Kenya Learns to Cook with Solar Power – Even When the Sun Doesn’t Shine

Recently in Kenya, the rising temperatures have increased the popularity of solar cookers, which use sunlight to heat and cook food. However, the biggest hindrance would be to cook in the absence of sunlight.

People have now started looking at various options to solve this issue. They are exploring the options of using insulated baskets that hold and store the heat for a certain amount of duration once the sun disappears, and the use of charcoal and firewood stoves as an alternative for cooking.

Fluctuations in sunshine can hinder cooking using the solar (system) but with the basket we nowadays prepare tea during the day and can drink it after sunset,” said Peter Wanga, who has been using the solar cooking system for almost a year.

He further stated that the insulated basket “conserves enough heat to cook food even when there is no sunshine” and is very affordable and easy to use.

According to the County Ministry of Energy figures, in the last four years, while almost 1500 households have switched to solar cooking, others preferred to use charcoal and firewood stoves for cooking, which are more efficient in the Busia County located in Western Kenya.

Over the last four years, “We have sold thousands of solar cookers and energy saving charcoal and wood stoves, and also found a platform to promote use of solar energy appliances such as lighting equipment,” said Didacus Odhiambo, the chief executive officer at the Farmers with a Vision (FWA), which is a local community organization.

The initiative to introduce more efficient cooking methods has not only reduced the deforestation in Kenya, but has also saved cooking time and improved the health of the people who were otherwise subjected to the smoky fires from cooking.

Lilian Nyapola, a member of Farmers with a Vision, said, “The new technologies – most of which cost on average $25 to $60 – have led to a decline in use of firewood and paraffin, which are costly and emit smoke”. She further added, “The uptake of solar cookers and energy saving wood stoves and thermos baskets is high.

Another member Odhiambo told us that the group is in talks with M-Kopa, which is money lending scheme. This scheme is owned by Safaricom, one of the leading mobile telephone companies in Kenya. This will enable the buyers to make payments through their mobile phones to purchase the equipment.

To battle the challenges while using solar cookers, the group offers a variety of solar cooking boxes, solar thermos systems, parabolic reflector cookers and other such devices, which will help cooking on cloudy days.

Box cookers can cook when the sunshine is low and when not much light is available. It retains heat and can cook for additional three hours,” Odhiambo said.

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