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The Gambia

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News and Recent Developments

  • January 2011: Solar Project Tiloo, founded in 2006, started a new program at the end of 2009: 7 pilot schools in different regions received one solar oven each. They obliged to use the oven for one year in various ways. In doing so they have to earn at least 1,250 Fr. by selling solar products. When the contractual aim is successfully reached, the students receive a certificate and a new solar oven, which is then in turn given by them to another self determined school under the same conditions. In this way a snowball-effect is started designed to engender the countrywide distribution of the solar oven among the young generation. On 23rd January 2011 that moment was attained: The first certificate ceremony was celebrated with public figures, representatives of seven schools and guests from all over the country.
  • December 2009: Audio interview with Lamin Sawo where he discusses AHEAD's large-scale solar cooking project in The Gambia where 900 families are now regularly using solar cookers to cope with rising food prices and government restrictions of cutting trees.
The gambia august 2008 cookit

Two Gambian women participating in an AHEAD solar cooking workshop

  • July 2009: Reports in the Daily Observer newspaper indicate that Gambian President Yahya Jammeh is aware of solar cookers and has discussed solar cooker use in his country. During a 2008 meeting with representatives of Motech Industries, Inc., a leading solar power company based in Taiwan, Jammeh expressed his support for solar energy use, including his desire that “98% of provincial schools have solar power so that they can link to the Internet.” In response to a question from the reporter, Jammeh mentioned that solar cookers are very much a possibility for his country as well.
  • August 2008: The nongovernmental organization Adventures in Health, Education, and Agricultural Development (AHEAD) recently conducted solar cooking trainings in five villages in The Gambia and plans to expand this summer. Malcolm Gee led workshops to train 12-15 women per village in the construction and use of panel-type solar cookers. Eighty women were trained, who in turn will train others. The women cooked meals of fish, rice, and vegetables in the cookers, and are experimenting with other traditional dishes. They have formed a trainers’ cooperative called Tilo Tabiro.

The History of Solar Cooking in The Gambia

An organization in the United Kingdom, the Gambia Fellowship Association, has been promoting solar cooking in the Gambia for a number of years. Four units to produce cookers have been developed by the group with assistance from the British High Commission, the Gambia Energy Department and the British Foreign Office in London. The organization has also made a film about solar cooking which is shown from time to time on Gambian television.

Another group, the Boka Loho Organization, in the Gambia itself, has built and demonstrated solar cookers at agricultural shows and other gatherings. They produce cookers, train users, and also work with schools in the promotion' of solar energy usage. An individual, Mr. Saikou Jarra, has also promoted solar cooking for years in his area of the Gambia. Other organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, seems to be active as well, including the Ministry of Trade and Industry which has trained women's groups as users and carpenters in the making of box cookers. One of the early/promoters was an organization called Rescue Mission, which disseminated 200 cookers in the early 1990s through demonstrations and classes.

For some years, a British woman, Rosalyn Rappaport, has been spreading solar cooking in Western Gambia, working through the Methodist Agricultural Mission, the Gambia Renewable Energy Centre and the Women's Solar Cooking Club of Marakissa. Initially, they only had a small number of box cookers, which women shared, taking turns using the devices. Many women worked in the fields, and the larger box cookers were difficult to transport, requiring a cart at minimum. Ms. Rappaport decided to try the panel cooker which is much lighter in weight. Women there invented a variation that used string to hold the folded sides of the cooker together. After systematic testing to see if the panel performed well enough (it did!) the panel came to be more widely used. The panel is made locally, and a substitute for the plastic bag was found in a product used to package sugar (Solar Cooker Review - August, 2002).

In a more recent report, Ms. Rappaport, described the ongoing development of solar cooking projects in the Gambia, particularly the Marakissa Solar Cooks Club. The group has been in existence for a number of years, and members use both box cookers and the panel cooker (CooKit). They have engaged in demonstrations in a number of villages and towns. Originally (see above) they had difficulty locating plastic bags for use with the CooKit, but have recently found a local manufacturer of inexpensive bags. Local women use an existing Methodist church network, and have attempted systematically to follow up with newly trained cooks to assess progress made. Reports thus far have been favorable, and most food used in the country lends itself well to solar cooking. (Solar Cooker Review - March, 2002).

Other Gambians have indicated their interest in solar cooking by corresponding with Solar Cookers International; that number includes persons affiliated with government and non-governmental organizations.

[Information for this section was taken originally from State of the Art of Solar Cooking by Dr. Barbara Knudson]

See also

Climate, Culture, and Special Considerations

Ninety-five percent of the population in Mali and The Gambia burn fuel wood to supply their daily needs, particularly for cooking. The dependence on fuel wood causes enormous strain on the environment, economy and on individual health.

Eighty percent of The Gambia was covered by dense forest and woodland in the 1940s. Only 8% remains today. Similarly in Mali, trees are being cut 20 times faster than they are replaced. Cheap fuel sources are not available and as the forests disappear the lives of the people who depend on wood for cooking become more difficult.

For instance, women and girls are responsible for procuring fuel wood and they must travel farther from home as wood becomes more scarce. This task demands many hours and minimizes opportunities to attend school and participate in income-generating activities. In other areas, it is no longer feasible to gather wood. Families in these areas can spend one-third of their yearly income on wood and/or gas.

In addition to the negative environmental and economic impact of fuel wood dependence, women and children suffer from health problems caused by cooking inside small, enclosed kitchens that often lack windows or other ventilation. Cooking fires give off toxic smoke also known as Indoor air pollution (IAP). Every 20 seconds a person somewhere in the world dies from IAP.

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