Solar Cookers World Network


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Food versus charcoal

Each little pile of food items costs 75 Kenya Shillings (about US$1) as does the pile of charcoal in the center of the circle. By using a CooKit or other solar cooker, people can buy food instead of fuel.

Fuelwood in the form of wood or charcoal remains the dominate energy source for over two billion people worldwide. In some areas not even these fuels are available and dry grass or cow dung are burned instead. Charcoal is often favored by cooks since its heat stays rather constant and the fire doesn't have to be tended as much. It take 10 kg of wood though to make 1 kg of charcoal. Indoor air pollution from cooking fires kills more people each year than AIDS or malaria.

Global dimming

Pollution over east China

A permanent cloud of soot particles from cooking fires hovers over Asia.

This true-color image over eastern China was acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), flying aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite, on Oct. 16, 2002 [1]. The scene reveals dozens of fires burning on the surface (red dots) and a thick pall of smoke and haze (greyish pixels) filling the skies overhead. Notice in the high-resolution version of this image how the smog fills the valleys and courses around the contours of the terrain in China’s hilly and mountainous regions. The terrain higher in elevation is less obscured by the smog than the lower lying plains and valleys in the surrounding countryside. This scene spans roughly from Beijing (near top center) to the Yangtze River, the mouth of which can be seen toward the bottom right. Toward the upper right corner, the Bo Hai Bay is rather obscured by the plume of pollution blowing eastward toward Korea and the Pacific Ocean. Toward the bottom right, the Yangtze River is depositing its brownish, sediment-laden waters into the Yellow Sea.Global dimming as a result of the atmospheric brown clouds (ABCs) of black carbon and other particulates that circle the globe (aka aerosols) is having a profound effect on climate change, global warming, plants, migrational patterns, and food production worldwide. In many parts of the world the primary source of the brown clouds is cooking fires. Lots of people talk about global warming, but global dimming is a very serious problem that is not getting the attention it should. Educate yourself on the subject of global dimming so that you can become part of the solution and help to educate others. Unlike CO2, the brown clouds would clear quickly if we stopped sending smoke up in the first place. Solar cooking technology can do more than any other single area of technology to cut back on global dimming.

Main article: Global dimming

An example: Nigeria

Most of sub-Saharan Africa is buried either in the forest or stands as an island. Nigeria happens to be the major petroleum refining and exporting country - supplying its products to some greater number of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) countries. Unfortunately, inasmuch as the fuel is readily available, the price remains prohibitive and less accessible to the average family. Ironically, Nigeria itself imports refined petroleum products for its domestic consumption from overseas. The result is endless dependence on fossil fuel for our domestic needs - hence the flaggrant exploitation of the forests. Aware of this tendency, governments had embarked on tree planting campaigns at various levels; but little result has been achieved by these efforts for lack of alternative energy. Cost of electricity is beyond the reach of many urban dwellers let alone the rural majority, hence people prefer to do most of their cooking with charcoal or firewood. In the riverine communities where fishing is the major occupation, preservation is not possible except by drying the fish over firewood or charcoal. The level of carbon infused into the fishes during this drying process constitutes a major source of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. High percentage of much needed protein is lost through this process of preservation. With these activities of wood cutting, our wild-life is almost becoming extinct. The beautiful ecology is being destroyed at a fast rate due to ocean and desert encroachment. The photographs show pile of firewood for sale and some trucks offloading charcoal while buyers are qeueing up to take delivery of their consignments. Only a solar revolution can save the situation.


Forest exploitation


Trucks offloading charcoal

Collecting Fuelwood in Guatemala

Collecting fuelwood in Guatemala

Nepal wood carrying - McArdle 2008

Carrying fuelwood in Nepal

Charcoal production

Charcoal is created by burning wood in an oxygen-starved environment

Fuelwood as percentage or energy consumption Africa

Fuelwood as a percentage of energy consumption in Africa

Fuelwood as percentage or energy consumption Asia

Fuelwood as a percentage of energy consumption in Asia

Fuelwood as percentage or energy consumption Central and South America

Fuelwood as a percentage of energy consumption in Central and South America


Quotes about the world fuelwood situation

  • "Worldwide, more than three billion people cook with wood, dung, coal and other solid fuels on open fires or traditional stoves." [1]
  • "Wood energy is the dominant source of energy for over two billion people, particularly in households in developing countries. Biofuels, especially fuelwood and charcoal, currently provide more than 14 percent of the world's total primary energy." [2]
  • "2.5 billion people - 40 per cent of the world’s population are still cooking and heating their homes with basic energy sources, such as charcoal, wood, biomass and dung." [3]
  • "For cooking, heating and other energy needs, over 2.5 billion people in developing countries depend on fuelwood or, when that is unaffordable, on crop residues and animal dung." [4]

Audio and video


  • Get Beyond Firewood, A video produced by the Womens Refugee Commission is a poignant reminder that the need to get past using firewood as a cooking fuel is great, and immediate. Limited forested areas are being depleted, and the smoke from cooking fires is causing respiratory illness. Also, sadly, women living in distressed areas are putting their lives on the line, facing possible assualt when they leave their homes in search for fuel to simply be able to cook for their families. However, solar cooking has begun to be an important part of the solution. Investigate work being done in African Refugee camps. More information on the Womens Refugee Commission.

  • Solar Cookers in Tibetan Areas of China12:11

    Solar Cookers in Tibetan Areas of China

See also

External links

  • September 2011: Around three billion people cook and heat their homes using open fires and leaky stoves burning biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal. Nearly two million people die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution from household solid fuel use. Read more...Indoor air pollution and health - World Health Organization
  • is a tremendous resource for people who want to learn more about wood smoke. It is the home page for Clean Air Revival, Inc.

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