In some of the poorest parts of the world
fuel for cooking and purifying water is one of the biggest uses of
energy. As drought has spread throughout many of these
developing countries finding enough fuel even for this meager need has
become extremely difficult. What these countries do have is
plenty of sunlight. Consequently the use of solar ovens for
cooking and water purification represents a major opportunity for
improving living conditions. The World Health Organization reports
that in 23 countries 10% of deaths are due to just two environmental
risk factors: unsafe water, including poor sanitation and hygiene; and
indoor air pollution due to solid fuel use for cooking.
Most early solar cookers were either curved parabolic reflectors focusing intense heat onto a single pot, or heat trap boxes with a window on the top and one or
more flat reflectors. While these types of cookers were effective they were too expensive for most people, cumbersome and sometimes even dangerous to use.
Fortunately, there are now a number of new solar cookers which are more convenient, much lower-priced, and now competitive with alternatives such as wood, charcoal, and wood stoves.
One such model, an open reflector, has been widely tested and has proven useful in the USA, Kenya and Zimbabwe. It pays for itself in fuel savings in two months or less and becomes a recurrent economic benefit to individual households.
Developed in 1994 by an international team of volunteers and dubbed the "CooKit,
it is ideal for introducing the basics of solar cooking. It is easily
hand-made and also is being mass-produced in USA, Kenya and Zimbabwe
with modifications to suit local needs and climates. The picture below
shows it being used in Ghana.
Solar cooking offers a number of advantages. These include:
- Requires no fuel - Lack of fuel is a critical advantage
to many groups of people where potential fuel such as wood or cow
dung is in very short supply.
- Reduces Disease - Many families that might not have the
fuel to boil water for purification can do so with a solar cooker.
- Produces no pollution - The indoor burning of certain
biofuels such as cow dung contributes to disease and poor health.
- Requires little maintenance - Solar ovens require little
maintenance leaving people free to do work or care for the family
while the food is cooking.
- No time lost collecting fuel - Many poor people travel
many miles each day to find enough firewood to do their cooking.
With solar ovens this is no longer necessary.
- No strain on the environment - In drought areas people
scavenging for fuel have put an even further strain on the
environment. Solar cooking eliminates this need. A solar cooker can
save one ton of wood per year.
- Better nutrition - Solar cookers tend to produce lower
temperatures than cooking with wood and so preserve more of the
nutrients of the food.
There are a number of charitable organizations that are actively
involved in raising funds to purchase and distribute low cost solar
ovens to parts of the world where they can be of great benefit.
There are also some great websites dedicated to this whole area.
One of the best is
www.solarcooking.org. This comprehensive Wiki site is a
storehouse for information on solar cooking. Check it out!