Globally, more than 3 billion people still rely on open fire to cook their meals. This means that nearly half of the world’s population does not have access to sustainable fuel for cooking meals or cleaning water to make it potable. To combat this, many in the developed world have sought to popularize sustainable fuel sources for cooking, such as solar cookers.

Benefits of Using Solar Cookers

Solar cookers work by converting sunlight into energy that can be used to cook food. They provide a plethora of economic, environmental and social advantages over other methods of food preparation. For example, many solar cookers are cheaper than traditional ovens, so using solar cookers can be beneficial economically. In addition, families that use solar cookers do not have to forage for materials to make traditional fires, which can be a time-intensive activity. Solar cookers provide many social and health benefits as well. It is not uncommon for biomass in fires to contain animal dung and residue from crops; when burned, substances like this can lead to a condition known as Indoor Air Pollution (IAP), which has a slew of negative health consequences. Mexico is an example of the dangers of IAP- the country’s reliance on hard fuels is estimated to be responsible for around 15,000 deaths via inhalation and ingestion of toxic particulates.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of solar cookers, however, is the fact that they do not release carbon dioxide, which is one of the main causative factors of climate change. Given this, greater usage of solar cookers around the world will almost surely reduce the global carbon footprint, which will result in a healthier, cleaner environment around the world.

NGOs Working to Expand Implementation of Solar Cookers

The clear upside of solar cookers has resulted in the formation of multiple organizations that exist to advocate on behalf of the global implementation of solar cookers. These organizations have done work all over the world, including countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Two such organizations are Solar Household Energy (SHE) and Solar Cookers International (SCI). SHE manufacturers solar cookers and also implements field projects to raise awareness about the benefits of using solar cookers. The solar cookers that SHE distributes last between five and 10 years and cost around $25, half of which is paid by the organization. SCI is another organization that works with local governments and NGOs, as well as the U.N., to advocate for solar cookers and poverty reduction. Through advocacy, research and capacity building, SCI has contributed to more than 6 billion solar-cooked meals. The organization prides itself on making change both at the ground level and at the policy level.


Everything said, cooking is a necessity for everyone; as such, it is important that efforts be made to ensure that cooking practices are safe, environmentally responsible, and affordable. As detailed above, there has been good progress made towards attaining these goals recently, and this good work is sure to continue in the near future.

– Evan Williams
Photo: Flickr


Solar Cookers International aims to provide thermal cooking technologies to those who most need them. Over three billion people eat food cooked over an open fire, and burning organic matter instead of returning it to the land causes soil erosion and a decline in crop production.

Solar Cookers International has already distributed 155,000 units worldwide.  They teach individuals how to cook during sunny weather, at night and during severe weather. They also educate the users on how to use a water pasteurization indicator so that they may produce safe water to drink.  Moreover, Solar Cookers International has recently made it their goal to provide 20 percent of families with access to solar cooking technology by 2030.

Projects to distribute the cookers in Chad, Haiti, Kenya and Madagascar have been successfully implemented.  Solar Cookers International provided cookers in four refugee camps in Chad where many of the women have been teaching each other how to use the technology. Cookers were distributed in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake in an attempt to help preserve more of the forests.

Cookers were also distributed to refugee camps in Kenya and now provide food for over 15,000 families.  Cookers were distributed in Madagascar, also to help preserve the forests, and as a region that averages 330 sunny days per year, the cookers have become an extremely common means of cooking. Over 50,000 cookers are in use; as a result, deforestation has been reduced by around 65  percent.

Solar Cookers International operates on four basic principles: visibility, technology, training and conferences.  The goals are to “increase awareness about the life and earth saving power of solar cooking, to improve solar cooking designs, to promote and provide training in how to use solar cookers, and to expand [their] role in regional and international conferences on solar cooking and other fuel efficient cooking methods.”

Solar Cookers International’s ultimate goal, however, is to “change and save lives with solar cooking thermal technology.”

– Jordyn Horowitz

Sources: Solar Cookers International, SCInet Wiki
Photo: EPA


Solar Cookers International (SCI) is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading knowledge and techniques of solar cooking technology to the poorest parts of the world. The organization works extensively in Chad, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe. Founded in 1987 by a small group of solar cooks in Sacramento, California, SCI began as a small effort by a contingent of people devoted to a single cause: to provide poverty relief through the technology of solar power. By 1999, UNESCO became a beneficiary of SCI by sponsoring regional conferences in poverty stricken countries like India, Kenya, and Honduras. Since its founding, Solar Cookers International has delivered its technology to over 30,000 families in Africa.

Solar cookers are particularly helpful in Africa because they remove the need for African women to leave their homesteads to gather firewood. For instance, Sudanese refugee women in Chad are frequently assaulted by enemy combatants upon departure from their camps, often resulting in severe injury or death. The presence of solar cookers in villages in Chad allows Chadian women to provide for their families while preserving their own personal wellbeing.

So how does Solar Cookers International receive funding for such an ambitious project? Although much of its support base comes from the generous donations of individuals and foundations, SCI also raises money through the sale of solar cookers in the United States and other developed countries. If you are interested in supporting this great cause to alleviate poverty in Africa, visit the SCI website for more information on purchasing a solar cooker. In addition to being energy efficient and better for the environment, the profits will be going towards poverty reduction in some of the poorest areas of the world.

– Josh Forgét