Sunday, September 20, 2009

Solar Cookers and Cooking Baskets

Photo: An IDP camp in Molo, Rift Valley.

Yesterday, myself and two members of a local community based organisation, that I'll be revealing more about in the near future, went to a camp for internally displaced people (IDP), just outside Nakuru. This tent city was set up by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) following the post election violence more than one and a half years ago. The UNHCR has now left the camp and people there are getting by as best they can.

It's disgraceful that the Kenyan government has yet to resettle people properly after all this time. Many of those in the camp find it difficult to get to services and facilities as they are an expensive bus journey away from the town. Even health facilities are hard to get at and people on antiretroviral therapy (ART) are in a particularly precarious position. ART is nominally free in Kenya but there are logistical problems relating to getting to health centres, buying other medicines and the like.

Anyhow, many people in IDP camps see themselves being there for some time. They have planted fields of fruit and vegetables and done their best to be more self reliant. Unfortunately, a herd of buffalo came recently and destroyed much of what they had grown. And the current drought doesn't help either, many crops are stunted or withered because of the lack of rain. But there are also green and flourishing gardens that must have required a lot of care and attention.

Some aid agencies have been to the IDP camp and have given some assistance. But much of that assistance is in the form of handouts of goods and money, which is not sustainable and does not allow people to be self reliant. This community based organisation are advising people on ways of saving in order to be able to access microcredit facilities. They are also advising on potential income generation schemes so that people can get some money for their work or, at least, find out about ways of spending less.

One technique we are hoping to introduce to people is the use of solar cookers for cooking food. The area gets a lot of sun and solar cookers could be used for much of the year. There are numerous advantages to using solar cookers but the advantage we want to make clearest is the cost saving. Charcoal and wood, which people use now, are expensive. They are also in short supply and becoming scarcer. Cutting the amount of smoke people inhale on a daily basis also springs to mind, and the list goes on. Oh, and it's a great way of pasteurising water!

Complementary to solar cookers would be cooking baskets, which are best explained on the Cooking in a Basket blog. These are insulated baskets that cook food which has been partially cooked, thus saving a lot of time and fuel.

In principle, it should be possible to source the materials and makers of these two tools, the solar cooker and the cooking basket, locally. That may take time and we can use ready made ones in the meantime. It may also be possible to get some of the materials free or almost free. Currently, a local sisal unit dumps large amounts of material that would make great insulation padding. But we'll spend the next few weeks working out the logistics and I'll post up our progress as we go along.



Anonymous said...

maybe you could contact this guys for your solar cooker box.

Simon said...

Hi Tom
Thanks for your message, I've sent a message through their site, I'll see if they supply them in Kenya and if they are cheap enough to persuade people here to use them.

Johnny Brooks said...

We use the baskets, though we have heard them referred to as fireless cookers. Anyway has worked out well for us.

Simon said...

Hi Johnny
Thanks, yes, I've seen them called fireless cookers but solar cookers could also be called fireless, so I wanted a name that is more descriptive. Good to hear that they work out well. I'm looking forward to introducing them to people but I have been shocked at the prices I have seen. I would like to find cheaper materials and a cheaper end product. They may look well and last a long time but people will be unlikely to pay for something relatively expensive, no matter how much it may save them in the long run!

Anonymous said...

I'll see if they supply them in Kenya and if they are cheap enough to persuade people here to use them.
how to make own solar panel

Simon said...

Thanks, I'll have a look at those links.