Since the people with the most need for a solar cooker often have the least money, special arrangements must be made to allow these people to purchase a solar cooker in a way that works for them.
Sun Ovens International (SOI)
Unfortunately, making a solar appliance women will use for the majority of their cooking involves cost. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with 80% of the population living under the poverty line and 54% in abject poverty. SOI’s research indicated that regardless of the cost of a solar cooker, the majority of Haitians could not afford to purchase one. To address this issue, a revolving loan fund was established to enable women to obtain a Sun Oven and pay for it over time using money otherwise spent to buy charcoal.
An average family spends $2.30 (U.S.) per week to purchase charcoal. A Sun Oven can be used for 70% of their cooking and will save an average of $1.61 a week in charcoal expenditures. Weekly payments are set at $ .97 (60% of the savings); the remaining $ .64 per week creates an incentive to solar cook and takes money that literally was going up in smoke, distributing it through the local economy.
Initially, the challenge of implementing this system was that women in Haiti live very much one day at a time and even though they saved a high percentage of their income by using a Global Sun Oven, they rarely had a long enough view to understand that they were saving money. To overcome this problem, cardboard solar panel cookers were introduced. Women received 3 days of training centered around the construction of a cardboard solar panel cooker, the principals and concepts of solar cooking, and the frailty of the Haitian environment. The training occurs over lunchtime, and the first two days, Haitian foods are cooked in Sun Ovens and served for lunch. On the third day, a solar potluck is held. Each student prepares food in their own cardboard cooker and shares it with fellow trainees.
As part of the training, participants receive a log allowing them to document the use of their cardboard cooker and the amount of money they saved by not using charcoal. Participants who use their solar panel cooker on sunny days, for 90 days or longer, can use their log as a down payment on a Sun Oven. The Sun Ovens cook food much faster and can be used to cook the evening meals. After 90 days of documenting the use of the cardboard cooker, women have a much better understanding of the financial benefits of cooking with the sun and are eager to agree to a payment plan to obtain a Sun Oven.
Solar Circle reports: We've tried selling solar ovens at many different price points, all heavily subsidized, but were having very limited success. Now, our ovens disappear into homes as soon as they are built. Why? Instead of selling the ovens, we recruit communities into barter programs - they perform community service in return for an oven. The community chooses the project and the recipient, so they are happy to participate. They have built more than a dozen homes for old, blind, widowed, and ill people. They've dug latrines, provided care for people with HIV/AIDS and helped orphans. The ovens have become very popular currency!
Kiva provides a way for people in developed countries to lend money to small entrepreneurs in developing countries to help the latter set up or improve local businesses. Kiva works through partners in each country.
News and recent developments
- November 2010: African Millenium Foundation Solar Oven Microcredit Project
- October 2009: Micro loans bring light to rural poor, Reuters (An article describing micro loan programs in areas of India without electricity that allow people to purchase solar lanterns to provide light at night instead of using candles or kerosene lanterns.)
Solar cooking NGOs employing microcredit
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- African Millennium Foundation
- World Vision Mali
- Gnibouwa Diassana
- Global Resource Alliance
- Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka
- Solar Health and Education Project
- El Fuego del Sol
- Solar Cooking Netherlands
- Lift Up Africa
- CEDESOL Foundation
- Sobre la Roca
- Solar Household Energy
- Sun Ovens International
- Barli Development Institute for Rural Women
- Microfinance Intervention for Financing Solar Cooking Technologies - Financing with Savings - Gunjan Gautam
- Mix Market (Database of international NGOs employing microfinance)
- Microcredit Campaign - Twitter