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World’s first solar cooker village helps cut deforestation in Somalia

Page history last edited by Rosemary 10 years, 8 months ago

Somali charcoal trade, not drought or civil war, threatens ancient pastoral way of life, says activist


This woman says she has helped her neighbours to use their solar cookers. She says she now uses very little charcoal. (Sun Fire Cooking)




In 2005, the tsunami-damaged fishing village of Bender Bayla near the northern tip of Somalia became the world’s first solar cooker village – and the pioneering Sun Fire Cooking team wants to establish many more such villages throughout the Horn of Africa. In December 2005, with a UN grant and in partnership with the community organization Horn Relief, Sun Fire Cooking distributed 950 solar cookers to five villages, including Bender Bayla.

Local fishermen catch lobster and shark, but while the lobster tails and shark fins are exported, the rest of the shark is not eaten and local people get little benefit from the high value products. The 550 households in Bender Bayla, and other coastal villages, are very poor. Now every household in the village has a solar cooker, including people living near the beach among the rubble of their houses which were destroyed by the 2004 tsunami.

Somali environmental activist Fatima Jibrell believes that using the sun to cook is a vital step in ensuring Somalia has a pastoral future. Somalis depend on sheep, goats and camels for their livelihood, but deforestation for charcoal production – used for cooking – has caused massive degradation of grazing land in Somalia. She says it is the charcoal trade, not the drought or the civil war, that is threatening the pastoral life Somalis have lived for thousands of years, and that solar cookers, along with reforestation and erosion prevention, are a key part of saving that way of life.

Jibrell, a Goldman Environmental Prize winner in 2002, started Sun Fire Cooking with former Australian diplomat Jim Lindsay in October 2004. Their mission is to help reduce the devastation caused by cutting trees by mobilizing people in  Somalia and east Africa to switch from charcoal to solar for cooking.

In Somalia, Sun Fire Cooking is distributing a very efficient solar cooker that saves Somali households an average of $20 per month in charcoal costs, that pays for itself in less than a year, and should give 20 years of free solar cooking.

The butterfly design solar cooker is:

* large, sturdy (50 kilos), long-lasting and cooks much more quickly than other solar cooker designs

* as fast as a gas or electric stove because of the size of the parabolic mirrors

* healthy and clean with no choking smoke. Families can boil drinking water, avoiding many diseases.

But it takes time for people to learn how to use a solar cooker. "In Dhuur village, an old man wanted to learn how to use the cookers. When we visited him about noon, he said "This cooker is no good. I have had this pot on the stove since 8 o'clock this morning and the water is still not hot." We explain that there are a few simple things he must do first. He asks why do I need to turn the mirror? A solar squad member patiently explains in simple terms the principles of a concave mirror. A person who grew up in the West probably played as a child with a mother's make-up mirror, or played with a magnifying glass using the sun to burn a hole in a piece of paper and at school learned the basic principles of physics. Most of the pastoral and fishing people in this region of Somalia have not had the opportunity to receive an education. It is for this reason that so much time must be taken to teach people how to use a solar cooker."

This story was prepared from information on the Sun Fire Cooking website. Sun Fire has produced a four-minute video about Bender Bayla, and you can see some videos about their work by going to www.YouTube.com and typing "Somalia solar cooking" into the search engine. For more information, contact:

Sun Fire Cooking, 651 Oakland Ave. Apt 2E, Oakland CA USA 94611-4517. Email.


For other stories about solar cooking, see:

Solar cooking helps to save the planet

Recycled materials make solar cookers, save trees in Mali


For other stories about forests, see:

Briquettes provide energy, let forests regenerate in Malawi

Click a day plants 16 million trees in Brazil’s Atlantic coastal forest

Community residents protect Malaysia’s oldest forest reserve

Guerrilla tourism helps protect remote mountain forest in El Salvador

Madagascar plan to reduce deforestation achieves excellent results

Pioneering deal offers new hope for preserving tropical forests, global climate, local jobs

Re-establishing forest ecosystem in Uganda fights climate change

Reforesting desolate Colombian savannah shows sustainability can be created anywhere

Tanzanian blacksmiths pass on skills, creating jobs and saving forests

Tanzanian botanist honoured for reforestation efforts

Traditional Mexican coffee farms could help regenerate forest

Abdul’s dream of restoring mangrove forest in Malaysia takes root in villages

Local forest mapping in Congo Basin may help villagers protect livelihoods


For other stories about solar power, see:

Unique rental model brings solar power to remote Lao villages

Solar power hearing aid battery offers hope for deaf in developing world

Solar-powered boats bring education, sustainable energy to poor communities

Solar lamp replaces hazardous kerosene in Indian villages

Low tech systems improve water, sanitation in remote Afghan communities

Micro-hydro electrifies remote South American communities

Grameen Shakti, empowerment through renewable energy

From fu fu to solar power, Fab Labs let people make what they need

Solar water disinfection saves lives, money in largest Kenyan slum

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