Last updated: December 1, 2013
Based on the early successes of Solar Cookers International's Kakuma Refugee Camp project, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asked Solar Cookers International (SCI) to begin solar cooking training in Dadaab, a cluster of refugee camps also located in Kenya.
The solar cooking project began in September 1995, when SCI conducted a series of three-day solar cooking workshops for 36 refugee women that would become trainers. These women were extension workers for the organization German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), which was implementing afforestation and fuel-efficient stove programs in the camp.
A unique aspect of the Dadaab project was that refugees earned solar cookers by either working on camp improvement projects for five days, or by planting 25 tree seedlings and nurturing them for three months.
By late 1996, several hundred families had earned solar cookers and were waiting, sometimes for several months, to be trained and receive their cookers. SCI trained an additional 16 extension workers to help reduce the backlog. By mid-1997, 2000 families had received CooKit solar cookers and 32000 trees had been planted.
The El Niño floods of late 1997 had severe consequences for the project. Because refugee shelters were poorly made, nearly all the CooKits previously distributed were damaged or lost, as were many cooking pots. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. government began funding firewood distributions to help curb the rapes that were occurring while women and girls collected firewood outside the camp. The distributions did reduce the number of rapes, but also disrupted SCI’s efforts to restart the solar cooking project after the El Niño losses; with free firewood, there was less incentive to try solar cooking.
Despite its unexpected end in July 1998, the Dadaab project had long-term positive impacts. For example, the Trans World Radio organization started to promote solar box cookers in Dadaab a few years later, and benefiting greatly from the groundwork and educational efforts made by SCI. Likewise, several thousand Somali Bantu refugees benefited from SCI’s efforts in Dadaab. When they were transferred to Kakuma refugee camp they were already familiar with solar cooking and embraced the solar cooking opportunities provided there.