Monday, September 28, 2009

Selling Sunlight on the Equator

We have been trying out the solar cookers. Having faced the problem of too much wind, too much dust, too little sun and too much rain, yesterday started off well and sunny. But half way through the cooking, the sky clouded over and stayed that way. We hadn't even taken the precaution of having some charcoal handy. After a lengthy walk, we got the charcoal and finished cooking the partially cooked food. It was good but not good enough to sell solar cooking to a sceptical audience.

Today was very sunny and, starting earlier, the food was cooked to perfection in less than two hours. The only thermostat available here is experience and I must admit, I left it all on for a bit too long. The food tastes good but is a bit drier than it should be. As it was so sunny, I slipped in a soda bread loaf, which is browning nicely right now. But the sun has again slipped behind the clouds.

So, as a precaution, we could take some cooking baskets with us when we go out in the field. We were hoping to find people to make these baskets for us as they are very expensive in the supermarkets. But we'll get to all that eventually. And we need to make sure that we start early in the morning and that there is charcoal available if things go wrong.

While I cooked today, some people in the house next to me were cooking with charcoal. They were cooking the whole time I was cooking, so it's not just solar cooking that takes a long time. While I cooked, I also washed the clothes, read some articles and wrote a blog entry. I'm just trying to anticipate the comments I'll get!

Well, it could be worse. We are now pretty much prepared to face the hungry mob and demonstrate the process of cooking on a solar cooker. Now that we've tried it out a few times, I feel far more confident. Let's see if I still feel the same way after a few demonstrations. But I love the idea of selling sunlight on the equator.



Claire said...

It's great to hear about your solar cooking exploits! I hope people are convinced. Keep up the good work!

Simon said...

Thanks Claire. Well, once we get going we can think about various other aspects such as cost, which takes a lot of convincing. Despite saving people money, the initial cost puts some people off. If we can reduce the cost we can defuse some of their objections...hopefully.

maryanne said...

Simon, I live in Nairobi, where can I buy the solar cooker you are talking about? There was one from a Norwegian guy in Langata but i still have not traced where I can buy the cookers.
I have been following up your blog and think you are doing a super job in sensitizing people on HIV and other environment friendly innovations.

Simon said...

Hi Maryanne
Thanks for your comments, always good to hear from people interested! The contact details for Solar Cookers International are as follows:

Solar Cookers International East Africa Office
P.O. Box 51190-00200
Physical address: Githunguri Road, Kileleshwa, Sumbeiywo flats, there is a sign hanging over the hedge and at the gate
Tel/fax: +254-2-04347295, +254-2-04347144
Mobile: +254-2-0722828317

Best to take the number with you and phone if you get lost as the place can be hard to find. The woman who runs the place, Faustine, can be contacted by email at and she'll give you a great welcome.

The Norwegian guy in Langata sells the Kyoto Box, which is considerably more expensive and pretty heavy and unwieldy but I've never used them. His email is and he will look you, I'm sure, if you contact him by email.

Thanks again and get back to me if you have any problem contacting anyone. Also, I'd love to hear how you get on with solar cooking.