Last updated: 13 March 2018
Solar Connect Association (SCA) started their solar cooking projects in Uganda in 1994 with the support of several organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund of Switzerland. These solar cooking projects resulted from the depletion of biodiversity, concern for the conservation of the beautiful local forests, and the well-being of the rural poor. SCA wishes to find practical, local solutions to these issues.
Between its inception in 1994 and August 2014, SCA has distributed 50,000 cookers in Uganda, South Sudan, eastern Congo, and Burundi. SCA is moving from NGO to social enterprise and to date employs 64 people, 70% of whom are field women marketers mainly selling solar cookers to villagers in their localities and others working on the production floor. SCA produces all the CooKits, solar box cookers, hay baskets (heat-retention cookers) and Lorena Stoves, and outsources parabolic solar cookers from traders who get them from China. SCA has expanded from the Mbarara District to five other districts near Kampala city, working silently to contribute to the mitigation of climate change and improve livelihoods of rural people in this part of the world and seeking to share experiences with other stakeholders.
If you are going to western Uganda to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park, or to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for mountain gorilla tracking, the SCA is located nine miles away from Mbarara on Mbarara-Masaka Highway at the Biharwe trading center, just opposite the Igongo Country Hotel and Cultural Museum. (Their building is just opposite the gate of the hotel; many tourists also stop there for lunch and sightseeing.) SCA has a Renewable Energy Center Building there which sells and displays solar cookers and other energy-saving stoves, Monday through Saturday from 9.00 am to 5:00 pm.
To understand the relevance of SCA's solar cooker project, it is necessary to look at how forests have been cut in most parts of Uganda, and how intact forests are being menaced.
A large, mostly agricultural-based population inhabits Uganda, the majority of whom live in abject poverty. This poverty and lack of awareness has led to the following problems:
- Deforestation in the countryside
- Waterborne diseases
- Substantial reduction of medicinal trees and plants, used traditionally to cure many diseases
- Climatic change
- Need for girls to spend time collecting firewood
Through observation and close contact with rural communities, where extreme hardships suffered by the subsistence farmers and their families were observed, SCA was motivated to start the solar cooker project.
They persistently improved on solar cookers between 1994 and 1998, using at first cardboard and plywood cookers, then parabolic solar cookers and CooKits. The solar dryers are also being constantly modified to suit different conditions of use. SCA tapped into the large unemployed local workforce and hired carpenters and metal workers to produce the first batch of 300 plywood cookers and 700 cardboard box cookers, which SCA began distributing for free in the districts of Masaka, Soroti, Tororo, and Kampala. For this initial phase of the project, SCA received backing from Gruppe Ulog and assistance in the form of free materials from EG-Solar. Foundation Lord Michealham of Hellingly bought the first office furniture and provided funds for transporting the materials and personnel. In June 1994, WWF-Switzerland started to support the project, and SCA went on to produce on average at least 900 solar CooKits and 80 parabolic cookers per year. Now over 10,000 solar cookers are actively used in homes throughout Uganda. The population supported by Pvei Project in Virunga uses an unknown number in eastern Congo. The Pvei staff was trained by SCA on how to make and use solar cookers.
SCA decided to sell this idea to rural people, 100% of whom use firewood to cook. Solar energy can contribute a great deal to the goal of saving the remaining forests when it is used to cook food and dry fruits and foods.
The extremely simple and inexpensive solar cooker is starting to revolutionize lives in project areas. Solar cookers limit the health hazards of inhaling smoke and people can drink clean water by first pasteurizing it using solar energy. Food that used to be wasted during bumper harvests is now solar dried and "kept for the rainy day." People have used solar drying for centuries, but not in such a modern way.
SCA promotes solar cookers and solar dryers to help the development of the rural poor in a cost-effective, participatory, and sustainable way. Young women and men are generating small-scale jobs for themselves, including metal work and carpentry, canning fruits, baking small cakes and bread, and boiling drinking water.
As a result of SCA projects, people not only use solar cookers but are aware of the importance to rationally use forest resources so as to protect the environment and future generations.
The impact of solar cookers and dryers since 1994 has been rising income levels and improved sanitation in homesteads using solar cookers. Married women can work their fields while the sun does the cooking, raising their work productivity. Women are also baking cakes and bread and canning fruits using the cookers, and some are drying fruits for market.
Also, girls are liberated from having to walk long distances looking for firewood each day. Instead, they are now free to attend school, and the number of girls enrolling in village primary schools of targeted areas is rising. Trees are cut less often and previously bare hills are starting to get shrub and wild tree cover, demonstrating the positive environmental impact of solar cooking. Most of all, people are aware of the consequences of their actions and their effect on the environment: in SCA's view that is a very important development.
These factors, coupled with the effect that the solar cooker has had in stemming waterborne and respiratory diseases due to smoke inhalation and a wish to slow the pace of the rural exodus to cities, are what make the solar cooker a tangible and exciting solution to a severe local problem of firewood scarcity. For eight years now, over 10,000 solar cookers are in use throughout the country.
Encouraged by these results, SCA will soon begin to include fuel-efficient stoves in its activities so that when there is no sunshine, firewood can still be economized. SCA wants to open focal point offices in the regions targeted so that the beneficiaries themselves do much of the fieldwork, enabling SCA to devote more efforts on partnership and resource mobilization.
However, looking back at SCA's experience over the past eight years, they understand that one of the biggest obstacles is educating villagers about this technology. SCA noted that at training workshops, village PR women and men were only moderately successful. SCA devised an educational campaign tailored to village life and the illiterate population. The innovative campaign features a video-recorded documentary by local actors using solar cookers in which their benefits are dramatized. After SCA conducts workshops, they now show the video in villages using a TV and portable generator. One of their future projects is to make a video play featuring local villagers to be shown in villages as part of the awareness campaign.
Currently SCA sells the solar cookers and solar dryers at a cost 15% higher than the original production cost. They are slowly phasing out cooker donations as awareness increases. While the proceeds help finance manufacturing and distribution costs, SCA looks to the very timely WWF financial and technical support, without which this project would find difficulty. The WWF Project Assessment carried out in August 2002 brought out weakness of SCA, some of which management was not aware of. A strategic plan for SCA was made during the assessment and the project can be expanded. SCA estimates that it will take three years to cover the whole Albertine Rift Eco- Region in Uganda, and their final objective is to be able to export the solar cooker and dryer to other sunny countries of East Africa facing similar deforestation problems. The solar cooker solution will address the primary needs of the rural Albertine Rift population for whom the basic necessities of life are very limited, and at the same time conserve forests.
In conclusion, in many cases the simpler a device is, the greater its impact. Clearly, the inexpensive solar cooker can dramatically improve sanitation, support a balanced diet, improve quality of life for the rural population in project areas, and slow the destruction of forests. The solar cooker has 1,000 positive consequences for people and the environment.
In the villages of Kikokwa, Ruharo, Biharwe and Oruchinga Refugee Settlement in Mbarara in western Uganda, women use solar cookers quite frequently in the dry season, and even in the rainy season when the sun comes up. The total number of participating households in these four villages will reach over 2,000 by the end of 2007.
Most significant projects
- Self-sustaining and profitable, a solar cooker business thrives in Uganda - The Solar Connect Association, under the direction of Kawesa Mukasa, reported in July 2017 that they have been able to sell monthly over 250 solar cookers, 100 hay baskets, and 250 fuel-efficient wood stoves in Uganda. These results, and the profits they have generated, have made it possible for the business to be self-sustaining. With guidance from Solar Cooking KoZon, their approach has been to hire local employees, and to make a long-term commitment to the areas where they work. Read more...
- See other Most significant solar cooking projects worldwide.
- March 2018: Early 2018 SCA activity - Kawesa Mukasa reports that from the beginning of 2018 through February, SCA distributed 514 CooKits, 18 solar box cookers, 14 parabolic solar cookers, 5 Haines Solar Cookers, 514 WAPIs, 179 hay baskets, and 422 improved combustion stoves. SCA also received a visit from Theo Sinke and Clara Thomas, former chairwoman of Solar Cooking KoZon. They reviewed SCA rural projects and discussed improvement strategies. At the end of March, SCA will welcome solar promoters from Kenya to learn from SCA experiences in developing programs. Roger Haines of the Rotary Club of San Diego will be in Uganda in April to introduce the newest version of his Haines Solar Cooker.
- June 2017: Sustainable solar cooker business in Mbarara - The Solar Connect Association, under the direction of Kawesa Mukasa, has been able to sell 280 solar cookers, 110 hay baskets, and 260 fuel-efficient wood stoves monthly. These results, and the profits they have generated, have made it possible for the business to be self-sustaining. Read more...
- September 2016: The Solar Connect Association (SCA) visited the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda where they met with the Assistant Camp Commander, Mr. Kintu Khalid. SCA instructors trained 20 people from different villages to be instructors themselves. The training dealt with solar CooKits, Water Pasteurization Indicators, Heat-retention cooking, improved combustion stoves, and the maintenance of same. Continued efforts at Nakivale, and also at the Oruchinga Refugee Settlement, will be the priority for SCA in 2017. At Nakivale, SCA is currently working with the Julu camp that has about 22,000 refugees. They have distributed 60 solar cookers and 14 improved combustion stoves. In the Oruchinga Refugee Settlement, they have distributed 70 solar cooker cookers and 12 improved combustion stoves. SCA plans to sell 1,000 solar cookers in the two settlements by end of August 2017. Solar Cooking KoZon has contributed additional funding to help with the projects at Nakivale and Oruchinga.
- September 2016: The Solar Connect Association reports: "We had a staff meeting with the key players of manufacturing in Biharwe. We kicked off the project in the Oruchinga Refugee Settlement with the presence of the district governor, camp commander, and the project leader, Mr. Buyinga Boaz. Additional information was handed over and demonstrations were made for many people. A local radio station broadcast an interview with one of our team members."
- September 2016: Outreach demonstrations in Uganda - Solar Cooking The Netherlands - KoZon with the Solar Connect Association conducted solar cooking demonstrations with parabolic solar cookers and heat-retention cooking with hay baskets in the Isingiro district of Uganda during the month of June. Read more...
- January 2016: Since 2007 Wilde Ganzen and Solar Cooking The Netherlands - KoZon have supported the Solar Cooking project in Uganda, implemented by Solar Connect Association (SCA). Mid-2013 a business plan was decided on, including a schedule of Integrated Solar Cooking (ISC) activities during the following five years. In the course of 2014 it became clear that the objective of financial independence had been achieved. The business expanded from Mbarara in the South West. In 2014 construction of a Renewable Energy Centre with larger ISC production, training and distribution facilities was started with financial support from Wilde Ganzen and SCN-KoZon. In its beautiful location on the main road between Uganda, The Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda, the building, fitted out with solar panels, is ready to continue and expand its activities. In short, SCA is the owner of a social Solar Cooking business for the production, marketing and sale of solar and other energy-saving cooking appliances. The small Solar Cooking enterprise is doing well. In 2014 it sold 5,460 CooKit sets, 2,540 hay baskets and 5,040 wood-saving cooking appliances. A promising development. In the year ahead solar lamps and very small solar panels will be sold as well. SCA is investigating which other energy-friendly appliances could best be marketed and included in the assortment of clean energy cooking appliances. In the coming years, serious efforts will be made as well to expand the market into other regions in Uganda.
- September 2014: Solar Connect Association will soon have a new website: http://www.solarconnectassociation.com
- August 2014: This month Solar Connect Association celebrates 20 years working to promote solar cooking in Eastern Africa.
- August 2014: Solar Connect Association distributed over 1,200 integrated cooking appliances in August 2014. These products are Lorena Stoves, plywood solar box cookers, CooKits, Rocket Stoves, and heat-retention cookers. They seek more information on how to verify pasteurized water in a CooKit without using a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI) and who has used this technique in the field. The Resource Center being built in Biharwe has reached wall-plate level and the next stage will be roofing. Actual costs are beyond the budget, so SCA still requires support from anyone to complete this very important structure that will be used for climate change mitigation activities.
- March 2014: Cooking Resource Center under construction in Biharwe - Kawesa Mukasa, director for the Solar Connect Association, reports that construction is underway for the Renewable Energy for Cooking Resource Center located in Biharwe, Uganda. The center will provide all types of fuel-efficient solar and biomass cook stoves, which will be fabricated at the center. The center will also distribute information on renewable energy for cooking and train young people to create small-scale enterprises in fabrication and distribution of solar cookers and efficient biomass stoves. The construction of the Renewable Energy Center is being funded by SCA with support from Solar Cooking Netherlands and Wilde Ganzen.
- August 2013: Uganda NGO with proven profitability plans for expansion at new location - Henk Crietee, from Solar Cooking Netherlands, was in Uganda for two weeks in early August to evaluate Solar Connect Association (SCA) project activities. During Crietee's visit, a piece of land was secured in Mbarara on which SCA will construct a building to house a new Renewable Energy Center. Integrated solar cooking appliances will be produced, advertised and sold from this new location, which will offer better exposure for their products to local residents, tourists, and political opinion leaders. While SCA has shown itself to be relatively self-sufficient in terms of covering operation costs — through the sales of solar cookers, hay baskets and rocket stoves — they cannot yet afford to construct a new building. Participation by Solar Cooking Netherlands with help in securing the land has been appreciated. Donors wishing to help contribute to the building construction can contact Solar Cooking Netherlands. This fledgling effort is another example that demonstrates solar cooking and related integrated cooking methods can be a successful business by incorporating local manufacturing, sales, and long-term consumer support.
- February 2013: Solar Connect Association has made a lasting impact on people's lives in Uganda - They have a production facility for solar cookers, hay baskets, and WAPIs, as well as a retail outlet in the Mbarara district of western Uganda. The facility in Mbarara is now self-sustaining financially, after years receiving support from donors, by being able to sell their products for a modest profit. Solar Connect Association has now opened a new distribution center in Kampala, which will help reach the rest of the country, South Sudan, and eastern Congo, as well as Rwanda and Burundi. They still need some logistical support from any donor in the form of a distribution van/pick-up vehicle for this Kampala Distribution Center. Selling from nine stores in various villages, the association has sold 770 solar panel cookers, 770 WAPIs, 301 hay baskets, 37 solar box cookers, 846 Rocket Stoves, and 42 parabolic solar cookers in the second quarter of 2012. They seek collaboration with stakeholders worldwide who share the dream of making the 3-stone cooking fire a thing of the past in Eastern Africa. Read more at Solar Connect Association: Integrated Cooking in Uganda 2012
- August 2010: The Partnership for Clean Indoor Air, Issue #24, which reviews other groups involved in air quality and profiles the efforts and results of the Solar Connect Association for 2009. Some highlights included their introduction of a hybrid solar cooker and efficient wood stove combination appliance. Potential customers liked the idea of a stove that could also be used on rainy days or at night: 1,070 households purchased both solar cookers and improved stoves in 2009. SCA currently has one production facility in Mbarara District and are trying to increase its capacity to serve the whole of Uganda. A follow-up study, tracking use of the cookers after an extended period, found that CooKits remain in use for about a year, while parabolic solar cookers from China are used for about four years. Solar box cookers work for many years, and the high efficiency wood-burning stoves need service in a year or two. It continues to be a challenge to market in various countries where local subsidies available in one country, and not in another, are often just enough to be able to have an appliance affordable to consumers.
- December 2009: In Uganda, Solar Connect Association [SCA] initiates and implements successful solar cooking projects under the leadership of Mr. Kawesa Mukasa, director of the SCA. He works together with his secretary in Kampala and his project team in Mbarara, in the south of Uganda. Solar Cooking Netherlands gives know-how and financial support. The project in Mbarara (since 2007) aims to reach a cost-effective and preferably profitable operating account by the end of 2011 at the latest. To succeed it is vital to arrive at a cost-effective Resource and Production Centre in Mbarara, where all Integrated Solar Cooking products are made under SCA's own control or contracted out or bought on the local market. In this manner the local economy benefits as well. In 2008 more than 4,000 CooKits were sold to 3,800 families: this means 20,000 people consumed solar-cooked food (at an average of six persons per household) and a yearly savings of roughly 9,000 tons of firewood. Clara Thomas, chairman of SCN, introduced a direct selling method, whereby groups of women in the villages are invited to attend information sessions, demonstrations, and cooking lessons, and to eat together and pasteurize water with a WAPI. This seemed very successful. To enhance the durability of the CooKits, the cardboard side is coated, the borders are reinforced with adhesive tape, and the sun-reflecting aluminium sheets can now be glued perfectly smooth with new techniques. In the Kampala region, another project is in preparation; the intent is to start this project as "for profit."
- November 2008: Solar Cookers International’s (SCI) recent collaboration with Uganda’s Solar Connect Association (SCA) was inspired by 13-year-old Max Ozimek, an 8th grader from Ohio, USA. Last year, Max researched solar cookers for a science fair project, and learned how the simple devices can make a huge difference for people that lack cooking fuel. Max volunteers at a hospice, where he befriended Father Alexander Inke, a priest from Obia, Uganda. While listening to Father Inke’s stories of life in Obia, Max was reminded of the African communities he had learned of while researching solar cookers and SCI’s projects abroad. Max thought solar cookers could help the women of Obia, many of whom must walk several miles to gather cooking fuel and household water. Max felt the need to help the small village of Obia, so he and his mother, Mary Lou, began raising funds and contacted SCI about how to proceed. Per SCI’s suggestion, Max and Mary Lou contacted SCA, which has promoted solar cookers in Uganda since the mid-1990s. SCA agreed to provide a five-day integrated cooking training for 22 women that Father Inke identified as community leaders capable of teaching others. Kawesa Mukasa and Olivia Kanyesigye instructed the group (and dozens of onlookers) how to build and use solar cookers and how to cook effectively with the least amount of fuel possible, by supplementing solar cookers with fuel-efficient stoves and Heat-retention cooking when the sun isn’t shining. Longtime SCI friend and supporter Mark Cotham volunteered his time to assist with this effort, and also provided a much-needed vehicle to be used for further trainings in Uganda. Max and SCI staff tested five local water sources in Obia. Participants were shocked to find that most of their water sources were contaminated with Escherichia coli (E. coli) and unsafe to drink. SCI taught them how to cheaply and effectively pasteurize the water with a solar cooker and a Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI). Some of the new solar cooks had already initiated small trainings in their regions just weeks after the workshop. Max is working to ensure these efforts continue by raising funds to purchase materials for extended trainings in the Nebbi district and keeping in close contact with SCI and SCA for follow-up visits over the next few years. SCI and SCA plan to team up again on an integrated cooking and safe water workshop in 2009.
- August 2008: Max Ozimek, a 13-year-old boy from the Cleveland area in the USA, won a science project for solar cooking last year. While doing some volunteer work at a local hospice, he met Father Alexander Inke, who grew up in the village of Obia in the Nebbi District of Uganda, near the Congo border. Max learned about the hardships in Obia and deduced that solar cooking could help Obia in many ways. Rather than let her son’s dream languish, Max’s mom, Mary Lou, set about with extreme determination and the assistance of Solar Cookers International’s Karyn Ellis, SCI’s Director of International Program Development, to make an Integrated Cooking training project happen in Obia. I was a volunteer assistant on my first trip to Uganda and what a privilege it was to be involved. The training course in Obia occurred from June 10th through June 15th and was primarily taught by Solar Connect Association (SCA) of Uganda with Kawesa Mukasa and Olivia Kanyesigye teaching solar cooking principles, CooKit construction, Solar Water Pasteurization, fuel-efficient stoves and hay basket use. Aid Africa representatives from nearby Gulu assisted in demonstrating a 6 Brick Rocket Stove made from adobe bricks and local materials. The CooKits, Hay Baskets, and Rocket Stoves make Integrated Cooking possible, using the least amount of fuel and labor no matter the weather. Water testing with SCI’s Portable Microbiology Laboratory (PML) was conducted by Miss Ellis as well; results of E. coli presence in five local water sources was portrayed and the participants were taught to treat contaminated water with a CooKit. The 36 class participants were selected by Father Inke based on background, diversity, locale, and leadership skills, and showed justifiable pride as the village and Chief watched them graduate from the training workshop on June 15th. The potential difference this project can make in the lives of the people of Obia and surrounding environments can hardly be overstated. It is projected that class participants will teach others in surrounding villages how to construct and use CooKits, hay baskets, and fuel-efficient stoves to cook food and pasteurize water, as well as save the precious wood of their diminishing forests. Ways that Uganda’s SCA can build on its successful training and advance Integrated Cooking in the area are being actively investigated. All this, because a mother believed in a son’s dream to help a priest’s faraway village.
- July 2007: In email correspondence, Kawesa Mukasa reports, "We are now busy with Clara Thomas of Solar Cooking Netherlands on a cooker promotion project in four villages. So far this year we have sold 680 CooKits. We have also engaged on a lady to make for us hay baskets which we sell. These assist the CooKit when the clouds suddenly appear." Clara Thomas gave us materials to make 100 WAPIs. We have used those materials to make 89 good WAPIs. (The) problem is we are still failing to get the type of soya paste suitable on the local market. Could anybody out there avail us this material? We are willing to pay for it please. We plan to make 4,000 WAPIs in 2008 so that every CooKit user in the four villages gets a WAPI as well as a hay basket.
- April 2007: In the last six months of 2006, the Solar Connect Association (SCA) distributed 300 solar CooKits in rural areas of western Uganda, including the villages of Kikokwa and Ruharo, as well as in the Oruchinga refugee settlement. With support from its new partner the KoZon Foundation, the SCA plans to disseminate an additional 2,000 solar cookers in the western areas by the end of 2007. The SCA has worked with Project Environmentale de Virunga in the eastern Congo, near the habitat of the mountain gorillas, and with the Association Burundais pour la Protection des Oiseaux in Bunjumbura-Burundi. Both of these neighboring organizations reportedly need sources for low-cost aluminum foil and other materials.
Audio and video
- August 2003: Audio interview with Kawesa Mukasa
- January 2017: How Solar Connect Association Sustains the Solar Cooking Business - Kawesa Mukasa
- October 2016: How Solar Connect sustains the solar cooking business - Kawesa Mukasa, Director
- November 2003: Solar cooking momentum in Uganda - Solar Cooker Review
- August 2003: An audio interview with Kawesa Mukasa - The Solar Cooking Archive
Solar Connect Association
P.O. BOX 425
KAMPALA, KYANDODO 256