Recent News and Developments.
- May 2013: Madison Solar Engineering is an experienced solar power company located in Mutare, Zimbabwe. They have been in operation since 2005. Besides offering photovoltaic electrical systems, they also offer parabolic solar cookers for sale at their store in Mutare.
- May 2007: Coates Brothers Zimbabwe are selling about 7 tones of 0.29mm Lithographic Aluminium Sheet. If you are interested please e-mail Matthew.Mhunduru@af.sunchem.com.
The History of Solar Cooking in Zimbabwe
A project in Zimbabwe was started in 1997 in conjunction with the meeting of the World Solar Summit Commission, a group of Heads of State from representative nations of the world, announcing the start of the World Solar Decade, 1996-2005. Prior to that time, SCI, with the aid of a financial grant from UNESCO, had quickly initiated a project in Zimbabwe, in collaboration with the Development Training Center, a unit of the University of Zimbabwe. The history of the project, while having an auspicious beginning, is not altogether a rosy one.
Initially, the project went very well. A corps of experienced trainers traveled to Zimbabwe, to two selected areas, one rural, the other a peri-urban area near the nation's capital, Harare. Staff from DTC assisted in organizing local contacts with appropriate organizations; training of women in both sites was accomplished swiftly and effectively. The Commission meetings went well; they were able to enjoy solar cooked food produced by Zimbabwean women, pronounced as excellent by the national Heads of State and other high officials present. In the years following, between 1996 and 2003, over 6,000 cookers had been sold and their buyers trained in solar cooking methods. However, after the "brass" departed, the Commission's work accomplished, the project was less secure financially and promised funds for future years were not made available to SCI and the DTC. Adjustments had to be made in expenses, the projects were considerably curtailed and new modes of operating were sought. Over time, the peri-urban project was dropped, while the other, located near Zimbabwe's second major city of Bulawayo, was changed to one that conceptualized individual trainers as independent entrepreneurs, selling the cookers plus a training program for a fee, which generated a small income for the trainer. While still in existence, many difficulties ensued in latter stages of the project: transportation in rural areas is difficult and erratic, supplies were not always available in timely manner, and staff changes at DTC required continuous reorientation to the project. Kindhearted trainers sold cookers on time, and then had trouble collecting the funds from buyers. Misunderstandings were occasionally present between the two major sponsors, separated by 8,000 miles. Funds for use of the solar cooking programs from Solar Decade money allotted to the Department of Energy never became available. And finally, as backdrop for the work, the nation has been in extraordinary political and economic turmoil for several years with no end in sight. Many hours have been spent re-examining what went wrong with this project, which though continuing to operate on a small scale, surely might have been more effective (Kimberly, p.217). A small Rotary funded project however now operates in the same area of the country, near Bulawayo, utilizing a number of the trainers from the SCI project.
Jill Miller-Cranko reports:
- Solar Cooking was introduced to Zimbabwe from two sources: Rotary International and the Girl Scouts of America. In 1997 a retired veterinarian from California, Wilfred Pimentel, came to Zimbabwe as a Rotary volunteer, and spent a month in Bulawayo (the second city of Zimbabwe, situated about 500 km south of the capital Harare) introducing the concept of the use of solar power for cooking, using CooKits (cookers made from cardboard). He gave demonstrations and talks to local Rotary Clubs, and returned in 1998 and 1999 on follow-up visits. With the financial backing of a 3-year Rotary Matching Grant from Rotary International, Wilfred Pimentel set up a successful Project in a rural area that was devoid of trees, about 20 km outside Bulawayo, called Ntabazinduna. This continued for more than the anticipated three years, under the care of a committee of local Rotarians. There was a team of 10 local women who became Trainers. They were supplied with bicycles, a uniform of a Rotary cooking apron, training materials, recipe books, and advertising banners. For a year the Project had sufficient funding to give part-time employment to a former teacher, with a vehicle. He transported the trainers to outlying areas, within 100 km radius of Bulawayo. After this the team had exhausted the demand in their area, and lost interest. Some moved away due to the economic conditions in the country; and the Project ceased to function as the number of trainers diminished, the funding ran out, and it was finally closed in December 2005.
- Involvement of The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts
- Barby Pulliam, a Girl Scout Leader from California, came on the scene shortly after Wilfred Pimentel. She was an international trainer of the World Association of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides (WAGGGS). Barby and Wilfred were both members of Solar Cooking International and sat on their committees.
- –In 1998 Barby trained a small selected group of six adult Girl Guide Leaders in Bulawayo. They persuaded Rotary initially to take them financially under the wing of the Rotary Project, but in time they became self-funding by selling CooKits after monthly demonstrations in the urban area of Bulawayo, and by giving demonstrations to schools, factories, church organisations – and any group of interested persons. \There was a demand for the cookers in town due to the high cost of electricity, and the non-availability of gas for cooking, or of paraffin or firewood. Barbie Pulliam returned to do further training of more new Solar Trainers, and there is still a group of 8 trainers active in a small way. All the Girl Guide Trainer/Demonstrators are school teachers in Government schools, and in 2008 the school system virtually collapsed. Teachers abandoned the schools as they were not being paid any salaries. As a result the Solar Trainers lost interest, as they had no income from teaching. The costs of cooking ingredients for the demonstrations, and travelling expenses, were always reimbursed to the Trainers but with the general economic meltdown, they were unable or unwilling to continue as Trainers. Sadly all the profits were wiped out by the continual devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar (21 zeros were removed from the value of the Z$ over numerous devaluations) and there is now a nil balance in the bank account!
- Barby Pulliam started a similar Project with the Girl Guides Association of Zimbabwe in Harare, where she had identified Epworth (a rural training centre about 20 km from Harare), as a suitable area. Unfortunately there was lack of interest from the adult Guide leaders, of whom none became trained in Solar, and the idea fizzled out - although there was probably a group of women at Epworth whom Barby trained herself.
- Involvement of the University of Zimbabwe
- In Harare the University of Zimbabwe Department of Technology had a programme using CooKits, and trained local personnel to demonstrate their use. The lecturer in charge of it moved to Swaziland a few years ago, and it is not known if anyone took over.
Climate, Culture, and Special Considerations
Solar Cookers International has rated Zimbabwe as the #21 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 Zimbabwe with fuel scarcity but ample sun in 2020 is 2,600,000.
- Odette's Recipes from Zimbabwe
- Discussion of southern Africa's suitability for solar cooking
- Solar cooker dissemination and cultural variables
- 1979: Solar Box Cookers in Zimbabwe: The Introduction of a Radical Innovation in Cooking - Patrice Rodgers
Articles in the media
- Odette's Recipes from Zimbabwe.
- 1999: UNESCO Funds Solar Cooking Project in Zimbabwe - Interview with Dr. Bob Metcalf