Solar cooking in West Africa
...and around the World

This page brought to you by the letter Z (Zed), the number 7, 
Kate Povel  and Greer Gurganus.
 
 

Contents:

Why should I use the sun to cook?
 How does solar cooking work?
How do I build my own solar cooker?
Do I have to be outside to cook?
Where have solar cookers been used?
Where else could I find information about solar cooking?
 


Why should I use the sun to cook?

The Sun:

The sun, the Earth's star, is very hot and powerful. The core of the sun is approximately 15 million degrees Celsius and 4.5 pounds of sunlight hit the Earth every second! 
More sun fun facts
All terrestrial and most aquatic plant life use the sun's energy to produce all their food. So why shouldn't humans? 
Renewable, Usable, Free Energy: 
 For many centuries, humans have been using fire as a source of fuel. Fire uses lots of wood to burn, and when wood was used in small enough quantities to allow time for new trees to grow in place of old ones, everything was great. Now, the demand for wood for other products, coupled with the increased population of the Earth is making wood for fuel scarce. Deforestation is a problem all over the World, especially in countries that depend on wood for fuel. 

For more on Deforestation see:
World Revolution  and  Rain Forest

Alternatives to wood products come in the form of fossil fuels.  These fuels like gas and coal have taken centuries to form, and are also being used at a rate much higher than they are being renewed. 

Our friend, the sun, is always there for us. Capturing energy from the sun is simply using energy that is currently not being used. It is also free to harness the suns power, an asset to anyone who pays electric bills. In regions of the World where there is no access to electricity or gas fuel, the benefits of solar power are tremendous. 

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How does solar cooking work?

Solar energy, in the form of light, can be reflected and effectively concentrated or focused into such a way that it can be used to cook food.  The rays of light must be directed through panel positioning to focus on the place where food will be placed for cooking.  This can be done through parabolic models that directly focus solar energy to a single point or through paneled models that direct the suns rays into a central location.

This energy in the form of light must be converted into heat in order to be effective for cooking.  Black pots, pans, and parts of the cooker are used as light absorbers.  As the light is absorbed, it is converted to heat and transferred to the food, heating it to temperatures necessary for cooking, pasteurization and sterilization.
 

The heat energy must be retained within the cooker for a sufficient amount of time to be useful in raising and sustaining the temperature.  Retention of heat is best done through insulation.  Insulation involves absorbing and trapping heat.  While this is mainly achieved through materials used in the construction of the cooker, (cardboard, adobe, concrete, hay, or trapped air),  type of cooking device can also affect efficiency. 

For additional information on this topic:
Principles of Solar Box Cooker Design
Physics of Solar Cooking by Natasha Lindo and Toli Lerios
Off Grid Living: Solar Cooking

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How do I build my own solar cooker?





In order to build a solar cooker for ordinary use the following items will be needed:

     Reflective surface material: Aluminum, tin, mirror, glass, etc.
     Cooking Utensils: For faster cooking paint pots black (if not otherwise so).
     Insulation: Adobe, tire (rubber), soil, ash, cardboard, trapped air, etc.
     Container: Cardboard box, baskets, wood, etc.
 

Plans for each of the following designs can be accessed by clicking on the headings below.  For further examples and designs an extensive list of plans for building solar cookers has been compiled by The Solar Cooking Archive. The following are the three main styles that have been developed and implemented in the field:

Box:                                                                                          Panel:                                                                                        Parabolic:

Photos courtesy os Solar Cookers International


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Do I have to be outside to cook?


NO!  In fact some new solar cookers have been installed onto the sides of homes in many locations!  They can be accessed from inside the home throughout the year, and offer relief from the sun for the food preparer. 

For more information please see Through the Wall Ovens
 


 

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Where have solar cookers been used?


West Africa is a region that lies mainly south of the largest, hottest desert in the World, the Sahara. This region is also known as sub-Saharan Africa and some of the poorest people in the World live there. Sunlight is abundant in this region, and the need for alternative fuel is evident.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) between 1990 and 1995 Africa lost 3.7 million hectares of forest every year. The report states that Africans south of the Sahara rely heavily on fuel wood for cooking. Up to 70 to 90 percent of the energy used in Africa comes from wood. As a result, heavy deforestation occurs. It is our hope that the introduction of solar cookers can help alleviate some of these problems.  The following pictures illustrate the many types of solar cookers being implemented in African:
 
 

These women stand next to their panel cookers in Burkina Faso A Kenyan woman bicycles home with the solar cooker she has just completed. The box type solar cooker here carried by three African women, was easily constructed with cardboard.

 
These three men are fashioning their own parabolic panel out of clay.
The box cookers seen here in Tanzania were made out wood. 
This basket was woven especially for the purpose of being made into a solar cooker.
All photos courtesy of Solar Cookers International

 
 
 
  This modified box-style solar cooker was built by Kristen Rahn while she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay.  Newspaper was used as insulation, and a hole dug into the ground for use as an outside box.  In this picture a cake is being baked.   

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Where else could I find information about solar cooking?





We don't have all the answers in solar cooking, but here are some sites that might:
 

Where can I find more examples of solar cooking designs?
       http://www.solarcooking.org/plans.htm
       http://plaza12.mbn.or.jp/%7Esolarcooking/englishhp.htm

         Do you know any good recipes for Solar Cooking?
                             http://www.sunoven.com/recipe/
                             http://home.earthlink.net/~drduggee/recipes.htm
                             http://www.solarcooking.org/recipes/
 
                                                             I don't want to build a solar cooker- can't I just buy one? 
                                                                         http://www.solarcooking.org/manufacture.htm
                                                                         http://www.sunoven.com/global.htm
          How do I find out more about harnessing the sun's power?
                            http://www.solarenergy.org/index.html
                            http://www.ises.org/ises.nsf!Open
                            http://www.solarenergy.com/

 
 

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