Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What Has Solar Cooking Got to do with HIV Prevention?

Another day courting the sunshine. I decided to try to cook githeri, a mixture of maize and beans. But it takes a very long time and after four hours of demonstrating and discussing solar cooking, I took the mixture home to finish cooking it on a jiko (charcoal cooker). However, the rice and vegetables were evidence enough to convince the group of about 15 people. So we'll get together again next week and discuss the issue further. The following week, we'll have a workshop to make our own solar cookers. The week after, who knows...

This blog started off concentrating on HIV and it may seem that I have wandered off the point. But let me recap a bit. Throughout, I have argued that HIV transmission is related to many of the everyday aspects of people's lives, such as their environments, their employment status and work conditions, their levels of income and education, their health, nutrition, sanitation, infrastructure and many other things.

Solar cooking, solar water pasteurization and renewable energy sources in general have the attraction of addressing many of these issues. Using renewable energy means that people use less wood, which is great news for the environment. They produce less smoke and greenhouse gases, which reduces sicknesses related to smoke inhalation. Acute respiratory infections (ARI) represent one of the biggest threats to people's health and life expectancy. ARIs combined with diarrheal conditions account for around 40% of deaths in infants and under fives.

Paying for fuel is a major day to day cost that can be cut by using something like solar energy, which is very plentiful in African countries. Much time and energy is spent on collecting and preparing fuel for cooking, time that could be better spent doing other things. And there are few better ways for people to increase their self reliance than to explore renewable and sustainable resources.

Food cooked on solar cookers cooks slowly and is therefore more nutritious. It also uses less water, something that is in short supply and that can take a lot of time and effort to collect. In fact, the job of collecting fuel and water often falls to women and children, especially girls. Many's the time children don't do their homework because they spend the remaining daylight hours after school doing household chores.

At the moment, we are concentrating on telling people about solar cookers, why they could make their lives easier and better, how it could help them save money, etc. But in the longer term we are looking for income generating activities (IGA). For example, it's possible to make items to sell, such as cakes, roasted peanuts, ugali (boiled maize meal) and other popular foods, commonly sold on the street. Saving on fuel costs could give people the edge over their competitors. Perhaps people could also make and sell solar devices such as cookers and cooking baskets.

Well, that's why we're experimenting with solar cookers and those are some of the reasons we feel they are relevant to HIV and HIV prevention.



Kirsty said...

I know I should comment more, but really all I ever have to say is 'wow' and 'of COURSE!' while hitting my fist against a table and nodding vigorously. I think what you are up to is great.

Simon said...

Hey Kirsty, hope you're well. Thanks for the thumbs up, things seem to be going well, though it's hard to tell at the moment.
Take care