Last updated: 29 July 2016
|This is a short documentary set in rural Nicaragua that follows Las Mujeres Solares de Totogalpa through their journey toward a sustainable lifestyle.|
- NEW: July 2016: The S.T.E.V.E.N. Foundation has decided to take a hiatus, and step back from undertaking new projects. They will remain available to share their expertise. Due to the success of the foundation's free distribution of small quantities Mylar reflective material, their supplies have all but been exhausted. They will continue their support of Cornell University students who partner with the women of Las Mujeres Solares de Totogalpa in Nicaragua, as they promote solar cooking with cooker building workshops and operate a solar restaurant. Read more in the S.T.E.V.E.N Foundation Annual Report 2015
- March 2014: How solar energy empowers women, youth in rural Nicaragua - Forty years ago Sabana Grande, a small community in northern Nicaragua, was ravaged by war. Now you will find people sitting under solar-powered lights, eating solar-cooked chicken, and drinking smoothies made by a bicycle-powered blender. Sabana Grande (pop. 2,000), in the mountains of Totogalpa, about 20 miles from the Honduran border, has embraced a solar culture that has transformed the community. Read more...
- December 2013: Adelante Con El Sol: The Solar Women of Totogalpa is a short documentary set in rural Nicaragua that follows a group of women through their journey toward a sustainable lifestyle. The film was created by CalmDog Productions. Watch this excellent twenty-two minute film, and help the producers receive the Audience Choice Award. Click on the like button at the top this page.
- October 2014 Solar Projects Foundation for Nicaraguan Women is awarded the Energy Globe World Award for 2013.
- May 2013: The small Nicaraguan Women’s Solar Project Foundation FUPROSOMUNIC has, since 2006, installed 664 solar cookers in nine municipalities. Solar cooking saves money, reduces deforestation, and is healthier for women than breathing wood smoke. The group focuses on providing the poorest of the poor with stoves discounted as much as 90%, thus requiring an investment on the part of the women of as low as US$20 paid over eight months. The stoves can save about $13USD in wood purchases monthly. The program has already received two awards and has been nominated for the prestigious Global Energy Award. Like other solar cooking programs such as Solar Cookers International, the women construct their own cookers and learn how to use and maintain them under the direction of FUPROSOMUNIC. Solar cookers are useful for other things besides cooking food such as drying fruit and medicinal plants, disinfecting clothing, and purifying water. Some of the women are using the stoves to dry nuts and other products to sell. The foundation was formed through Swiss aid in partnership with a Nicaraguan sociologist. The biggest obstacle for the program is to overcome the initial skepticism of the women. But some are won over by their ability to easily and cheaply prepare traditional dishes, such as came en bajo [a traditional dish based on cooked beef and vegetables], that normally require a great deal of firewood to cook properly. Cooking on cloudy days or after sunset can be done on improved charcoal cookers also promoted by the Foundation. These cookers are efficient and allow for frying, which the solar cooker does not. - The Nicaragua Newsletter
- February 2013: Cornell University students working as the Solar Cooking Team, visited the Solar Women of Totogalpa and Grupo Fenix in March 2012. The project for this year was to design and build versions of cookers intended for easy prefabrication and shipment. The standard cooker design is 30 inches square (exterior), 12 inches high and weighs roughly 60 pounds. It is an effective cooker, but is not easy to ship, especially with its heavy and brittle double glazed top.The team brought two new designs. A main design parameter of the cookers was to be able to use materials readily available in Nicaragua and with methods already understood. The first cooker used wooden framing, fiberglass insulation and sheet metal typical of the cookers produced at the Centro Solar. This cooker weighed about 50 pounds and used Reynolds cooking bags stretched on thin metal frames instead of glass for the top glazing. Both metal cases were hinged to allow easy folding. The cooker was partially disassembled and packed in a cardboard box which was checked onto the airplane for the trip, to prove its transportability. It was reassembled after arrival in Sabana Grande. The second cooker used interior and exterior sheet metal boxes framed with light aluminum angle stock. The boxes were separated by a layer of fiberglass board insulation. The tops of the two metal cases are secured by screws to a rectangular wooden frame, which supported the door/top. The door/top also used cooking bags stretched on thin metal frames as glazing. This cooker weighed approximately 30 pounds and was brought inside a suitcase. Read more at Cornell University Solar Cooker Team visits Nicaragua Spring 2012
- January 2013: University graduate students head to Nicaragua to help FUPROSOMUNIC - The students are part of a four-person team that will be helping the Solar Program Foundation for Nicaraguan Women, which supports the country's rural women via solar cooking stoves, to develop a plan to support the organization's efforts to develop a commercial enterprise. This spring, the students will use the experiences and information gained over the winter break visit to develop a business plan and break-even analysis of the organization's newest venture in their Social Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets class. Read more at CU-Boulder biz students visit Nicaragua for hands-on experience with FUPROSOMUNIC
- May 2011: Twelve women participated in a program where they first constructed solar box cookers under the direction from the Solar Women of Totogalpa in Nicaragua. Then they set about to create their favorite recipe and demonstrated their new ovens in a cook-off at the Solar Trade Fair. Mauro Perez, a member and only man in the Women's Association is working on the project to develop solar equipment use. In addition to solar cookers, the association constructs solar energy panels and equipment for homes and farms. The group also sponsors international university students to come to the workshop and participate in the construction programs. Perez also reported to have received support from United Nations Program for the construction of infrastructure at the workshop. It is encouraging to see the participation of the United Nations in the effort to promote solar cooking programs.
- February 2011 UC Davis alternative energy group sent a team to Nicaragua to set up a solar box dryer. More information...
The Central American country of Nicaragua has been active in promotion of solar cooking for some time. One of the organizations connected to the network associated with Bill Lankford's long standing work in Central America is located here, and has been active in training women in the construction and use of solar cookers for a number of years. The project here, known as Centro Girasoles Proceso, uses methods similar to those described above, that is, assistance to women to build their own solar ovens, carefully and exactly, to produce excellent functioning. Training is continuous, and follow-up is as intensive over an extended time period as any solar program aiiywhere. In the view of the Proceso groups in the Central American countries, solar cooking is a critical, but only one, element in the overall process of improvement of life for Central Americans. Girasoles believe that the cookers are used over 80% of the time, once the training and follow up has been completed. They continue to work in the community, extending their activities to other needs as indicated.
Centro Girasoles Proceso has also reached out to extend knowledge of solar cooking to other groups working in Nicaragua. A more recent arrival on the scene in Nicaragua is Grupo Fenix, an organization that provides a range of renewable energy resources in the country. Girasoles, as the knowledgeable group on solar cooking, worked with Fenix to pass on knowledge and experience. Fenix has in that manner developed skills in teaching low-income people how to build simple, effective, and low cost box cookers. The ovens are made of scrap cardboard, newspaper, aluminum foil and plastic in an afternoon, or over a week for a large and durable oven made of wood and other materials. They have learned, as all solar promoters must, that follow up for new trainees in solar cooking is an essential ingredient in the program, since the cooking method is quite different. They have also learned to pasteurize milk and water, and are working on other techniques for sterilization, using the most efficient of the oven types.
The group also promotes photovoltaic lighting, working with Terrasol, a US/Nicaraguan volunteer project. In addition, they are working to exploit the abundant rainfall, which feeds streams and rivers, ideal for small-scale generation of electricity to supplement that which comes from the national system and often fails before reaching remote rural areas. To assist local people with acquisition of this range of renewable technologies, Fenix is working to establish micro-loan programs like those successfully in place in many parts of the world.
Climate and culture
We came across this paragraph, from a student service learning project, while researching an article for the Solar Cooker Review. The student was working with a solar photo-voltaic company in Nicaragua, where some solar cookers have been introduced. Judging from the description we assume the cookers are large parabolic or box cookers. In any case, this is a good reminder of one reason why solar cookers (especially if they are not the appropriate type for a given population) are not always as readily accepted and used as we promoters would like.
- "A strong example of a renewable energy not working as it was intended was apparent in Nicaragua. Solar ovens were viewed as an answer to women cooking all day in the poorly ventilated and smoke filled kitchens. It was believed that solar cookers would allow the women to not spend as much time in the kitchen as well as eliminate the need to collect wood for the current stoves. The problem lay in the fact that the solar cookers did not fit into the culture appropriately for them to be utilized effectively. The culture of Nicaragua had always dictated that the social center for a woman to meet and talk with friends would always be the kitchen so that they could talk as they worked. Wood burning stoves gave this ability as they required a person to always be around cooking or tending to the fire. With solar cookers, the oven was outside and because food took longer to cook, there was more downtime where the women would end up sitting around in the kitchen anyways. The time to cook a meal with direct sunlight in a solar cooker was usually 50% to 100% longer and a much longer preparation time was necessary, because of this, the solar cookers had to be repositioned so that they were getting the most sun possible. This task was difficult for women who could not move the solar cookers on their own because they were too large, and the number of women, were few who knew how to move them so they would get direct sun. Dinner was served usually when it was dark out, as it is in most cultures, so the food would have to be prepared beforehand and somehow reheated for dinner. Because of these problems it became apparent solar cookers would not become a technology that would fit well into the culture of rural Nicaragua.
- Wikipedia article on the climate of Nicaragua
- The Sabor Solar Cookbook from Grupo Fenix shows how to cook Nicaraguan foods in a solar cooker: (English version or Spanish version)
- Solar cooker dissemination and cultural variables
- ADIM (Asociación Alternativa Para el Desarrollo Integral de las Mujeres)
- La Asociacion para el Fomento al Desarrollo Nicaragua (AFODENIC)
- Centro de Promoción del Desarrollo Local (CEPRODEL)
- Fundación Leon 2000
- September 2015: Análisis critico de la experiencia de la Cooperativa Multisectorial "Mujeres Solares de Totogalpa" - COOMUSOT (Nicaragua) - Gemma Botica Sevilla
- NEW: July 2014: Edutourism Model Grupo Fenix Lessons Learned - Susan Kinne
- NEW: July 2014: Evaluation of Usage and Fuel Savings of Solar Ovens in Nicaragua - Gordon Bauer
- NEW: January 1990: Comparative Study of Box-Type Solar Cookers in Nicaragua — Daniel Kammen and William F. Lankford. Published in Solar & Wind Technology
Articles in the media
- May 2015: Sustainability: Clean cooking empowers women - Nature magazine
- March 2013: Bedford family helps Nicaraguan villagers use solar cooking - Bedford Journal
- January 2013: CU-Boulder biz students visit Nicaragua for hands-on experience with FUPROSOMUNIC - dailycamera, Univ. of Colorado
- July 2010: Nicaraguans Swap Firewood and Fossil Fuels for Solar Energy - Latin American Herald Tribune
- April 2010: Nicaragua Solar Project- We are very happy to be working on a program with the Solar Women of Totogalpa in Nicaragua where we bring a small group of people from North America to a remote village in the Central American highlands. Participants will build a solar oven, take solar cooking classes, and tour local sustainable projects. More information... -World Wide Ecologies
- June 2009: Harnessing Both Sun and Cell Phone to Close Gaps in Local Health Care - Worldchanging
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- October 2014
- July 2014
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