News and Recent Developments
- February 2014: Margaret Bennett reports on a SunStove training that took place earlier this month in Lesotho. The workshop was run by two ladies from Quebec, Canada, and funded by the Raging Grannies of Vancouver. Twenty-five sunstoves were set out with tiles to preheat with soupa dishes placed in the sun on the group to warm the water/oil mixture for the Bohobe (bread) recipe. While the bread baked, we talked - repeating the lessons of the week and answering questions. Everyone is keen to dry fruit in the sunstove & we are excited to hear the results. Keke informed us that fruit buyers in Mohales Hoek pay 50 rand a kilo for dried fruit, so this could be an income-generator for some of these grandparents and children. Much thanks to Carol and Christine, trainers, solar cooks, and carpenters.
- April 2008: Ivan Yaholnitsky has built a proto-type parabolic trough system that he is using to operate a steady cottage bread and pastry baking business. The device can bake 25-40, 1000g loaves (depending on the season) in a day (and even a bit more on a perfect day). It also does pastries beautifully. The solar bread baker works so well, that he has invested in a 20 liter dough mixer, which also operates off his house’s PV system.
The History of Solar Cooking in Lesotho
Around two decades ago, as reported by A. A. Eberhard in the 1994 Proceedings of the Eighth Biennial Congress of the International Solar Energy Society, a group of South Africans attempted to introduce solar cooking in the mountains of Lesotho. The project was not a success from Eberhard's perspective, confirmed by two others on return from a Peace Corps assignment and academic work in the country. Their analysis of reasons, cast in terms of Rogers' 1983 theory on the diffusion of innovation, concludes that an innovation basically cannot be introduced by foreigners. They then proceed to discuss successful introduction of devices by others with foreign sounding names like Yaholnitsky and Scott, that have in fact, been more successful. (Scott, though not a Basotho, was born there.) Their approaches to introducing solar cooking were very practical, such as teaching women how to cook the basic staple of the country, and using local people as aides and trainers. Perhaps all of this is a precursor to the current situation in Lesotho.
The current center for solar cooking in this small nation is located in a multipurpose educational facility, the Bethel Business and Community Development Centre, located in Moorosi, Lethotha. The Centre, which began in 1998, provides adult education of many applied types, attempting to inculcate practical skills and teamwork in its young adult student body. The center demonstrates by its own use topics such as water resource development and utilization, improvement of rural infrastructure, enhancement of village design, solar energy utilization, and environmental regeneration. Some of the courses of study are extended, giving students professional training and skills; others are short courses for refreshing already learned skills and exposure to new ideas in the various fields. The campus included residential quarters for both the full time and the short-term students.
The unit that focuses on solar technology is called Solar Soft. Representatives of the group were present at the world meeting in Kimberley, South Africa. The design they were using was a box cooker mounted on a heavy pipe set into a ground base which allowed it to turned to follow the sun. (SCI personnel made certain they had a CooKit to take home and experiment with.) A small but steady demand for cookers, which are made by craftsmen at the Center, has been generated. Their strategy has been to target a better-educated, middle class audience, touting environmental arguments rather than fuel savings. They have demonstrated that cookers can be sold to this audience. Students at the college prepare lunches every day of the school week using solar cookers. A strength of the program is the situating of solar cooking firmly in the range of other solar and renewable modes of operating, thereby providing students with multiple and integrated lessons for their later life.