Solar cooking in the urban households of Ouagadougou
Hilde M. Toonen
Adapting to an innovation: Solar cooking in the urban households of Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), IN: Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C, Volume 34, Issues 1-2, Sustainable Water Solutions, 2009, Pages 65-71, ISSN 1474-7065, DOI: 10.1016/j.pce.2008.03.006.
Most households in Sub-Saharan Africa rely on wood as primary energy source. The availability of wood is decreasing and deforestation is a major ecological problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. The scarcity of wood is demanding for a sustainable solution. The sun seems to provide a good alternative. Solar energy is free, without unhealthy smoke or chances to burns. The idea of using solar energy for cooking is not new: many different techniques have already been tested. Most variants are expensive, and therefore not available for most families in Sub-Saharan Africa. A cheap solar cooking device is the CooKit, a cardboard panel cooker covered with aluminium foil.
In the adaptation to the CooKit, as to all innovations, it is important that the users are convinced of the advantages. An important step in the adaptation process is learning how to use the cooking device; the best way to do this is by home practice. Monitoring and evaluating the real use is needed, for it is interesting to know if the CooKit is actually used, and also to find out how women have implemented the new technique in their kitchens.
In 2005, the SUPO foundation started a project in Burkina Faso: Programme Energie Solaire Grand-Ouaga (PESGO). The aim of PESGO is to introduce the CooKit in the urban households in Ouagadougou by providing training sessions and home assistance. In this paper, a mid-term review on this small-scale cooking project is presented. The possibilities and challenges of solar cooking are outlined, taking the urban context of Ouagadougou in account. In PESGO, dependence on weather conditions is found to be one of the challenges: if sunrays are blocked by clouds or dust in the air, the cooking will be slowed down. The CooKit cannot replace firewood entirely, and a complementary element has to be found. SUPO is exploring the use of Jatropha oil as a complement to the CooKit. The Jatropha plant is drought tolerant and its fruits contain oil which can be used as fuel substitute. Further research on its use is interesting, because the combination of the CooKit and Jatropha oil seems to have high potential in the kitchens of West-Africa.