Sustainable Development Success Stories

Solar cooking technology

Location Initially Kenya and Honduras.
Responsible Organisations Rotary Club of Fresno, California, USA; Rotary Club of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
Description In 1991, Rotary Clubs began introducing solar cooking technology to villagers who rely on wood burning fires for cooking. In addition to stripping area forests, villagers cooking in poorly ventilated homes were at risk for burns, eye and respiratory diseases. Where solar technology has been introduced by the Rotary clubs and villagers trained in its use, the environmental, economic and social benefits are quickly apparent. The simple devices are capable of boiling water, baking bread, soups, poultry and other foods. In Honduras, a group of nuns use a large "Villager Solar Oven" to operate a neighbourhood bakery. The oven s cooking temperature reaches 500 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit (250 to 316 Celsius) and can bake 500 to 600 loaves per day. Today, the bakery employs eight people, providing them with a stable income. Solar technology is credited with slowing the process of deforestation in many of these developing countries. Its use is increasing, and in turn, the demand for wood, charcoal, bottled gas, and electricity is decreasing. The introduction of solar cooking has also proven to be time efficient, saving hours spent daily by villagers cutting and gathering firewood. Since 1991, solar cooking technology has been introduced in villages in Costa Rica, Egypt, Ghana, Honduras, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka, and Zambia. In 1996, Rotary clubs in U.S.A., Kenya, Japan, and Taiwan began collaborating to fund a project by the Rotary Club of Nairobi East to build efficient, durable and inexpensive solar cookers for world-wide use.

Rotary clubs are learning how to produce less expensive solar cookers and are teaching villagers how to produce and use the technology. Clubs use public awareness and education activities to promote the use of solar cooking technology.

Issues Addressed Poverty Eradication, Technology Transfer, Capacity Building.
  • Decrease of deforestation rate; 

  • Energy saving/conservation, reduction of cooking fuels use; 

  • Sterilisation of medical instruments;

  • Reduction in respiratory, lung and eye disease;

  • Capability to boil water and reduction intestinal disease;

Beginning last year with ten sites in Honduras, solar ovens were provided on loan to co-ops of seven citizens, chosen by their peers and local religious leaders, to manage the solar bakeries for their villages. Each co-op was a self-governing group (usually women), appointing a President, Secretary, Treasurer and so on. This system provided an intimate system of checks and balances, as each member monitored the performance of the others in their group. After three and a half years, if the bakery has been managed successfully, title is turned over to the seven managers.
Lessons Learned Rotarians have found that while the introduction of solar cooking technology is most welcome, ensuring the sustainability of both the ovens and the programmes proved difficult because of cultural differences and the lack of business skills. Believing that local ownership of a project could be the key to its success, Rotary clubs developed a formula for continuation.

Project coordinators are planning to implement the new management/ownership system in all future sites. A longer-term goal is to create a cottage industry for production and marketing of the cookers, creating employment opportunities.

Contacts Mr. Tom Burns, Burns-Milwaukee, Inc
4010 w. Douglas Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53209 USA 
Tel. (414) 438 1234; Fax (414) 438 1604
Mr. Wilfred Pimentel
1035 E. Cambridge, Fresno, CA 93704 USA
Tel: (209) 222-4193; Fax: (209) 222-6450 
E-mail: solarcook@psnw.com