Village cooking

Solar Cooking Saves Trees

Apr. 29 | 2016

←Back to all stories
  • Share this Story:

Construction of Solar Ovens

Improvised Solar Stove
Youth inspect an improvised solar stove produced from local materials

Deforestation and soil erosion is an increasing problem that affects both human and animal food and feed availability. Annual wood consumption for cooking throughout developing counties is approximately 1,000 pounds (1/2 ton) of wood per person.


If solar ovens are used for only 25% of the cooking needs fuel wood for a 6 member family would be decreased by about 1,500 pounds of fuel wood per year. This saving would be a significant reduction in deforestation and also improved respiratory health, sanitation, and reduce hours per day foraging.


As wooded areas disappear the burden of finding cooking fuel falls upon poor women and girls in both urban and rural settings. In rural areas women must spend several hours each day standing over a fire stirring food. Fuel collection is generally the role of women and girls and many of family’s key income-generating opportunities are threatened by inadequate supplies of fuel.


An example is milk collection stations have been set up by the government and women can increase their income by milking goats and delivering the liquid to the station. With the lack of refrigeration milk is stored hot both in the village and at the government collection stations over wood fires or charcoal stoves.


In urban areas up to 55% of household income is spent to purchase cooking fuels. Urban women and children are most often required to earn additional income to purchase cooking fuel. The introduction of inexpensive, locally produced solar ovens allows time currently spent on these kinds of activities to be more productively utilized.


Keeping Milk Hot for Storage
Keeping Milk Hot for Storage

Reduction of Deforestation:


Fabrication of solar cookers was used as a potential means to reduce deforestation and to improve available small ruminant fodder, lessen lung and eye diseases, and stimulate small-holder business income. These cookers can lessen the demand for fire wood. They can be easily and inexpensively constructed of local materials saving women valuable cooking time, decreasing deforestation, and increasing time and safety for women and children who no longer need to walk for miles to find fuel.


In addition, the health effects of domestic use of biomass fuels (wood, dung, agricultural residues) and coal are suffered largely by women and young girls. Using solar ovens can reduce the incidence of respiratory and ocular diseases associated with exposure to smoke.


Demonstrations of sun movement, angles, cloud, and wind conditions provided the students with concrete examples of factors influencing the success or failure of solar cooking. Creation of a small business model for production, marketing and sales of solar cookers for potential future use was included.


This Project provides training on fabricating and cooking with solar ovens. A simple business model will be developed with anyone interested in producing solar ovens as an income source.


Advantages of Solar Ovens

Solar cooking decreases deforestation, improves food safety and promotes greater free time for women to focus on gardens and other income earning activities. For those who rely on foraged fuels, cooking is a dangerous and time-consuming job. Fuel scarcity and the destruction of wooded areas is one of the most serious problems plaguing the developing world.


Daily gathering wood activity
Daily gathering wood activity

Deforestation results in soil erosion and is a growing environmental threat that has a severe impact on plants, animals, soil and water resources. If deforestation is not reversed, there is little hope that negative environmental and economic trends that have plagued many developing countries can be reversed. Land degradation often leads to food insecurity and famine. Loss of water resources through runoff and the decrease in ground water levels are the other development problems attributable to environmental degradation, particularly deforestation.


Declining soil fertility, extreme climatic conditions, high costs of farm inputs and lack of capacity have been persistent problems for farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa including Mali. Livestock feed supplements, fertilizer and mineral are either too expensive or simply unavailable.


Such factors have resulted in high levels of poverty and food insecurity. Identifying low-cost, sustainable methods to attain food security and a sustainable environment for small farmers is an ongoing development challenge. Solar cooking in tandem with improved management of livestock offers an opportunity to meet this challenge and is underused in these sun-rich countries.


Additional Information on Solar in Africa

Maasai woman installs solar in Magadi, Kenya to provide light and to protect goats from
Maasai woman installs solar in Magadi, Kenya to provide light and to protect goats from hyenas.

Gnibouwa Diassana of Bla, Mali won a “2006 Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy. The funds will enable his project Sun for All to increase production of solar ovens. Diassana has built a variety of solar cookers, plus a solar food dryer and solar water heater. Most of the 95 solar cookers he has built are of the box type with three reflectors, based on a design by the Swiss organization ULOG.


He reports that the cookers have been adapted for Mali and can be constructed with locally available materials and tools, even in remote areas. He states the effects of deforestation have become increasingly visible near Bla in the past few years, and that his work with solar cooking is meant to address this problem while also helping women save money and time and reduce their exposure to smoke.