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News and Recent Developments
- November 2012: GloboSol annual report: Switzerland/Germany - Partner-meeting “Skillshare” - As a “première”, some of our closest friends and solar colleagues from various foreign countries were invited to visit Globosol with Michael Götz. In the course of a manifold study and sight-seeing program, they also became acquainted with parts of Switzerland and southern Germany. Unfortunately only two guests were able to participate: Lorena Harp from Oaxaca, Mexico, the co-organizer of the project “Food-stalls in Mexico”, and Sourakatou Ouro-Bangna, head of the solar center “Solasol” in Sokode,Togo. It was a stimulating event that nevertheless raised questions and unfortunately required significant administrative expense.
- November 2012: GloboSol annual report: Mexico - Solar energy for food stalls - This project, beginning in autumn 2009, has been characterized by a particular dynamic. Often typical of the bureaucratic planning process in Mexico, decisions can be made very spontaneously and without forethought for the future, a big challenge for the project’s manager, Michael Götz, who is continually evaluating the possibilities and finding new ways of improvising for project success. Central to Phase 3 of the project, which ran from November 2011 until May 2012, were further improvements to the Taqueria Poncho, solar street vendor equipment, extension of the food stalls to small restaurants and food processing businesses, construction of a gastro-steamer for a canteen, and building a demonstration center website, Cocina Solar Mexico.
- August 2012: FMCN involved in Proyecto Olla Solar that involved distribution of a modified CooKit called the Xuni. Read more...
- May 2012:Volunteers from the Rotary Club of Fresno, California, led by Wilfred and Marie Pimentel, teamed up with the Rotary Club of Tapachula Centenario, Mexico, to host a five-day integrated cooking workshop in Tapachula. This is the tenth grant project completed in Mexico by the Rotary Club of Fresno. Although only twenty students were expected to attend, ninety-one arrived on opening day to participate—a clear indication of the desperate need for affordable fuel-saving cooking devices in this region. Local instructors and expert solar cooks from Torreon and Oaxaca led the workshop. Participants learned to build three types of rocket stoves: mud and chopped grass, five gallon tin can, and sixteen brick, which were used to make tortillas. Students cut out cardboard sheets and glued them to pieces of aluminum foil to make solar panel CooKits. A variety of meat, vegetable and egg dishes were prepared with the CooKits along with desserts like pineapple upside down cake. Students also learned how to use WAPI’s to pasteurize water with a CooKit. Finally, the instructors showed their ninety-one students how easy it is to make a retained heat cooker with a pillowcases and crumpled newspaper stuffed into a woven basket. Read more about the event and see more photos...
- May 2011: Solar Household Energy (SHE) is working to expand the solar cooking promotion efforts it undertook in Mexico with the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN) begun in 2004. They has also been active in the areas of solar cooking advocacy, research and technology development. Read more in the SHE spring update 2011.
- December 2010: Solar cooking is growing in popularity in both the rural and urban areas of Mexico. The video features a roadside street vender in Oaxaca who has realized substantial savings by converting his cart to solar cooking.
- April 2010: While travelling in Mexico late last year, Tom Carter taught a class on solar cooking and water pasteurization for local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The nearly 40 students in attendance learned how to conduct and read simple water tests, and how to make biologically contaminated drinking water safe by heating it in a solar cooker to pasteurization temperatures as indicated by a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI). The class built about 15 simple solar cookers based on Solar Cookers International’s CooKit. Carter modified the design by removing most of the curves and by joining multiple cardboard panels together instead of using one solid piece. The product is somewhat easier to build and reduces the amount of cardboard needed. “This pattern … is easier to make,” says Carter. “It requires three boxes of approximately the same size or perhaps only two if they have nice tops or bottoms.” The solar cookers and a number of water testing kits and WAPIs were left with the NGO representatives.
- April 2010 S. Greegor of Idaho has been working through the Peace Corps to introduce solar cookers to rural Mexico. She has a goal of introducing solar cookers to 500 families before leaving Mexico.
- March 2010: Teens construct their own solar ovens for the school hot lunch program. Utilizing the enthusiastic energy of teens, Peter Edmunds is introducing a solar-powered school hot lunch program into an economically disadvantaged Mexican middle school. The dream that the dusty border town of Palomas will become "the most solar conscious town in Mexico" is closer to reality with four student-constructed solar ovens in place and in use. Edmunds, 71, a New Mexican retiree, founded the nonprofit organization Border Partners to address poverty in the desolate US-Mexico border area of Columbus, NM and Palomas, Mexico last year. Teens construct solar ovens
- August 2009: The Technological University of San Juan del Rio presented a solar oven for cooking food to Casa Conciencia, a "green demonstration home" located in Leon, Guanajuato. This project was developed by the teachers of the university to help find solutions to prevent health problems faced by people of limited means who use wood or coal for their energy. For more information, go to Diario Rotativo: Líder en Querétaro.
- August 2009: The British Embassy in Mexico has instigated an ambitious project to reduce its carbon footprint and save money. Over the past 2 years steps have been taken including purchasing more efficient cars, recycling paper and toner cartridges, and increased use of tele and video conferences to reduce travel. This year they have embarked on a new phase with a new goal to further reduce emmissions and main energy costs by 20%. They anticipate reducing the embassy's use of butane gas by at least 80% through the use of solar heaters and better management of hot water. They plan to institute more efficient recycling, to solar heat shower water, to install and use solar coffee makers and solar ovens for people to cook their lunches, to recycle water, to relamp inefficient lighting fixtures, and to turn-off hot water to the toilet room sinks. To be effective, all staff is encouraged to buy in to the projects and to contribute their ideas. To facilitate this, they have created a Green Terrace which doubles as an additional meeting room. The Terrace has a solar powered coffee maker, solar oven, and water purifier. For more information, go to the UK embassy in Mexico website.
- July 2009: Solar Household Energy, Inc.’s Richard Stolz reports that 400 HotPot solar cookers were provided to victims of the floods that ravaged the southern state of Tabasco in late 2007. “In addition to the devastation caused to homes, the floods knocked out Tabasco’s electricity and gas distribution plant. As a result, even after flood waters had receded, many residents had no means of cooking food, particularly when firewood was unavailable.” The HotPots were made available by two of Solar Household Energy, Inc.’s partner organizations, the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature, and International Logistics Solutions, which manufactures HotPots in Mexico.
- November 2008: Mexico's Federal Government Department of Social Services SEDESOL helped launch the biggest solar cooking demonstration to date in Coahuila, Mexico. Over 120 HotPot solar ovens cooked lunch in Torreon's Ecological Park. Torreon's Mayor who was present acknowledged that "Torreon has 300 days of sunshine."
- April 2007: El Sudcaliforniano, newspaper of La Paz, recently reported on a small solar cooking project started by Mercedes Gorrete Solis Lucero, a local biochemical engineer. Thus far, 20 demonstration solar cookers have been constructed -- eight parabolic-type, six box-type and six panel-type. The purpose of the project is to make solar thermal technology available to the community at low cost while contributing to an ecological culture. The state of Baja California Sur enjoys more than 260 sunny days per year, suffers from scarcity of firewood and is home to people who tend to put new technologies into practice, the newspaper says. Gorrete Solis Lucero demonstrates the cookers at events such as the state government’s women’s exposition She says most people become interested, show enthusiasm and ask questions, and she has a special method for dealing with doubts. “I make pastries,” she says.
- January 2007: The International Relations Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide information and analysis that increase social and economic justice throughout the world, recently cited the HotPot as an example of an effective solar cooker that is both produced and sold in Mexican communities. Mexico is currently working to structure a national training program to help individuals understand the utility of solar and wind power in cost effectiveness for health and the environment. Read more here.
- August 2006: Learning together on the Mexican border
- March 2006: One thousand Mexican families buy solar cookers
- March 2006: Kathy Dahl-Bredine, who works with the Nino a Nino organization, reports that solar cooking is taking hold in the state of Oaxaca. She gave nine workshops in her first year and helped about 150 people learn to make and use solar cookers. In the workshops, new solar cooking students are given homework — to teach others how to make and use a CooKit-style solar panel cooker. Ms. Dahl-Bredine reports that many of her students have done their homework and taught others. She has also taught solar cooking skills to Indian development promoters who are spreading the idea to many other families. She writes, “It sounds like a great many of the cookers are getting used. … One woman I work with said, ‘Now I know that I don’t have to worry about whether I’ve turned the beans off when I leave the house, because if they are in the solar cooker, I know they are fine.’ … One woman I know here in Oaxaca City told me about a certain dish she makes, a particular chicken enchilada, that her 10-year-old son never especially liked, but the first time she made it in her solar cooker … her son said, ‘Wow, this is delicious. What makes it so different?’” Ms. Dahl-Bredine reports that the major motivation for using the solar cookers is that people have little income, and benefit from reduced fuel costs. The CooKit-type solar cooker is practical because it is inexpensive and can be made by the families themselves. She emphasizes follow-up visits with new learners, because people don’t always get everything they need to know from one workshop. When people are learning, she says, “you want all the conditions to be right to succeed at first.” After people have some experience, they can try more challenging cooking problems. She believes that experienced solar cooks can use their solar cookers most days even during Oaxaca’s rainy season, by starting early in the day and planning carefully.
The History of Solar Cooking in Mexico
A substantial amount of solar cooking activity has been instituted in Mexico under a wide range of auspices, almost certainly more than can be described here. Girl Scout leader Barby Pulliam has conducted training programs for Girl Scout leaders and other representatives of NGOs in a number of cities and towns. Rotarian Wilfred Pimentel has also conducted a number of pilot programs in various cities. In some of those places, Rotary and Girl Scouts joined forces. A number of missions and other religious groups have promoted solar cookers in various parts of the country. One example is the Mission Mazahua, in Atlacomulco, which has produced around 600 cookers. Several university faculty members have conducted research on cooking devices, as well.
Currently, a large project is underway in an unusual venue, a nature conservancy area, the Sierra Gorda Nature Reserve. In the spring of 2003, Louise Meyer of Solar Household Energy, Inc. (SHE, Inc.) conducted a training program to test user acceptance of a new solar device called the HotPot. The device uses a modified CooKit design, initially of a plastic material rather than cardboard, and later metal. The black pot is enclosed within a tempered glass "greenhouse" instead of the plastic bag used in the original CooKit.
The Director of the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature, Lorenzo Rosenzweig, has partnered with SHE, Inc. in planning and implementation of the project.
Within the confines of nature conservancies in Mexico, as elsewhere, trees cannot be cut down for use as fuelwood. Households living within the area thus must find other sources of energy for cooking. Therefore, the managing group of the Sierra Gorda site, the Grupo Ecologico de Sierra Gorda, was delighted to explore the potential of solar cooking. The town of Purisima and a village, Mavi, were selected as the site for the initial training program.
Ms. Meyer traveled to Mexico in May, and conducted training for Sierra Gorda women, who were given HotPots and trained in their use over a two-day period. After the training, Ms. Meyer visited the women in their homes as follow-up for days of further training and coaching. The women were all interested in what others were cooking, and eventually a throng of cooks accompanied Ms. Meyer on most visits, enhancing the group learning substantially. Two women from the group were chosen for additional training in "how to teach others". The new trainers were again visited and coached in the art of training.
This pilot project, growing into a large scale follow up in other areas of Mexico, was among the winners of the 2003 Development Marketplace competition, held annually by the World Bank. The award of funds to SHE, Inc. in collaboration with the Fondo Mexicano will permit faster dissemination of the new Hotpot in this area and perhaps in other parts of South America. Reports on this activity will become available later in 2004 on the SHE, Inc. web site (she-inc.org). The Sun Oven Organization, an offshoot of Sun Ovens International, is also working in Mexico, though its main offices for the area are in Europe. They report promoting both Sun Ovens and Sheffler type parabolics in Cuernavaca and Mexico City (http://firstname.lastname@example.org>) The parabolic portion of this work, conducted by the Grupo Scheffler de Mexico installs large commercial and institutional cooking and water heating.
The first industrial solar kitchen of México (6 Schefflers reflectors of 10m2) have been build in the Hidalgo State by Gregor Shäpers. New projects are on the pipeline in Hidalgo and Jalisco states, and in particular for steam aplications.
Climate, Culture, and Special ConsiderationsMexico is the most populous Spanish-speaking country with over 100 million inhabitants. One-quarter of the population lives in Mexico City, the world’s largest city. Rapid population growth and industrialization in Mexico over the last few decades have put an enormous strain on the environment, economy and on individual health.
Less than 10% of Mexico’s native tropical rainforests remain today. These rainforests are limited to southeastern Mexico and are most threatened by subsistence activities—especially fuel wood collection. Fuel wood supplies 69% of the energy consumption in rural areas, particularly for cooking. As the supply of wood decreases it negatively impacts the lives of the people who depend on it.
For instance, women and girls are responsible for procuring fuel wood and they must travel farther from home as wood becomes more scarce. This task demands many hours and minimizes opportunities to attend school and participate in income-generating activities. In other areas, it is no longer feasible to gather wood. Families in these areas can spend 15% to 37% of their income on wood and/or gas.
In addition to the negative environmental and economic impact of fuel wood dependence, women and children suffer from health problems caused by cooking inside small, enclosed kitchens that often lack windows or other ventilation. Women and children inhale toxic smoke for many hours each day which can lead to pneumonia and respiratory infections, the biggest killers of children under five years of age.
Possible funders for solar cooking projects in Mexico
Possible funders for solar cooking projects in Mexico
- Fundacion Realidad A.C (FRAC), a partner of World Vision International
- Fundación para la Vivienda Progresiva (FVP), a partner of CHF International
- January 2009: CHOCOSOL- An Experience of Producing Joy Without Generating Malice - Aline Desentis Otálora
- January 2009: Agave syrup production – a sweet tradition goes solar - Gregor Schäpers
- July 2006: Una entrevista con Mariana Díaz del Fundo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (FMCN) - (English version)
- August 2006: Report on the use of HotPot solar cookers to reduce air pollution from cooking fires in northern Mexico
Articles in the media
- April 2009: Boise Resident Introduces Solar Cooking to Small Communities in Mexico - US Peace Corps
- Summer 2005: Mexican Straw Weavers in Mixteca Region of Oaxaca Learn to Solar Cook - Weave A Real Peace Newsletter
Audio and video