Last updated: 1 June 2016
|Refugees from Sudan are trained by Solar Cookers International in the use of their new CooKit solar cookers.|
- The Kakuma Refugee Camp was the first to receive a large scale solar cooking project - The Kakuma Refugee Camp was formed in 1972 when Sudanese refugees first arrived in Kakuma, Kenya. Introducing solar cooking to the camp was Solar Cookers International’s first and largest refugee project, beginning in January 1995. Kakuma had considerable refugee turnover, but by 2004, when Solar Cookers International (SCI) concluded the project, the camp had tripled in size to nearly 90,000 refugees. Though rapid growth posed problems for assisting all those who wanted to solar cook, SCI ultimately served over 15,000 families. This project was one of the earliest to use the CooKit solar panel cooker to introduce solar cooking. The program also extended solar cooker technology to schools, especially primary schools, through demonstrations, poems, songs and drama.
- See other Most significant solar cooking projects worldwide.
- NEW: June 2016: Benefits of solar cooking explained to Rotary members - Camily Wedende recently presented to fellow members of Rotary Club of Eldoret, Kenya. Camily is the group leader of the Eldoret Student Projects program.
- April 2016: Training future trainers of solar cooking - Camily Wedende, group leader of Eldoret Student Projects in Elodoret, Kenya and member of Rotary Club of Eldoret, leads a Train-the-Trainers Workshop for the Rotary Club of Gulu, Uganda. The Uganda Rotary Club is preparing to distribute 500 Haines Solar Cookers in Northern Uganda and is learning more about solar cooking from Camily's years of experience building, teaching and cooking with solar.
- April 2016: Local woman from Kingston provides school lunches and solar cookers - For the past year, Gabriella Zamojski and her family have been providing school lunches to the school in Kamin Oningo, a fishing community across the bay. Midday cooking of the rice and beans was done over open fires. Firewood however, was growing ever more scarce and increasingly expensive. Seeking donations from friends, Gabriella purchased a new fuel efficient wood stove that uses only 10-15% of the wood supply compared to open fires. Wanting to do more to help families, she also organized instruction and a supply of solar cookers. Approximately 150 people were served a solar meal at a community gathering and 21 families left with new solar cookers. A micro-financing program is planned to asset other families obtain solar cookers. Read more...
- February 2016: Sharon Cousins has worked with Camily Wedende in Eldoret, Kenya for a number of years, helping to find ways to promote solar cooking to the local community on a shoe string budget. Sharon has experimented with a number of simple solar panel cooker designs, and her latest effort uses a large reflective bowl as a cooker base with an adjustable curved back reflector. After a recent visit, she sent Camily home with a large stainless bowl that is being used as a form to lay up paper mache copies of the shape using old newspapers. When dry and covered with aluminum foil, it becomes the base for a panel cooker. Students involved with Student Solar Cooking Science Projects Eldoret, Kenya have been eager to help with the construction.
- February 2016: On February 1, 2016, Camily Wedende of Sun Cookers International in Eldoret, Kenya, put on a "train the trainer" program in preparation for the Gulu, Uganda, Rotary Club's distribution of 500 Haines Solar Cookers in Northern Uganda. Geoffrey Okello of the Gulu Rotary Club reported that the group benefited greatly from Mr. Wedende's solar cooking knowledge and experience and above all learned how to cook African staple foods in a solar cooker. To cook Posho (ugali), the flour needs to be mixed with cold water and covered, instead of the normal way of first boiling the water before adding the flour, and no stirring is required. Sweet potatoes and cassava need to be cut into small pieces, eggs have to be placed directly on the solar cooker instead of the normal way of boiling in water. The group made and drank tea before cooking the following food items for lunch: Sweet potatoes, rice, green vegetables, eggs and posho.
- November 2015: The members of the Imani Women's Group bake cupcakes and larger cakes using only a wooden box and the sun. They earn enough money to help support their families and send their children to school. On a sunny day they produce up to 150 cupcakes, which they sell for 10 shillings (0.10 US$), and 30 cakes that go for 200 shillings (2.00 $US). Kenya, which straddles the equator, receives (according to the Kenyan Ministry of Energy) an average of 4.5 kwh per square meter per day. Read more... See also: Solar restaurants and bakeries
- June 2015: On June 10, Faustine Odaba gave a presentation on solar and fireless cooking to a women's initiative in Ringsaker, Norway after being invited by several NGOs.
- March 2015: Water Boiling Test Results Bernhard Müller's Water Boiling Test was conducted in February 2015 in Nairobi, Kenya comparing several types of solar panel cookers. One liter of water was used in each cooker. All the cookers showed they were capable of pasteurizing water and cooking food. Please note that Roger Haines contends that his cooker was not set up correctly for this test (details). See Water Boiling Test results - Bernhard Müller
- March 2015: New CooKits being made more durable in Kenya - Friends of the Old (FOTO) staff members bind the edges of new CooKits to make them more durable in Katito, Lower Nyakach, Kenya
- November 2014: Bernhard Müller started a fundraiser at betterplace.org to support seminars and workshops directed at the use and production of fireless cookers for the Kenyan NGOs NAREWAMA and FOTO.
- November 2014: Camily Wedende reports that a crowd of around 200 people attended the ceremony and celebration for the successful second project team in Student Solar Cooking Science Projects Eldoret, Kenya, innovators of the Hexagon Solar Cooker. Sharon Cousins, a long time supporter of the project, wrote a speech for the new graduates. It was read by guest of honor John Amayo.
- October 2014: Here is a recent photo of the latest group of children that Camily Wedende has been working with, each making their own solar panel cooker. See more photos at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Student-Solar-Cooking-Science-Projects-Eldoret-Kenya/213211212064334. Thanks to Sharon Cousins for helping to post Camily's latest activities.
- October 4, 2014: The Natural Resources and Waste Management Alliance was invited to the launch of Kenya Interfaith Network on Environmental Action (KINEA); a network of faith groups that are propelled by their faith values to care for environment. The event was held at Tangaza college in Nairobi and was attended by various universities, colleges, NGOs, and religion groups. The guest of honour was Rt. Rev.Bishop Alfred Kipkoech Arap Rotich, the military ordinariate of the Catholic church in Kenya. The event was attended by over a hundred participants. KINEA engages in programs related to climate change and livelihood enhancement which include: ,promotion of tree growing faith owned/ managed institutions and land, faith based education for sustainable development (ESD), and faith based sustainable agriculture and wildlife conservation programs
- September 2014: Launch of new website - NAREWAMA, located in Nairobi, Kenya and under the direction of Faustine Odaba, has brought their organization and renewable energy activities online. Visit at: Natural Resources and Waste Management Alliance - NAREWAMA
- September 2014: Remba, the island without wood, welcomes solar cooking - Friends of the Old (FOTO) staff Seline and Pamela went on a four day work trip to Remba Island, Kenya to promote solar cooking and water testing. Remba Island is on Lake Victoria and is rocky and very remote. There is no firewood or charcoal on Remba Island and must be imported from Mbita by boat. The scarcity of firewood on the island combined with plenty of sunshine makes solar cooking and water pasteurization an ideal solution for the locals. Interest was high at the demonstration and local residents bought the available supply of CooKits and fireless baskets. See more photos of their trip...
- March 2014: Samaritan's Purse has provided 40 solar cookers in Kenya and training on how to use them, primarily to individuals living with HIV/AIDS. As part of the training, Samaritan's Purse includes reforestation techniques. Read more...
- April 2014: Building material supplier in Kenya imports solar cooker supplies - Roger Haines reports that Global Hardware, Ltd., a prominent Nairobi, Kenya building supply company, firstname.lastname@example.org, has agreed to purchase a large quantity of reflective foam insulation and polycarbonate plastic film for resale at low cost to solar cooking entrepreneurs. This is expected to reduce to less than $10 the wholesale cost of materials in Nairobi for the newly-designed Haines Solar Cooker. The hope is that the availability of these inexpensive materials will promote the creation of new solar cooking entrepreneurs in East Africa. Haines' San Diego Rotary Club will purchase materials for 500 of the new cookers for distribution by the Rotary Club of Gulu, Uganda.
- November 2013: Study of water treatment in Kenya demonstrates the effectiveness of the WAPI - Bob Metcalf, research microbiologist, and FOTO worked together on a study to compare results of various water treatment chemicals to the WAPI water pasteurization indicator used with a CooKit solar cooker. One finding of note is that the WAPI, when used with the CooKit, was 100% effective in producing negative results for E.coli, while the WaterGuard (3 drops/liter) method was only effective in most cases. Read the study at: The Goal is Zero: A Strategy to Eliminate Water-bourne Disease in Lower Nyakach, Kenya
- October 2013: Faustine Odaba and Nicholas Okeya present a solar cooking and haybasket during a festivity of the Catholic Church in Nairobi.
- May 2013: San Diego, California, USA Rotary Clubs have partnered with Rotary Clubs in Kenya to provide three hundred Haines Solar Cookers, designed by California resident Roger Haines, for a pilot project with a community in Kenya. Director of the Kenya-based Natural Resources and Waste Management Alliance (NAREWAMA) Faustine Odaba is supervising this project. This new solar cooker design is made from commercially available, reflective bubble insulation. The plastic bag has been replaced by a clear strip of polycarbonate film, which is rolled into a cylinder and secured with clips to support the cook pot.
- May 2013: Safe water packages helping in Kenya - Solar Cookers International released information on the their latest efforts to offer safe water packages to low-income families in Kenya. The package contains all the necessary components to use the integrated cooking approach, which means using the solar panel cooker to heat water and kill pathogens when it is sunny, and using an efficient fuel stove when it is not. A heat retention basket, or "fireless cooker" is included to keep cooked food warm, and to extend cooking times. Working with their partners, who provide the training and follow-up, they have distributed 212 safe water packages from November 2012 through April 2013. These packages have provided over 1,000 people a virtually cost free way to maintain a healthy water supply and prepare their meals. SCI has set a goal to increase the number of packages they fund from 35 per month to 100 per month through the fall of 2013. Please consider donating to SCI to help reach this goal.
- March 2013: John Amayo, with SURE, reports that the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya recently held a farmers field day, providing an event for local farmers to come and see new ideas. SURE participated, and were able to demonstrate solar cooking using the CooKit, a parabolic solar cooker, and a Pulsee Solar Cooker. The farmers were pleased with the meat stew prepared in the box cooker, the roasted meat on the parabolic, and water pasteurization with the Pulsee. We also used the heat retention basket on this particularly windy day. It was rewarding to be able to show how the water available was not safe for drinking, and how solar water pasteurization can make it safe.
- February 2013: Kisumu County receives water pasteurization information - Former SCI Kenya staffer John Amayo runs Sustainable Utilization of Renewable Energy (SURE) in the Kadibo division of Kisumu County. With the help of Solar Cookers International and Bob Metcalf's portable microbiology lab, SURE has been able to test local water sources and has distributed thirty safe water packages to the vulnerable in the community. The safe water packages provided by SCI which SURE distributes, like the ones received by FOTO beneficiaries, are accompanied by programs to educate the community on hand washing, food safety, cleanliness around the home, and solar pasteurizing or chemically treating all drinking water. SURE also has plans to harness wind power for lighting and promote the use bio-fuels like biogas for lighting and cooking.
- November 2012: Student Solar Cooking Science Projects, USA and Kenya - What began as a pilot project in Eldoret, Kenya has evolved into two sister organizations, Eldoret Student Projects, founded by Sharon Cousins in the USA and a sister organization in Kenya founded by Camily Wedende. Ongoing fundraising goals include renting a small work facility. Because of limited funding, the group is always looking for ways to produce a reasonable solar cooker for $10 USD or less. The partnership that led to these projects began when Camily Wedende of Eldoret read about an American youth project advised by Sharon Cousins, and contacted Sharon asking for advice on working with young people. The pilot project, which involved twenty students ages 10-18, was a stunning success. The innovative approach teaches skills that will help the students in many areas of life. They hope to create a replicable model for the harnessing the tremendous energy and enthusiasm of young people for the advancement of solar cooking in their communities and beyond.
- November 2012: Integrated Cooking Method promoted in Kenya - Ingelore Kahrens reports that last summer she went to Kenya again for five weeks to celebrate the birthday of the newly founded Mount Kenya Integrated Community Development Organization (MKICDO). The Gaketha Laura Energy Saving Group, which was founded after Ingelore's first visit in 2009, is promoting the use of fuel-efficient stoves and basket cookers, as well as promoting soil and crop management practices. A Lazola 3 solar box cooker was introduced, which was approved by the board members of MKICDO. The group is planning to train artisans at a training center near Chogoria on how to build the cooker. On September 28th, the Lazola 3, along with a basket cooker and a fuel-efficient stove, was taken for demonstration to a divisional show. The County Commissioner from Kitui, the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and many other people were delighted to eat rice that was cooked with the sun.” Read more: Gaketha Laura Energy Saving Group update, November 2012
- November 2012: Students with Eldoret Student Projects have designed a new solar cooker called the Hexagon Solar Cooker. The bottom portion of the cooker has six angles, with a two foot tall reflector at the rear. It a powerful cooker that cooks food in less than three hours with good sunshine. The students used paper cardboard, aluminum foil and glue. Each student earns the materials for their cooker by helping to build and test prototypes and keeping good records of their observations. New students have registered to begin making the new solar cooker design.
- February 2012: Camily and Gaudenziah Wedende have started the Seeing is Believing Cafe in Eldoret, Kenya. They are cooking cakes, tea, and other solar-cooked goodies, and selling them in front of their Sun Cookers International business. Tanya Cothran, Director of Spirit in Action, writes about their cafe on the Spirit in Action's blog.
- February 2012: Peter Mwathi has been developing an inexpensive solar water heating system, designed to provide warm water for domestic tasks. The water is stored below ground, and has stayed warm enough to use for as long as three days. It is not intended to be a water pasteurization system. He says a system costing Sh. 20,000 can heat water for up to 200 people, while another with measurements of 30 m. by 3 m. can heat water for 600 people. Read more...
Kenya is the center of solar cooking activity in East Africa. A number of organizations are endeavoring to promote the technology in this country, which has been the commercial hub of the area for several decades. Its capital, Nairobi, is also well served by air, making access to the nation and region readily available, using Nairobi as entry point.
The promotion of solar energy is decades old in Kenya. As far back as 1977, GTZ (the Germany's official technical aid agency) initiated and later abandoned a project in Nairobi. The reason given had to do with the fact that products used were made in Germany and not available in East Africa. Two different Catholic missions in rural Kenya seem to have tried solar cooking, but no information is available on outcomes. As early as 1991, some ovens were exported to Tanzania (through Trans World Radio, perhaps), indicating that the product presented a business opportunity. In 1992, an Earthwatch grant permitted an academic, Dr. Daniel Kammen, to initiate a multi-year study of renewable energy technologies, including solar cookers, using volunteers in short-term Earthwatch projects.
Other early efforts included the work of Trans World Radio to promote solar use, promotion within the Girl Guide organization, a large project under the auspices of the Institute for Cultural Affairs, and the activities of a remarkable Peace Corp Volunteer. In the mid-1990s, with assistance of Solar Cookers International (SCI) a national coordinating body for the purpose of sharing information and strengthening progress by collective action around the topic of solar cooking was formed in Nairobi.
Among those early efforts was the activity of Trans World Radio (TWR). TWR work began in the early 1990s. A conference proceedings on Renewable Energy Policies in East Africa, held in 1993, includes a paper by TWR coordinator [[Clive Wafukho]] on their work in solar cooking. This organization promoted solar cooking on its radio programs, made and sold box cookers in the Nairobi environs, and worked also in a distant refugee camp. They pioneered solar cooking in Kakuma Refugee Camp, where SCI later established another project. TRW estimates that in the period between 1992 and 2001, they distributed a total of 2,350 cookers in the camp and other localities in Kenya. Logistics and staff support were always problems in the remote areas. In 2000, an attempt to solve that problem was the training of refugees as carpenters to build the cookers in the camp itself. TRW reports the production of 400 cookers in that manner.
The cookers are large and well suited to the needs of the Sudanese population that lives in extended family compounds, requiring cooking for 10-20 people daily. Trans-World Radio has demonstrated remarkable staying power in this difficult to serve area, with a population that could not afford to buy the expensive box cookers. Therefore most were given away free, with funds raised for the most part outside of Africa. TWR estimate that two-thirds of the cookers are used regularly.
In roughly the same time period, U.S.Peace Corps volunteer, Barbara Ross, was assigned to an area in western Kenya. Her responsibilities were varied, but, outside of her assigned tasks, more or less on her own initiative, she began the promotion of solar cooking. Ms. Ross recruited and trained a number of women in the locality to which she was assigned, who then formed themselves into a Housewives' Club, and proceeded in turn to teach others. They made box cookers of cardboard, which worked very well in a propitious climate, and solar cooking was on its way in this part of Kenya.
The interest of Girl Guides solar cooking also goes back to roughly the same time period. An early training program had been initiated in Kenya by Barby Pulliam, chief promoter of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts Little remains of that one-shot demonstration, but it did serve as a foundation for later work that developed more fully in the latter 1990s. An interesting offshoot of that program is a unique program, a Girl Guide troop in Kakuma refugee camp, run by individuals originally inspired by the work of Ms. Pulliam. In few places can Girl Scout/Guide activities be more welcome!
The other major early actor on the Nairobi scene was the Institute for Cultural Affairs, (ICA) which had a long term presence in the development community, focused on empowering local communities to define their own needs and plan their own development strategies. Solar cooking was a kind of side interest for ICA, though obviously related to its larger issues. To carry out the solar cooking mission, a Swiss volunteer, long interested and skilled in the technology and in training others, joined the Nairobi staff of ICA, for the specific purpose of promoting solar cooking. ICA created a solar box cooker construction course at a local technical school, which ultimately produced all the cookers used by ICA in the communities where they worked. ICA used a rather classical community development approach in their work. In community meetings, workers facilitated community members in defining their needs and existing barriers, which prevent meeting those needs. Fuel shortage was a major problem, and hence solar cooking promotion became an ongoing part of the program in many areas of Kenya. However, the solar activity more or less ceased after the very effective volunteer returned to her home.
The agencies described above formed the corps of the solar cooking consortium formed in 1994, with some financial help from SCI. The purpose of the consortium formed around solar cooking was to share information with one another, and to enlist additional person power for promotional efforts. SCI provided financial and moral support to the effort for some years. One conference was held in Nairobi, and one in outstate Kenya, in the hope of involving additional people in the effort. Ultimately, the logic of solar power dictated that purveyors and promoters of photovoltaic technologies would be included in the group. Over time, and after finally achieving NGO status in Kenya (not an easy task), the organization came to be dominated by the larger and considerably-more powerful community of business and industrial photovoltaic personnel in Kenya and thus of less value to solar cooking promoters.
Shortly after the creation of the consortia arrangement described above, in 1994, SCI accepted an invitation from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to embark on a demonstration project in a refugee camp. The story of the project in Kakuma refugee camp is recounted elsewhere; therefore recounting here will be brief. The program was carefully planned (insofar as that was possible for an organization which had not previously worked in an overseas setting) and carefully monitored throughout the project. Kakuma is located in the semi-arid Rift Valley in the far northeast corner of the nation, reachable only by air (or 20 hours on a rickety bus). The camp grew from what seemed a very large 28,000 initially to almost 100,000 at one point, with major changes in the ethnic makeup. Logistical problems were always difficult, as the camp, being so remote, was not easily accessible. Eventually, a Kenyan staff was formed, and the camp work was, in 2004 (8 long years later), phasing into a refugee-run cooperative with similar purposes to the original SCI project, i.e., a demonstration that persons in need can and will adopt solar cooking, save fuel and scarce financial resources, while inflicting less harm on the already fragile environment.
The November 2003 issue of Solar Cooker Review carries Sunshine does let them eat cake about a woman refugee, Mumina Baraka, who now operates a small scale bakery in Kakuma, selling in small quantities to make a living, and to provide baked goods for other refugees to purchase. She plans to take her CooKit back to Ethiopia with her when that becomes feasible.
A number of other projects, mentioned above, were established in roughly the same time frame, as described above, in the activities of TWR, the Girl Guides and ICA. (Somewhat later, a Rotary project in Nairobi was started, but turned out to be less than wholly successful, perhaps showing the difficulty of working in urban areas. Need is considerable, but space, security of food and cooker, etc. are difficult issues in congested poorer urban areas.)
During the early years of the Kakuma camp program, the solar cooking program generated considerable interest in refugee circles. All visitors were taken to the training sites and, when advance notice made it possible, given a meal cooked by the sun. SCI's refugee coordinator, a Zairean woman who spoke excellent English, became almost a camp staff person, and was frequently called on to accompany visitors, to translate for them, and to provide demonstrations. One of the visitors in the early years was a UNHCR staff person from the head offices of the UN agency in Geneva. He was integral to beginning the program in Ethiopia. In addition, he discussed the possibility with SCI of working in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, located on the Somali border, to the east and north of Nairobi. That camp, almost entirely Somali in population, was far bigger than Kakuma (with about 100,000 residents) and differently structured, with three separate sub-camps, each located at a distance from the central offices of the organizations serving the camp.
The camp administrator in Dadaab was enthusiastic about starting a solar cooking program. Activities concerned with energy conservation were well underway in the camp, under the direction of the German technical assistance agency, Deutsche Gemeinshaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) which had been implementing an improved stove program for some years. That program used an interesting model of "work for a stove" in which individuals were given 25 tree seedlings to plant and cultivate at their own homestead. At the end of three months, if they had successfully nurtured the seedlings, the "gardener" was given a voucher to obtain a stove. The devices used were a somewhat larger version of a charcoal stove in use in Kenya for some years, one in which the fire bed was made of ceramic, then encased in a metal shell. The stoves were "manufactured" in a workshop run by GTZ and were considerably more efficient than traditional three-stone fires. Trained "animatrices" were assigned to various parts of the camp where they did extensive workshops showing people how to use the new equipment.
By the time GTZ heard about the solar program, Dadaab staff had already provided stoves for over 90% of the camp's residents, using the distribution method described above. Both GTZ and SCI agreed that adding solar cookers to the mix would be one more way to cut down on the use of wood fuel, which by that time had been declared unlawful by the Kenya government, but was still occurring routinely. The team of GTZ extension workers, already trained in promotion of wood stoves were given additional training in solar technologies, thus adding another tool to their fuel saving repertoire. Eventually, SCI trained additional Dadaab women as trainers, in order to proceed at a faster rate in this huge camp.
An unfortunate event occurred next in Dadaab, one that effectively put an end to the solar cooking project and considerably dampened the improved stove project as well. A delegation of American congresspersons visited the camp. They were told stories of the dangers women were exposed to in the collection of wood (unlike Kakuma, refugees were allowed to collect wood in the area, even though it was unlawful by order of the government). Dadaab is located only about 15 miles from the border with Somalia; the lawlessness of that country spilled over into the nearby camp. Cars were routinely hijacked, necessitating convoy travel to the campsites. Security was certainly a high concern. Some refugees had been robbed, a few killed, and some women raped and murdered while searching for wood. Naturally, this gained the sympathy of the congresspersons. On return to the US, they managed to add a rider to legislation already in process that provided several million dollars for the purchase of fuelwood for Dadaab.
Both GTZ and SCI were horrified at this well meaning, but ultimately destructive, act, which harmed the fuel-efficient stove program and effectively ended the solar cooking project. Obviously, free fuelwood was a far more attractive option. Two years later, the money for fuel was finished, and the programs promoting alternatives to fuelwood were no longer present in the camp. In the US, SCI attempted to protest, but was unsuccessful in obtaining a hearing on this emotional issue, taken up in good faith by ill-informed U.S. representatives. The solar cooking program in Dadaab program of SCI was closed and has not been restarted.
A Swiss woman named Alison Curtis, working for an NGO called the Solar Health and Education Project(SHEP), has provided a number of workshops in the coastal and other regions of Kenya. The first workshop was held in the Kenya Marine National Reserve locality, a protected part of the spectacular coast of that nation. The initial group trained was made up of teachers and public health workers, in order to encourage the introduction of simple solar technologies into school curricula and thus into everyday life. Both cooking and water pasteurization techniques were demonstrated and the required skills taught to participants. A second group of new solar cooks was simply introduced to the concept and practice of solar cooking in a basic training workshop, while a third group of experienced cooks reviewed progress in their respective villages (based on earlier training and promotion).
A second cluster of workshops was held in an area with a pastoral population that had not been exposed at all to solar cooking previously. The group made their own CooKits from recycled Tetra pack cartons (small boxes used to hold milk, lined with foil, which becomes the CooKit's shiny surface). After construction of the CooKits, smaller groups cooked their meals, with the assistance of the trainers. As is common, amazement was the hallmark of the day! They loved the food and could hardly believe it had been cooked with the sun. In good pastoral style, one of the participants told Ms. Curtis 'this initiative is like a cow given to us. We, the Masai, consider the cow the greatest gift one can offer. Let's utilize it". After the praise a promotion committee was appointed to create an action plan to spread the technology in their area.
An exercise not common in the solar cooking world was executed in Kenya in 2002. Working on behalf of the NGO, Solar Household Energy, Inc. (SHE, Inc.]] a team of graduate students from the University of Michigan, as a part of an assignment for a class in their MBA program, conducted an extensive market survey re solar cookers in Kenya. The students, supported by a generous donor to the school, conducted both phone and in-person interviews with knowledgeable sources in the U.S., Mexico, and in Kenya itself. The result is a comprehensive review of past and present solar cooking projects in Kenya, their market strategies, successful or failing, along with the views of a large number of opinion leaders from government, the non-governmental community, entrepreneurs and manufacturers on the topics. In conclusion, the students brought their knowledge from Business School courses to bear on the problem, resulting in a useful document for promotion of solar cooking in the country. The document can also serve as a model for other related market research endeavors. Sponsored by SHE, Inc., this unusual effort concerning solar cooking turned out to be not only an excellent learning experience for students but also a document useful for multiple purposes.
And, lastly, and perhaps of most interest, is a different program of SCI. The project, called Sunny Solutions, was first established in an area near Lake Victoria. The project is located in Upper and Lower Nyakach divisions, in Nyando district, in Nyanza province, not far from Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya. Local organizations were recruited as partners and an intense awareness campaign involving a range of stakeholders from government, women's groups, churches, and so on, was initiated. Initially, 150 women were invited to try the solar cooking at home; they were provided with CooKits, the cardboard cooker used in areas where families have limited resources, and were given intensive training and an extended follow-up. In early 2003, a team of research consultants conducted an evaluation exercise to serve as a baseline for later program assessment of accomplishments in terms of fuel savings and health benefits.
In May 2003, fifteen women were recruited as trainers from the original pool of 150 solar cooks and sixteen women's groups. The trainers learned to solar cook all types of foods, carry out sales and home visits, keep sales records, and test and pasteurize water.
In July of 2003, the formal kickoff of the program began, with a proper Kenya style community celebration, including solar cooked food, singing and dancing, visits from government officials and community leaders, with banners strung over the site touting the wonders of the sun. The project was well organized with continuous careful monitoring to assure that the project remained on course as it moved towards its goals.
In 2005, hand-assembled CooKits were introduced in the community and given the nickname used to describe people of Nyakach - OYWA. Hand-assembly meant an increase in the profit margin received by the seller and a lower retail price for each cooking kit (a Cookit, plastic bags, WAPI, and instruction booklet). Those involved in the assembly process also received commissions for each well-assembled unit. By the end of 2006, the sales team had grown to 23 expert women, called Solar Cooker Representatives (SCOREPS); 4000 CooKits were sold; over 95% of the people of Nyakach were aware of the benefits of solar cooking; and Sunny Solutions had grown to include two more sites, Kadibo, a flood-prone area just outside Kisumu and Kajiado, a drought prone area on the main highway from Nairobi to Tanzania.
Reports of other small scale programs exist in Kenya; the ones desribed above are the longest lasting and largest known currently.
Climate and culture
Solar Cookers International has rated Kenya as the #13 country in the world in terms of solar cooking potential (See: The 25 countries with the most solar cooking potential). The estimated number of people in Kenya with fuel scarcity but ample sun in 2020 is 5,900,000. Solar cooking must be introduced in an area with sunshine for at least 6-9 months a year for the technology to be deemed useful. Highlands are often cloudy and overcast and so people tend to go back to their old ways.
Fuelwood provides 79% of Kenya’s total energy use. Each day Kenyans burn 37 million kilos of wood and 6 million kilos of charcoal.
Statistics indicate that nearly 25 per cent daily income of urban folks is spent on fuel. This money could be channeled into more pressing needs like education, medicine, housing or other investments if this new technology were to be embraced.
Mattias Goldmann of the NGO Tricorona reports that he was told that several Kenyan tribes have a "strong taboo" against cooking outside.
Dinah Chienjo of Friends of the Old reports, "The people have since time immemorial believed that water was blessed from the beginning and cannot cause any diseases but through the education and by showing them the results of the tested waters and telling them the dangers of the germs on the body, they are beginning to change their drinking habits and looking back many people agree that the many stomach related diseases they have suffered in the past have been a result of the bad river or pond water they have been drinking." See Water pasteurization.
- The Special Challenges of Solar Cooking - Charles Onyango-Oloo
- Wikipedia article on the climate of Kenya
- View an interactive map of Kenya
- Discussion of eastern Africa's suitability for solar cooking
- Solar cooker dissemination and cultural variables
- Kenya Agency for Development of Enterprise and Technology (KADET)
- Faulu Kenya
- Small and Micro Enterprise Programme (SMEP)
- Spirit in Action
- October 2013: The Goal is Zero: A Strategy to Eliminate Water-Borne Disease in Lower Nyakach, Kenya (Report and Slides)
- June 2010: Solar Cooking Demonstration at the Mara in Narok; Kenya
- July 2008: East Africa Report - Karyn Ellis
- May 2008: SCI’s Kenya Program: Sunny Solutions and Beyond - Karyn Ellis
- September 2006: The Special Challenges of Solar Cooking
- Fall 2006: Mpala, Kenya: A Summer of Teaching, Research, and Learning - Ishani Sud
- June 2006: Lasting Impacts of Solar Cooking in Kenya - Melanie Szulczewski, Ph. D.
- A page with chronological reports from the Solar Cookers International solar cooking project in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
- May 2003: A Market-Based Strategy for Introducing Passive Solar Ovens in Kenya
Articles in the media
- May 2016: Kenya’s Young Inventors Shake Up Old Technology - Inter Press Service
- February 2016: Solar ovens help fuel future - The Whig
- December 2015: India's Solar Initiative and the Challenge of Climate-Safe Development (included in interview is President Kenyatta) - Living on Earth
- October 2009: Kenya: Entrepreneurs Cashing in on Green Campaign - Business Daily (Nairobi)
- June 2009: China and Kenya setting up a joint venture for solar energy products - Chinaafrica.asia
- April 2009: Inventor turns cardboard boxes into eco-friendly oven - CNN (Solar Cookers International alerted CNN that this invention is not new. CNN then updated the story to mention the work of SCI and others.)
- March 2009: The five fighters of climate change - Financial Times
- April 2008: Kenyans Tap Sun to Make Dirty Water Sparkle - Women's eNews
- November 2007: Kenya safe water project to include innovative testing, pasteurizing tools - Solar Cooker Review
- November 2007: Kenya: Solar power on the rise - East African Standard
- May 2007: Sacramento’s Solar Cookers International uses the sun to improve quality of life, one village at a time - Sacramento News Review
- February 2007: Rural Kenyan women on vanguard of African solar revolution - Agence France Presse
- December 2006: Student sows seeds of community-helping technology in Africa - News@Princeton
- November 2006: Kenyan women look to the sun for cooking - Mail and Guardian
- March 2006: Truckee Rotary clubs heat things up in Kenya - Sierra Sun
Audio and video
- January 2016:
- December 2014:
- March 2013:
- August 2010:
- November 2009: Solar cooking comes of age in Kenya - Al Jazeera
- February 2008:
- September 2006: An interview with Margaret Owino that was broadcast on WBAI in New York (WMA: 22k or MP3: 24k)
Documents in local languages
Manufacturers and vendors