Last updated: September 3, 2015
The World Central Kitchen, founded by internationally known chef José Andrés in 2010, has proposed and been implementing a sustainable solution to food shortages in Haiti. Their mission is to promote local food production and purchasing, educating the public about solar cooking and the integrated cooking method, and using these new skills to create opportunities for local income generation. Learn more about the World Central Kitchen.
News and recent developments
- September 2015: Civil and mechanical engineering students from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, IN, USA use solar ovens to melt plastic bags into bricks for construction in Haiti. Read more...
- November 2014: On their Facebook page, Haiti Solar Oven Partners reported that they built 50 solar cookers during a workshop that was attended by 85 students.
- October 2014: Sun and Ice recently sent more than 100 Premium14 and SK14 parabolic solar cookers to Haiti. They also sent fuel-efficient cookstoves and heat-retention cooking baskets along with the solar cookers to teach the Integrated Cooking Method. Use the solar cooker when it is sunny, use the fuel-efficient stove when it is not, and use the heat-retention basket with both cooking approaches.
- August 2014: A group of volunteers known as the Haiti Solar Oven Partners from First United Methodist Church of Jamestown, North Dakota recently traveled to Moffit, N.D., to help fabricate solar ovens to be used in Haiti. Teams of volunteers travel to Haiti each year to live in communities that have invited them. For ten days, these volunteers work with Haitians to build ovens and educate people about solar cooking. Their goal is to deliver 2,300 solar ovens plus hands-on training to Haitian families every year. Read more...
- December 2013: Chefs at the World Central Kitchen in Haiti show off their new parabolic solar cooker for use at their commercial kitchen.
- September 2013: Haiti Solar Oven Partners will be traveling North Dakota, USA with its Haitian leaders, Montas Joseph and Raymonde Joseph, to spread the word about solar-powered ovens utilized in the poverty-stricken nation of Haiti, and to bolster potential volunteers for the cause. Montas Joseph, Haitian director of HSOP, and Raymonde Joseph, HSOP training director, will visit 29 United Methodist churches in North Dakota and South Dakota throughout September. Read more about the project.
- February 2013: Changes are coming to Tilori, Haiti as well. Twenty-five families are learning to cook Haitian meals like soup, beans, potatoes, yucca, plantains and rice with energy-efficient stoves and solar ovens — little or no wood or charcoal is needed. Solar Household Energy (SHE), a U.S.-based nonprofit organization that introduces solar and alternative cooking to communities, recently distributed the stoves that were purchased with Nature Conservancy funding. Louise Meyer, trainer from SHE, will continue to provide on-going technical assistance and encourage the women to support each other as they learn this new way of cooking. Read more at Solar Cookers: Making Life Easier for Women
- January 2013: Scheffler Community Kitchen installed in Hinche, Haiti - Alec Gagneux of GloboSol helped facitate the construction of a Scheffler Reflector Solar Cooker at a workshop held in Hinche, Haiti from August 10th through October 15th, 2010. The first reflector was installed in front of the cafeteria of the education center. The students themselves installed the second reflector in an orphanage in the village of Dospalais. They were supervised minimally in order to make the workshop as self-reliant as possible. They also received information about possible income generation approaches to be able to raise their standard of living. Read more of the project. A portion is English, but it is primarily in French.
The history of solar cooking in Haiti
As mentioned above in the discussion of Canada, early work in solar cooking was done by a Canadian organization, Communities in Partnership, a charitable group founded in 1984 in Powell River, British Columbia. Their work, in turn, was inspired by a 1977 feasibility study in Haiti, accomplished to assess the suitability of the county from a climatic/insolation perspective. This work of Dr. Tom Bowman, James Sharbar and Joel Blatt focused on factors of weather in the different parts of Haiti. They measured insolation in more than a dozen areas, some at different seasons of the year. Without providing all of the detail of their research, the document's overall conclusion is that good solar cooking conditions, generally speaking, exist in Haiti, with, as everywhere, seasonal and some regional variations, probably enabling families to save at least half of their fuel costs.
The original Canadian partnership was with a small community called Saint Marc, but later the program expanded to a number of communities in Haiti. They began by building solar cookers jointly with residents of Saint Marc, and were preparing to start an ambitious pilot project when a major coup interrupted normal life in Haiti (1991). In that disturbed time, the Canadians decided to turn their efforts to a survey of all solar cooking activity in the country. They had heard bits and pieces of other small projects but had no overall picture of the situation. In the next months, they devised a questionnaire that was sent to over 30 locations in the country where solar cooking had been tried or » demonstrated. Thus, while the information is now dated, a picture does exist (even if admittedly not complete) of what is a substantial portion at least of solar activity in the country at the time.
The conclusions of this study proved to be difficult (or impossible?) to summarize numerically, but excerpts from reportsreceived give the flavor of work in a wide range of communities, allowing some generalizations to be made. Short reports are provided from 19 of the 30 communities surveyed. Key figures in solar promotion in this country included the Brace Research Institute of McGill University, a number of religious organizations, the Canadian Communities in Partnership group, a number of individuals, and one enterprise promoting a particular cooking model.
Commonalities and differences are seen in the reports. A variety of cooker designs are in use: the box cooker (the most common), a steam cooker, and parabolics, all in a variety of materials, wood, cardboard, metal, two different approaches were seen, one believing that uptake would be higher and longer lasting if people made their own cookers, investing their own time and energy. Other disagreed and felt that efficiency, perhaps more certain with a manufactured product, was more important than the "ownership" conveyed by self-building. Strong and regular usage was fairly rare, despite the extreme need. The various groups were not working together for the most part, thus not maximizing their learning from one another's' experiences. Need was everywhere great, but cost of the cookers was nearly prohibitive for many.
Two additional resources in Haiti in the early days of solar promotion are: the solar cooking resource center, created in the Haitian-American Institute by librarian Eleanor Snare and, in 1992, a first Haitian National Solar Cooking Conference held in Port-au-Prince. In that same period, a number of Haitian solar cooks traveled to other solar cooking conferences, regional and worldwide.
Since the early years, a range of sporadic attempts continues the good beginnings of the earlier era. The country has however continued to experience political unrest, always hampering any development efforts. Nonetheless, efforts at promotion have continued. The Free Methodist Church of Haiti, located in the capital Port-au- Prince, has worked diligently, despite personnel changes, at solar promotion. Over the years, they have distributed over 1,000 solar cookers, primarily of the panel variety, the least expensive version available today. To help with follow-up, they have formed committees of solar cooks in several towns.
The Rotary Club of Brookings, South Dakota, U.S.A., along with other clubs in its Rotary district, have joined Solar Oven Partners, a cooperative project with the United Methodist Church. The collaboration began in 1998 and by December of 2002, the project had distributed more than 300 ovens (on a subsidized basis) and trained 2,500 Haitians to use them. An on-site infrastructure is being organized, working with the Methodist Church of Haiti. Using a basic philosophy of "empowering people through self help", the Rotarians and Methodists are continuing the long tradition of "harvesting sunlight" in this nation. Deforestation here is already at an extreme stage, hence need continues to be great.
A long time advocate of solar cooking in Haiti, Jack Anderson (an early Communities in Partnership leader), has tried a range of dissemination methods, employing "animatrices" or extension workers initially, then re-conceptualizing them as small-scale entrepreneurs. His knowledge of Haiti is extensive, but political events have continued to make efforts very difficult. In the last project described below for Haiti, Jack has played an important role in yet a different method of promoting solar cooking. That most recent addition to the range of solar offerings in Haiti is structured differently from its predecessors. In this instance, a business, Sun Ovens International, has begun operating in the country, using a very interesting distribution mechanism. As described on the Sun Oven website (http://www.sunoven.org)> the plan includes a number of components.
The project selected 500 women in one area of Haiti for initial training in solar cooking, using the cardboard panel cooker called the CooKit This device serves as a teaching tool; participants are requested to keep records of their cooking attempts, results, and fuel savings for a periodof three months. Those who prove to be regular users of the CooKit can turn in their logs, along with an account of the money they have saved, to obtain a SunOven, sometimes thought of as the "Cadillac" of box cookers. Initially, Sun Ovens International has established an assembly plant in Haiti, in which U.S. manufactured components will be put together in country (and perhaps even for export?)
When demand justifies, a full scale manufacturing plant will be established that can serve the needs of the Caribbean basin for this top of the line solar cooking model. (A similar plan is in effect for Ethiopia) It is too soon to know how this will progress, but it is clearly an interesting and unusual tactic for promotion - and one to be watched carefully.
This activity is at least partially supported by a loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and arrant from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Sun Oven owner, Paul Munson, was recently honored in the office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert (Munsen's congressman), with the award of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Export Achievement Award for this innovative work in Haiti. Given the desperate situation of the forest situation in Haiti, combined with favorable insolation in most of the country, the country will remain a prime possibility for solar cooking promotion, particularly if or when the political climate improves.
Climate, culture, and special considerations
Solar Cookers International has rated Haiti as the #18 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 Haiti with fuel scarcity in 2020 is 3,100,000. An average Haitian family spends $2.30 (U.S.) per week to purchase charcoal.
Jack Anderson has confirmed that very little wood was used in the construction of buildings in Haiti which means that there isn’t much wood in the rubble to use for cooking after the earthquake. That must make the need for cooking fuel even more acute. Before the quake, more than 90% of all the energy used in Haiti was for cooking fires, mostly in the form of charcoal.
- The most successful model we have found in Haiti is to have women go through training on how to make a CooKit. We found much greater success when the women made them due to the pride they took in making it themselves. The readymade CooKits are less expensive and much less hassle than bringing in cardboard, glue, and foil but we found the pride factor to be worth the additional cost and effort.
- The training sessions where 3 hours a day for 3 days and included lunch. The first two days the lunches were cooked in Sun Ovens so the women could see how much faster the food cooked. The last day the food is cooked in the home made CooKit. Part of the training is to teach the women to keep a log on how often they used the Cookit, how much charcoal they saved and how much money they saved not buying charcoal. At the end of 90 days they turn in the log as a down payment on a Sun Oven and pay for the Sun Oven out of the charcoal savings. (See Microcredit.)
- We have distributed approximately 400 Sun Ovens in Haiti using this system. In most counties we try not to start projects in areas where CooKits had been introduced in the past because we have found it much easier to start with Sun Ovens than to overcome negative ideas about CooKits. We have found that if the women do not pay something for the Sun Ovens they most likely will not use them beyond the time that the person who gave it to them is around. We have found the most important factors to be the percentage of household income spent for cooking fuel and how we get women who live one day at a time to understand how much money they can save by not buying charcoal.
- March 2010: A Rapid Assessment of Cooking Fuel Needs in Post Quake Haiti
- Solar cooker dissemination and cultural variables
- Haiti's Energy Problems - The Oil Drum
Possible funders for solar cooking projects in Haiti
- December 1977: Solar Cookers for Haiti - Bowman, Sharber, Blatt
Articles in the media
- April 2015: Ad Haiti arrivano le cucine solari, il progetto è italiano - Adnkronos (English version)
- June 2014: José Andrés thinks food can fix the world, starting in Haiti - The Washington Post
- April 2014: Four years after the Earthquake: The Need for Solar Cookers in Haiti - Solar Cooker Review
- September 2013: Haitian to say thanks for solar ovens - The Bismark Tribune
- June 2013: Faith effort creates solar ovens for Haiti - The Bismarck Tribune
- October 2012: A Solar Stove for Haiti -The Sag Harbor Express
- July 2010: Otro Haiti es posible - Yo Cambio (English version)
- July 2010: Sun Ovens International Continues To Help Victims Of Haiti Earthquake Through Solar Cooking - PRLog
- April 2010: Solar Powered Products in Haiti - New York Times
- February 2010: Haiti's Tomorrow May Be Rooted In Trees, Fertilizer - The Huffington Post
- February 2010: Haiti’s (Solar) Power - The CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities Blog
- January 2010: Haitian Student Heads Home to Help - University of Buffalo Reporter
- January 2010: Solar Salvation for Haiti? - MSNBC
- July 2008: Rotary ships dinners, ovens to Haiti - The Brooking Register
- February 2007: Niedert marvels at Haitian people - Madison Daily Leader
Audio and video
- November 2012:
- July 2011:
- September 2010:
- August 2009: