Last updated: March 16, 2014
Solar cooking fulfills all eight of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Participation of women is vital to achieving this, yet difficult or impossible for many poor, rural women and girls because of time-consuming fuel-gathering and cooking. “The time women and girls and spend on routine tasks can be reduced dramatically …(with) efficient sources of energy – especially new forms of fuel for cooking and heating.”
Widespread access to improved, low-cost solar cookers to pasteurize water and cook food with free sunshine is a proven ‘quick win’ as defined in the Secretary-General’s Report: [R]elatively inexpensive, high impact initiatives with the potential to generate major short-term gains and save millions of lives.
In Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Burkina Faso solar cookers are manufactured for US $3-5 and compete commercially with unhealthy, unsustainable alternatives. They address household air pollution, high costs of scarce cooking fuel and related environmental problems, while lessening needless burdens for women and girls. Institution-sized solar cookers for hospitals, orphanages and schools are also cost effective.
In new areas modest funding for 3-5 years 1) creates public awareness, 2) provides initial consumer education and follow-up, 3) starts up local production, and 4) trains local women to start small businesses.
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Many families living on less than one dollar a day spend 1/3 of it for cooking fuel. This cost often means less food to eat. Solar cookers typically reduce fuel needs by 1/3   and pay for themselves in two months of fuel savings. The gentler temperatures of box and panel types of solar cookers also preserve more nutrients.    
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Girls start helping collect wood at a young age. Wood is now scarce for two billion people, and about half live in sun-rich areas. Long journeys to gather small brush, crop residues and dung for cooking fuel take time from school attendance and studies. Solar cookers need only sunlight, freeing girls to spend more time in school.
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Women and girls spend hours of fuel-gathering, cooking food, tending fires, and suffer extra health hazards of smoke. Solar cookers require no fuel-gathering, no smoke, and no attention while cooking meals, freeing time to pursue education, increase food production and generate income. The European Commission and solar cooker experts estimate that 165 to 200 million households could benefit from solar cookers. 
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Waterborne and smoke-related diseases are the primary killers of children. When fuel is scarce and expensive, it is hard to heed public health messages about boiling water. Every solar-cooked meal is smoke-free and solar cookers easily pasteurize water and milk.
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Smoke from cooking fires is also the major killer of young women in developing countries and is linked to low-birth weight and infant mortality. Fuel-gathering in some areas expose women to violent assaults. Solar cooking is clean and smoke-free, and benefits the health of all family members.
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Caring for a sick family member and orphans takes time away from livelihood activities. Solar cookers cook meals unattended, and are user-friendly for children and the sick as well as for care-givers. Water pasteurization protects whole families. Larger solar cookers reach temperatures of 150˚C (300˚F), enough to sanitize dry materials in rural clinics and households for those with weak immune systems.
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
One-third of humanity has only wood, charcoal or poor substitutes to cook daily meals. When wood becomes scarce, cooking is done by burning dung and crop residues, which should be returned to the soil. A solar cooker saves about one ton of wood per year thereby reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 1.8 tons per year.
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
Creating widespread access to solar cookers involves mutually beneficial participation of government, commercial and humanitarian sectors, and complements broader local, national and international activities toward all of the MDGs.
Post 2015 development agenda
- January 2009: Advancing towards achievement of Millennium Development Goals by training Rural and Tribal women in Solar Food Processing - A Hands-on Experience at Barli Development Institute for Rural Women in Central India - Dr. Janak Palta McGilligan
View this article in other languages
- ↑ UN Millennium Project Task Force on Education and Gender Equality 2005, Taking action: achieving gender equality and empowering women, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), 2005.
- ↑ Scheffler, W. & Sutter, C., Evaluation of solar community kitchens in Gujarat, Proceedings of the Third international conference on solar cookers use and technology, Coimbatore, India, 1997.
- ↑ Palmer, R., Kota, M. & Wenzel, M. The DME/GTZ solar cooking field test in South Africa: a study in end-user acceptance and pilot commercial dissemination. Proceedings of the International Conference on Solar Cooking 7-29 November 2000 (pp. 41-49). Kimberley, South Africa: Department of Minerals and Energy, 2000.
- ↑ Konde, A., Aisha Solar Cooking Project Evaluation, Solar Cookers International, 2002.
- ↑ Center for Independent research and Energy for Sustainable Development Africa, Evaluation of the Solar Cooker Project in Kakuma Refugee Camp 2003. Unpublished, Solar Cookers International archives, 2003.
- ↑ Solar Cookers International Sunny Solutions Project in Nyakach, Kenya, 2005.
- ↑ Devadas, R., Chandrasekar, U. & Kowsalya S. Nutritive value of foods cooked in solar box cooker. Proceedings of the Second World Conference on Solar Cookers Use and Technology, July 12-15, 1994 (p. 112). Heredia, Costa Rica: Universidad Nacional, 1994.
- ↑ Chandrasekar, U. & Kowsalya S. Comparative nutrient profile and beta carotene retention of foods and recipes cooked in solar cookers as against conventional cooking. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Solar Cookers Use and Technology, January 6-10, 1997 (pp. 192-197). Coimbatore, India: Avinashilingam Deemed University, 1997.
- ↑ Easwaran, P.P. & Kalpana, N., Acceptability and nutrient content of selected recipes prepared in microwave ovens and solar cookers. Proceedings of the Second World International Conference on Solar Cookers Use and Technology, January 6-10, 1997 (pp. 292-294). Coimbatore, India: Avinashilingam Deemed University, 1997.
- ↑ Warwick, H. & A.Doig, Smoke – the Killer in the Kitchen, ITDG Publishing, 2004.
- ↑ Murthy, N.K. & Chelvi, S. Analysis of antioxidant status in a leafy vegetable boiled in solar cooker in comparison with other conventional methods. Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Solar Cookers Use and Technology, January 6-10, 1997 (pp. 187-191). Coimbatore, India: Avinashilingam University, 1997.
- ↑ Varese Declaration, World Solar Cooking and Food Processing Conference, UNESCO, 1999; also, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), State of the world’s forests. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
- ↑ Ossenbrink, H., Opening remarks by European Commission Head of Renewable Energies Unit, Proceedings of World solar cooking and food processing conference, Varese Italy, UNESCO, 1999.
- ↑ Grupp, M., The untapped market for solar cookers, Solar Box Journal, 1994.
- ↑ World Health Organization.
- ↑ ibid.
- ↑ Engender Health, Steps of Dry-Heat Sterilization, http://www.engenderhealth.org/ip/instrum/inm11.html, accessed 7/25/05.
- ↑ Many solar cooker projects, including Heibi, China; South Africa Mines & Minerals.
- ↑ Thorne, S. & S. Raubenheimer, Evaluation of a potential in attracting finance through Clean Development Mechnisms – Solar cookers and carbon mitigation possibilities, Energy transformations, South Africa, 2003.