See Calendar of events.
News and Recent Developments
- November 2010: The photos are in! As part of a 350.org project titled "eARTh BIG Pictures - Climate Art Visible from Space," the Canary Project and local Cape Town citizens created an enormous solar sun out of 70 parabolic solar cookers with the “rays” being on-the-ground tables where the local community will feast on traditional food made in the solar cookers. The solar cookers will be donated to the Khayelitsha community of Cape Town where many people do not have access to electricity. Each cooker lasts for 10 years and requires no fossil fuels, saving money for families while also protecting their health and the environment.
- November 2010: Cooking your food with the sun in South Africa, November 27th, 2010 Imagine if you used the sun to cook your food instead of using the electricity or gas? Well, in the sunny balmy climate of Cape Town, South Africa they are doing just that! On November 27, 2010, 1,000 people will sit down for a meal together that will be cooked exclusively with solar cookers. But before the community sits down to feast they will engage in an intergalactic photo shoot. They will create the above image out of the solar cookers and will have a 59 second window where the design will be photographed from a passing satellite. People all over the world are joining this event in South Africa by donating $150 to buy a large solar for this event and as a permanent solution to carbon reduction in the Khayelitsha neighborhood of Cape Town. More information...
- July 2010: Solar Cookers for Africa: Solar Caravan 2010 - SunFire is a NGO in South Africa that has partnered with Solar Cookers for Africa to create the Caravan as a way to reach the portions of the population that live in areas typically difficult to reach. It will be a convoy of knowledge, experience, and partnerships in the area of sustainable household and community technologies and practices. The Caravan will start in Mozambique, to eventually cover most of Southern Africa. Far from relying in the knowledge and resources of a few, the Caravan will link experts, product suppliers, communities and funders. Starting in August 2010, a core team of 4 people from 3 countries will start traveling from Johannesburg, South Africa, towards Beira, Mozambique. In each community the Caravan visits, its members will be presented with a flexible curriculum of applied introductory workshops and demonstrations about the core topics and technologies. One fixed workshop module concerns clean energy; another food security, waste management and nutrition. To learn more, see how your experience may be of value, and offer to financial support see: Solar Cookers for Africa: Solar Caravan 2010
- July 2010: Five Rotary-based organizations have joined forces to introduce solar cooking principles in South African townships, helping to alleviate poverty and improve health. The project will bring solar cooking to townships in Cape Town, and five hundred miles to the east, in Grahamstown. The Rotary Club of Fresno, in California, has been promoting solar cooker technology, using designs that are easy and cheap to make, produce no carbon emissions, avoid firewood collection and burning, and are healthier to use than conventional cooking and water-sanitizing methods. Wendi Hammond and Patti Thornton from the Rotary Club of Fresno, California, both expert trainers in solar cooking, have travelled to South Africa this past spring as volunteer trainers for the Sustainability Trust sponsored solar cooking project. More Information...
- June 2010: SunFire Solutions will be at the World Cup Football championship providing solar cooked food for the fans.
- June 2010: Football fans get a chance to see solar cookers at Greenpeace display - Greenpeace
- September 2008: Solar Cookers in Soweto - Project seeking investors. Solar cookers are being installed by Credible Carbon in an old-age home near to Soweto in Johannesburg. You can help to bring more affordable cooking to the pensioners, cutting carbon emisisons by reducing their consumption of coal-fired grid electricity. The Soweto Solar Cooker project involves the installation of 18 solar cookers at the Mapetla old age home, home to many women belonging to the SOWETO ANC womens veterans league, which has been an influencial body throughout the history of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. More information.
- November 2007: SunFire Solutions, a solar cooker promotion and development agency based in Johannesburg, teamed up with Umgungundlovu District Municipality in June 2006 to install 20 of its SunFire 14 parabolic solar cookers in Masihambisane as part of an off-grid electrification pilot project. Masihambisane is a small village situated in a Tribal Authority area 80 kilometers north of Pietermaritzburg, beyond the sugar cane plantations. The community was selected because of its remoteness and suitability for off-grid electrification. According to SunFire representative Crosby Menzies, the response was amazing. “A marked and definite improvement in living standards was immediately noticed,” he said. “The overall … response from families included in this project was a unanimous vote of confidence, and thanks for the opportunity to use solar cookers.” In December 2006 SunFire returned to install 60 more solar cookers. A visit in early 2007 confirmed the cookers’ usefulness to the community, and provided opportunities for the new solar cooks to get additional training and have questions answered. One woman cooked her family’s entire Christmas meal on her new SunFire14 and was very proud of not needing to light a fire on Christmas day, as this meant not needing to wash the smell of smoke from her family’s clothes. Early adopters of the solar cookers were predominantly from the younger generation, ages 14-24. Since they do much of the firewood collecting, they immediately recognized the benefits of cookers powered only by the sun. SunFire hopes this project will lead to further support from the South African government, as is the case in a few other countries like India and China. SunFire produces parabolic solar cookers in Johannesburg, and has recently founded a non-governmental organization called Solar Cookers for Africa to help poor African families throughout southern Africa gain access to solar cooker technology.
- June 2007: Crosby Menzies of SunFire Solutions sends a report on the Masihambisane Solar Cooker Project.
The History of Solar Cooking in South Africa
The unique situation of South Africa has obviously played a major role in its development scenario. In the apartheid era, relatively little development assistance from outside agencies was received. With the birth of an African-led government and the remarkable leadership of Nelson Mandela, considerable effort has been made by donors to assist the nation which, related to its history, has a relatively high GDP per capita (for Africa) and solid growth. Enormous problems remain, of course, included housing and infrastructure shortages, huge inequalities, health issues - most prominentlyv AIDS - and the continuing struggle to achieve political stability and equity. In the latter years, a number of efforts to introduce solar cooking have occurred in the country, including a large and well-funded collaboration with the Government of Germany, described below.
The work of Anna Pearce, described above in "multi-country promoters" is prominent in South Africa, since she herself had lived in that country for many years. An organization called Women For Peace/Wonderbox seems to have multiple goals. Its members have taught many others to cook and to use the WonderBox, a commercially made hay box, as well as solar cookers.
A University of Natal community resources worker, Ms. Marianne Green, has been teaching women to use solar cookers for a number of years in the southeastern section of the country. She and her colleagues first conducted a survey on local perceptions of need, finding that collection of fuelwood was the biggest problem for women, resulting in exhaustion and lost time. To assist with that problem, a solar cooking program was devised, training women in solar cooking use, and teaching them how to build inexpensive ovens themselves. A description with considerable detail on this work was presented at the Kimberly world conference in 2000. Their study, a very well planned evaluation (a fine model for others to follow) allowed them to arrive at a number of conclusions. Solar cooking is clearly feasible in this part of South Africa, and could ease the burden of fuel collection for women. However, attention must be paid to gender issues, aimed at reducing the substantial inequities. The report ends with a description of their plan to proceed, including local hosting committees, micro finance or revolving credit schemes, and development of income generating activities utilizing solar ovens (Varese, p. 207.)
The SunStove Organization, allied to the international organization of that name (see 'Multi-National Promoters) has a strong presence in South Africa, complete with manufacturing capability and local staff. The stove was one of those selected for the GTZ project (see below) and has been widely promoted in the South Africa context.
In the community of Vryburg, a school hosts a Training Center that has focused on teaching students and members of the community about solar cooking. Known as Tiger Kloof, the operation began in 2000, initially working with the school's students, then adding work in the local community. They have developed collaborative relationships with the Palmer Group, a South African consulting firm which has been vitally concerned with solar cooking, serving as local staff backup on the GTZ project (below). Tiger Kloof had a larger goal, that of establishing a formal instructional system for food caterers, a project which earns income for the school and meet a need for training for employment. Along with formal teaching, the operation's commitment is demonstrated by the fact that all of the buildings in the school and the catering training center are solar powered (.Kimberly, pp. 157).
An individual living in KwaZula, Natal, Richard Pocock, has also been a promoter in his area of South Africa. He has invented a variant on the panel cooker, made of a cardboard box folded to a pentagon shape. Like other panel cookers, the black pot in enclosed in a heat shield of plastic.
It is apparent that South Africa is serious about the use of solar energy. The Government has established policies ensuring that renewable energy technologies and applications are implemented and is making strong efforts to address constraints against such adoption. Resources are invested in further development of renewable technologies, comparable to other governmental investments.
Illustrating that commitment, far and away the largest program in South Africa is one which involves collaboration between the nation's Ministry of Minerals and Energy and the German technical cooperation agency (GTZ), the latter described above in the section on "Multi-National Promoters. This project was the mosf thoroughly planned project ever, enjoying substantial financial support to "do it right".
Initially, a panel of European solar cooking experts was convened to examine a wide range of available cooking devices. After careful testing, six devices were chosen on the basis of cooking performance, durability, potential cost, and so on. Witfi the devices chosen, the next step in the project, Phase One, was a yearlong market study, evaluating the preferences of selected households in three sites in the project area of northwest South Africa. Devices were rotated at two-month intervals, and the sample population was surveyed repeatedly on each, evaluating convenience, durability, fuel saved, time spent, and other uses of saved time. A team of three social scientists conducted this carefully conceptualized and meticulously carried out study over a period of one year.
In a published article, the project describes that evaluation process and results. One hundred families were in the sample with 30 others serving as a control group. The topics evaluated included end-user acceptance, impacts on household fuel consumption and expenditure, planned purchase of stoves, and affordability issues. The study provided important lessons, including the promise of solar energy demonstrated by high usage, the importance of options in solar devices (no one size fits all), and the link between high use and payback time.
With the information gathered in Phase One, the project was prepared to go into full swing. Phase Two involved a large scale venture with manufacturing firms that would produce the cookers selected by consumer panels. Next came the commercial campaign to sell cookers (Phase Three), initially in the study area, but with a plan to cover more of South Africa over time. Arrangements were in process for households to be able to finance cooking devices. Extensive advertising campaigns were to be mounted in multiple media, newspapers, radio, TV, etc. Commercial outlets were secured in existing appliance and department stores to make purchasing a cooker convenient.
Documents on the project's website, as of the writing of this study, report that the campaign is progressing. Another report from a correspondent indicated that there must have been a delay in obtaining government approval for the commercial aspect of Phase Two, intended to bring production to mass manufacturing (personal correspondence). Phase Three however now appears to be underway: The activity and will be watched with interest by solar cooking promoters everywhere.
The original planner and implementer of the joint GTZ-South African Ministry plan, A. Bierman, retired from the agency. His intent at the initiation of the project was to do everything right: a carefully planned scheme, based on technical assessment of appropriate devices and by field assessment of actual users of the devices, followed by a commercial marketing plan to reach mass audiences. Time will tell how successful this impressively planned and carried out project proves to be.
Climate, Culture, and Special Considerations
Solar Cookers International has rated South Africa as the #6 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 South Africa with fuel scarcity but ample sun in 2020 is 11,000,000.
- Solar Cookers and Social Classes in Southern Africa
- Discussion of southern Africa's suitability for solar cooking
- Solar cooker dissemination and cultural variables
- A good document from PDC Pretoria describing the energy situation and the level of acceptance of solar cookers in South Africa
- January 2009: Practical Application of Solar Tunnel Dryers -Klaus Triebe
- October 2009: Harnessing solar stove technologies in South Africa to promote improved household energy provision
- July 2007: The development impact of solar cookers: A review of solar cooking impact research in South Africa - Marlett Wentzela and Anastassios Pouris
- March 2006: UNDP/GEF South African Solar Cooker Project (SOLCO) - Final Evaluation
- 1999: Solar Cooker Fieldtest in South Africa - Eberhard Biermann
Articles in the media
- January 2012: Can Cleaner Cooking and Solar Power Help Solve Energy Poverty in Africa? - Scientific American
- November 2011: PMB pupils invent recycled solar stove - Newswatch
- August 2010: Solar Cooking The Answer As South Africa Looks For Eskom-proof Cooking Solutions -One News Page Inquires about solar cookers has risen, as the local utility, Eskom, begins new electricity tariffs.
- November 2009: South African Rugby Union purchases credits from solar stove in Soweto - Interpress Service
- January 2008: Government declares war on power wastage - IOL
Audio and video