Last updated: November 5, 2014
The simple task of cooking a meal in Darfur brings with it a unique series of problem and risks. The majority of Darfurians are now displaced in IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps. Wood is getting increasingly scarce and as each family consumes this limited energy source the deforestation of Darfur advances. Augmenting this is the danger to those who do go out and gather firewood. If caught by the Janjaweed the men are killed and the women are raped. Literally thousands of hours are expended on foraging for wood in each IDP camp. This time could be better put to use doing a variety of other things to develop the lives of the people. Solar cooking offers a simple way to alleviate some of these problems.
News and recent developments
- January 2009: DPDO President Suliman Giddo recently visited three schools in the Kariyary, Touloum, and Iribi refugee camps, and one school in the Tine village, located in the Bahia (eastern) region of Chad. Total student enrollment is nearly 1,760 with 35 teachers. Students lacked supplies and classroom tents were overcrowded, with two grades per classroom. Additionally, there were no standards to measure student progress. Mr. Giddo helped to organize parents and community members to build several additional classrooms. Many Darfuri children in Chad refugee camps have no access to schools. DPDO will continue to coordinate with these communities to build classrooms and strengthen their education system.
- September 2008: On the edge of Khartoum in the area of North Omdurman we found many thousands of IDPs. They came from not only Darfur but from the Nuba Mountains as well as from others parts of Sudan. These are often the ones who are forgotten by the NGO groups giving help and assistance. They too have to scrounge for a means to cook their food. Often they have to buy charcoal or propane gas to do this as firewood is not available. Every week at least 5-6 Sudanese Pounds are spent to cook the meager food supply. When asked what kinds of food they normally eat the reply was: “ There isn’t any food that is normal, its rather whatever food is available.” This group of IDP were overjoyed at the solar cooker training we gave. We sent them out to buy pots, paint and glue for their own cooking efforts. This group has become the first group to reproduce themselves and the solar cooker effort in Khartoum. View a video of the Omdurman solar cooker training: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtftdqhCp2Q&feature=user
- September 2008: The Kassab IDP camp was tucked away in the northern part of Darfur near the town of Kutum. It has a well established infrastructure for food and water supplies. There are also other strong cohesiveness elements that make this a very good place for solar cooking. We met with about 60 camp elders to explain the plan of DPDO to introduce solar cooking to the women. The elders gave us their blessing and later in the day wandered into our training area. After eating the meat we cooked with the sun we knew we had passed the test. As we drove out of the camp in the afternoon we saw one of our lady students demonstrating to a group of men the way the solar cooker works. To see a video of this training in Kassab camp go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63BHacGCQDc&feature=user
- September 2008: DPDO teamed up with Ngo group Practical Action in El Fashir North Darfur to do a solar cooker workshop. Students came from not only DPDO and PA but from IDP camps surrounding El Fashir. Women from Abuja camp and Abshouk camps were eager to learn what solar cooking was all about. Even the Sudanese officials from the Humanitarian Aid Commission sent a lady to our sessions. We were happy to train her too! Our host facility was the House of Learning. Teaching was done by lecture as well as hands on interaction with solar cookers and how to construct them. The students made all their own cookers from cardboard and aluminum foil. They painted the cooking pots black and got all their supplies ready for graduation day! Graduation is a happy and great occasion but the real test is whether these students will teach others in the IDP camp!!! Back in Abshouk IDP area two of our women trainees took this solar cooking seriously. They began to gather a group of women that they had been teaching concerning fire issues and used it to teach about solar cooking!!
- September 2008: Many thousands of displaced people from Darfur also live in Khartoum the capitol of Sudan. This is also a very important area to introduce solar cooking. In February of 2008 DPDO taught a group of men and women in the El Hajusif region of the city how to make and use solar cookers. One of the women students had been a refugee all the way in Iridimi camp in Chad. She had done solar cooking there with Kozon and was very anxious to get back into the solar cooking mode again. The sun shines with brutal intensity in Khartoum an the heat from the sunbaked homes makes us feel like we are already living in a huge solar oven!
- March 2007: The nonprofit Darfur Peace and Development Organization (DPADO) is incorporating solar cooking as part of its project to establish women’s centers for displaced Darfurians in Sudan. The solar cooking component is coordinated by Stephen Harrigan, who has built and experimented with solar cookers and has demonstrated their use in Darfur. According to Harrigan, DPADO has "a large local Sudanese infrastructure already in place in Darfur to really promote this well" in camps for displaced people. He hopes to begin training in Khartoum this spring.
Description of Project
The principle behind solar cooking is simply that of converting solar light rays into heat. Over the past 20 years solar cooking has become simple for the average person to use. Now it has become a tool that can be utilized by the IDPs and refugees around the world. Although there many successful designs of solar cookers the one that fits best to the needs of refugees with limited resources is called the Cookit from Solar Cookers International (SCI). It combines the best of several designs into a simple portable style that has been successful in numerous refugee camps in Africa.
Benefits for Darfur
- Long term, it reduces the consumption of firewood by at least a third and therefore significantly slows deforestation.
- It saves many hours of time from searching for firewood, hauling it home and splitting it, therefore leaving more time for other needs of life. It also saves time while cooking because it does not have to be closely watched since it does not burn the food.
- It reduces the risk of the women and girls getting raped and the men killed while out foraging for wood.
- It will eventually provide some employment for the refugees who produce the cookers in the camps or in the surrounding area especially if utilizing local materials.
How it Works
The solar Cookit is made of cardboard or other local material and is cut into a specific shape that will effectively reflect the solar light rays toward a black metal pot of food. This pot, when painted black on the outside, absorbs and retains the heat from the solar rays . A clear polypropylene bag tied around the pot creates an insulating barrier of air and allows the pot to easily reach 250 degrees F. (about 121 C), which is more than enough to cook several liters of food in a few hours. Each bag can be reused for a month or more.
Cost Factor for the Solar Cooker
This design of solar cooker has been mass-produced in many countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Turkey, the United States and Mexico. Depending on the local costs of aluminum foil and cardboard, the expenses to make a Cookit and provide 2 aluminum pots with a 12 month supply of cooking bags along with some training range about $30.00 for each family in Darfur.
Implementation in Darfur
Changing habits of cooking and diet come very slowly to many people. The education process to make this project a success in Darfur will take the bulk of time and finances. It is better to be successful with a few who continue using solar cookers than have a big campaign and have the concept fizzle in a few months. A plan of 3-5 years need to be followed to make sure the people of a region are actively using solar cookers and are drawing the more marginal people into the mainstream of this project. Investing time, energy, and funding in training others is where the success of this venture lies. It addition to teaching the women of Darfur how to use solar cookers it should also be introduced into the local schools. The children of Darfur can begin to start learning practical ways to use their natural resources and begin working together to stop the deforestation of their land. Each child is a natural bridge into each home where these kinds of ideas can be encouraged for a future hope for Darfur.
Welcome new Innovation
In time there are other styles of solar cookers that could be made using local materials. We need to draw on the creative minds of the local population to adapt other things to be used for solar cookers rather than just cardboard. However the crisis at hand in Darfur dictates a quick affordable solution that the Cookit offers.
Audio and video
- June 2007:
1050 17th St. NW, Suite 520
Washington, DC 20036
P.O. Box 66475
Washington, DC 20035-6475
Tax deductible donations for the Solar Cooker Project may be sent to the following address. Be sure to write "Solar Cooker Project" in the memo line.
Darfur Peace and Development Organization
P.O. Box 5743
Fort Wayne, IN 46895