News and Recent Developments
- July 2010: Exodus travel group has managed to install several parabolic solar cookers in the Himalayas, at the gateway to the Everest region. An effort to help promote sustainability and provide a step towards limiting deforestation. More Information and photos...
- March 2008: The BBC’s annual World Challenge competition honors individuals and organizations that make a difference through enterprise and innovation at a grassroots level. The top 12 projects were promoted on the television program BBC World and in Newsweek magazine, followed by a public voting period. Solar cooker promoter Sanu Kaji reports that his organization, Foundation for Sustainable Technologies (FoST), was a top three finalist, winning $10,000 for its Cooking Without Gas project. The project was selected over nearly 1,000 others. Kaji Shrestha is grateful for the votes and support from the solar cooking community. In a letter to Solar Cookers International, he wrote, “Part of the credit goes to you and your solar cooking network for lobbying, and untiring support in our efforts.” Congratulations to Kaji Shrestha and FoST for this well-deserved honor!
- December 2007: FoST of Nepal is one of the 3 finalists in the World Challenge 2007! As runner up FoST has won $10.000 in the global competition organized by BBC World, Shell and Newsweek.
- July 2007: Foundation for Sustainable Technology (FoST) celebrated its fifth anniversary in April. FoST designs, develops and disseminates low-cost, adaptable products that improve the quality of life of Nepal’s rural and urban poor. FoST is among 12 finalists, selected from a pool of nearly 950 applicants, for the "World Challenge 2007." The selected FOST project is called "Cooking without Gas" and is summarized on the World Challenge Web site as follows: "In 1995, Sanu Kaji Shrestha ran out of cooking gas. So too did nearly everyone else in Kathmandu, as a countrywide shortage set in. Demand was so great Sanu had to take three days off work to queue up for more fuel. This first-hand experience of his country’s dependence on external energy supplies set Sanu thinking. He began to look into sustainable energy technologies for the domestic market, researching existing designs and adapting them for the Nepalese market. In 2001 he retired from his day job to concentrate on bringing low-cost, high-efficiency energy technologies to Nepal’s rural and urban poor. Measures developed to date include simple yet ingenious solar cookers and briquette presses to make smokeless fuel from waste materials." The World Challenge competition honors individuals and organizations that make a difference through enterprise and innovation at a grassroots level. The finalists will be featured on BBC World television and in Newsweek magazine. The winner will receive a $20,000 prize. An excellent new documentary film by Gorp Productions showcases the work being done by FOST, with a focus on its efforts to promote smokeless briquette cook stoves and solar cookers.
- April 2007: The government of Nepal has adopted a rural energy policy aimed at reducing rural poverty and protecting the environment. The government hopes to encourage local organizations, nongovernmental organizations and cooperatives to develop a variety of new energy sources such as micro hydro, wind and solar. According to solar cooking promoter Sanu Kaji Shrestha, the government has recently increased its subsidy for some parabolic-type solar cookers to 4000 rupees per unit, while there also is a 50% subsidy on some solar box cookers. However, he says it is difficult to fulfill the government’s criteria for receiving subsidies. He estimates there are about 2500 solar cookers distributed in rural communities so far.
- November 2006: Ten years on, nearly 100,000 Bhutanese refugees going solar
- March 2006: The Centre for Rural Technology, Nepal is promoting solar cooker use by lodge owners and other entities involved in eco-tourism. With support from Germany-based Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, 200 SK-14 parabolic solar cookers will be distributed in the country, reducing energy expenses and promoting the use of solar energy through eco-tourism. Contact: Ganesh Ram Shrestha
- March 2006: Vajra Foundation Nepal (VFN), in partnership with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will receive over $850,000 from Dutch Postcode Lottery to expand its solar cooker program to six additional Bhutanese refugee camps. VFN’s first project, launched in 1998, has benefited over 2,000 families in Beldangi refugee camp. The expanded program will allow refugees to make nearly 7,500 solar cookers, to be used on a shared basis by over 14,000 families. Each family will also receive two cooking pots and a retained-heat cooker. Stichting Vluchteling and Vajra Foundation Holland helped procure funds.
Climate, Culture, and Special Considerations
Solar Cookers International has rated Nepal as the #12 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 Nepal in sunny areas with fuel scarcity in 2020 is 6,000,000.
In Nepal, over 80 % of the total energy consumption comes from traditional energy resources. Biomass being the major contributing energy sector in Nepal, more than 75 % of the energy is supplied by firewood alone followed by 9.24 % from petroleum products, 5.74% from animal waste, 3.75% from agricultural residue, 3.53% from coal, 1.47% from electricity and 0.48% by renewable resources. The sectoral energy consumption pattern shows that the residential sector energy consumption is more than 80 % while the agriculture and others are the least energy consuming sectors. According to Water and Energy Commission Secretariat report of 1995 carried out for energy end use perspective, it was reported that residential cooking alone accounts for 65%, space heating accounts for 8%, agro-processing 3%, water boiling 2%, lighting for 1% while others account for over 20% of the total energy consumption in rural household sectors. Biomass has thus been very important source of energy in the Nepalese perspective. With the recent emphasis on renewable energy, there are various opportunities for economic development using these renewable resources.
Patricia McArdle reports in February 2009 after her visit to Nepal:
- I asked the women about their cooking habits and fuel usage. In some cases the men tried to respond for them, but I insisted on hearing directly from the women. Their responses and my observations were the same at each of the sites where we conducted training. They said they rise at 4 am to start their fires and serve sweet green tea to their families in the morning. The first heavy meal of rice, dahl, spinach and seasonal condiments is served to the whole family between 9 and 10 am. They extinguish their cooking fires around 10 am and start them up again at 2 pm to prepare afternoon tea and the evening meal. Sweet biscuits, buffalo milk and curd are also consumed in the afternoon since they require no cooking.
- The second and final large meal is served between 6 and 7 pm and like breakfast consists of rice, dahl, spinach and seasonal condiments. The meals are served piping hot on metal plates. The women cook in large 7-8 liter pots, one for rice and one for dahl. Spinach is sautéed quickly in a shallow pan with oil and spices just before the meal is served. The women told me they use approximately 3 kilos of wood per day per person for cooking and heating water for tea. Wood currently costs 15 Nepalese rupees (20 cents U.S.) per kilo, a threefold increase over five years.
- I did not observe any families using wood strictly for heating. The locations where we stayed were between one and two thousand meters and temperatures at night didn’t drop below 40 degrees F. Daytime temperatures were mild. Ugan said this region gets quite hot during the summer monsoon season (June-August). I told him that in some countries the rainy season still has enough sunshine at mid-day bracketed by morning and afternoon downpours, to make solar cooking possible. He said conditions vary greatly throughout Nepal with its dramatic and rapid changes in altitude, terrain and weather.
- The women use cold water for laundry, bathing and dish washing. Although they complained of water shortages and are experiencing mild drought conditions until the monsoons begin in June, the villages have no indigenous systems for harvesting and saving the massive amounts of rain water that falls every year during the monsoon season.
- Because of this area’s national park status, trees cannot be cut down at will, although I saw stacked logs and branches everywhere and many women carrying huge bundles of sticks down the road on their backs.
The history of solar cooking in Nepal
Allart Ligtenberg, is the American name most closely associated with the introduction of solar cookers in Nepal. His small organization, FAST (Friendly Appropriate Solar Technologies), mainly Ligtenberg himself, has dedicated endless hours to the cause. For a number of years, this engineer, now retired from Hewlett Packard, has spent three months in Asia, principally in Nepal. His dissemination program is as simple as ABC, he states: A for awareness creation, B for building infrastructure; and C for continuous follow-up and creating new links. In Nepal, he began the task of visiting government officials, universities, voluntary organizations, embassies, service organizations, until he finally reached the office of the Centre for Rural Technology, Nepal (CRT). They struck up a collaborative relationship that has held over a number of years and been productive in promotion of solar activity. Ligtenberg carries with him cookers, recipe books, "how to" manuals, reference books, etc. and works to create a full fledged program of training new cooks, follow up, and promotion modes, program evaluation, etc. CRT staff have taken the ideas up with so much enthusiasm that he calls them the "champions of solar cooking" in this country. In the CRT program, a wide variety of cookers are shown and demonstrated in use, earning good media coverage and attracting wide public attention.
Special attention has been paid in Nepal to the remote lodges that serve trekking tourists in the Anapurna and other mountain areas. With the growth of the tourism industry, considerable environmental degradation was seen in the form of shrinkage of forests and their wildlife populations, excessive trash dumped on the trails, water pollution even at high altitudes, and signs of global warming. Renewable energy usage is strongly encouraged by the government, and many smaller lodges are now equipped with solar water heaters and solar food dryers. Solar cooking is a natural here. With high altitudes and thus little to impede the sun's rays, household size parabolic devices, or even larger ones, are very appropriate for these installations.
A number of such installations are is use, as described by Dieter Seifert of EG Solar, the German distributor of these models, on trekking trails in the Mt. Everest area, in Sagarmatha National Par, and a number of schools. The same type of parabolic is in use in Dhullikhel Hospital in Katmandu, where four such units provide hot water for patients.
In 1994, an organization from Finland, Technology for Life, conducted a series of solar experiments and evaluations of their potential for Nepal. Their search was for devices which would fit the needs of "near-subsistence" economies such as Nepal. They tried box cookers and home made parabolics but found that the cdst of all was out of reach of many, as poor quality was not acceptable and good quality not affordable. Not a dilemma found only in Nepal, but a rather common scenario. Another group is also at work in Nepal, the Foundation for Sustainable Technologies (FoST). This group is a recently established NGO with the goal of widely promoting and disseminating sustainable technologies to improve the quality of life of Nepalese people. They support a wide range of solar technologies and some others such as the haybox and fuel efficient stoves. Quickly after their founding, some of the members were setting up demonstrations in various parts of the country. Their goals are ambitious and long range in nature. However, the organization is too new to-have as yet much of a track record.
Solar cooking has also been initiated in camps serving the large population of refugees from Bhutan currently resident in Nepal. In one or more of these camps, a program funded by the Vajra Foundation mounted solar cooking programs in refugee camps. The Project was run by a man named Maarten Olthof who distributed 400 box cookers of the ULOG type (slanted top) in the camps. Working cooperatively with CRT (and Ligtenberg, also of Dutch origin), Olhof also worked in a rural area in the Katmandu Valley, near the capital city, conducting demonstrations and training. He hopes to involve more organizations, such as Rotary International, in these efforts.
Cookers of the parabolic type are also known to have been promoted in Nepal by the IBEU group, located in Germany at Julich. The device they used in Nepal is one with thermal storage capacity, accomplished with reflector plates, a steel vessel filled with pebbles, and vegetable oil as a heat transfer means. The devices are highly efficient, and retain heat for up to one day.
Substantial public awareness about solar cooking must be advanced in Nepal compared to many countries, given the number of places in the country where solar cookers are in use. But they are clearly far from a common sight, perhaps because the types of cookers in use are mostly on the expensive end and thus require some type of subsidy scheme to be available for to poor people. One niche, for solar cooking is almost certainly found in services for the tourist trade, since it both reduces cost to providers and reduces damage to the valuable environment.
Possible funders for solar cooking projects in Nepal
- January 2013: Solar Cooking with Integrated Systems - FOST
- December 2007: Conference paper: Integrated Strategies to Solar Cooking/Water Pasteurization, that Include Other Sustainable Technologies that Advance MDG's in Nepal
- July 2006: Promotion of Solar Cookers for Eco-Tourism Development in Nepal - Ganesh Ram Shrestha
- March 2005: Towards sustainable relief-assistance - Applicability of the sunny solution- Vajra Foundation Nepal
- 2003: Energy Hunters of Nepal (Or how two Rotary projects (COG 2152 and NOG 468) are providing a village in Nepal with a new energy source)
Audio and video
- February 2007: An audio interview with Allart Ligtenberg discussing his recent project in Mexico and his work with the Rotary Club on projects in Nepal, Indonesia, and Afghanistan
- 2007: A film showing FoST's activities - Sandra Wijnveldt
Articles in the media
- February 2008: Bhutanese refugees in Nepal have a new way to prepare meals, without firewood, kerosene or the risk of smoke inhalation - the solar cooker. - Ode Magazine
- October 2007: Hoping For Respite - The Rising Nepal
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
Manufacturers and vendors