solar cooking exists, from simple to complex, small to large, and affordable to expensive. For the most part, cookers are either dish-type focusing cookers, box type “collecting” cookers, or hybrids.

The physical principles are quite basic. Solar cookers first focus sunlight onto dark-colored food containers.

56 Home Power #66 • August / September 1998

Image | Solar Cooking in Kenya Progress at the Kakuma Refugee Camp



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