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SCI News

Uganda Integrated Cooking Workshop  |  June 15, 2008

In early June I set out to Uganda to assist with an Integrated Solar Cooking workshop in the small town of Obia, on the border of Congo. This project was initiated by Max and Mary Lou Ozimek of Ohio, and started with 13-year old Max winning a science project with a solar cooker last year. Max volunteers for a hospice where he met Father Alexander Inke, who made an impression on Max and quickly became a close family friend. As a result of many conversations with Father Inke about his village of Obia in NW Uganda, Max correctly deduced that solar cookers could make a substantial impact on a small village like Obia with very few resources. Max and Mary Lou contacted me at SCI, and Kawesa Mukasa at Solar Connect Association (SCA) and an integrated solar cooking workshop project was born.

For those who don't know, Integrated Cooking is a fusion of solar cooking, along with hay baskets and fuel efficient stoves. The combination of these cooking techniques assure an 85% reduction in the amount of fuel used in any given area ~ an impact that helps considerably in areas where fuel resources are dwindling at a disconcerting rate.

Needless to say, our 5-day workshop was a resounding success, supplemented nicely by a surprise visit from Aid Africa who put on an informative and educational demonstration on the fuel-efficient 6-Brick Rocket Stove. We are already receiving reports back that a good number of the 36 participants are reaching out to nearby communities and organizing demonstrations and workshops on their own. That's what it's all about! SCI and SCA will work together to provide adequate follow up as well as materials to ensure that future endeavors are productive and effective in the Obia area and Nebbi district.

Here is some documentation of this trip ~ I hope you enjoy!

Beautiful Uganda ~ talk about green! This was my first trip to this gorgeous country and it definitely made an impression on me.

Mary Lou and Max Ozimek and I arrived together on a flight from the Netherlands and we received a very warm welcome from their priest and family friend Father Inke, and Kawesa Mukasa ~ head of Solar Connect Association, who facilitated the workshop in Obia.

I was very impressed not only by the availability of solar cookers at SCA, but by the array of integrated cooking materials that SCA promotes and makes in-office.

CooKits are made by hand on the premises, and assembly of solar cookers is a primary component of SCA's workshops around Uganda.

They also have a good number of fuel-efficient stoves available for sale, which are also incorporated into demonstrations and workshops as an integral part of integrated cooking.

SCA cooks regularly with a fuel-efficient stove at their headquarters in Kampala.

Beautiful Hay Baskets, the third component of integrated cooking, are also made at the Solar Connect Association office in Kampala.

Olivia and me ~ fast friends ~ at the SCA office.

Fish brought to a boil over a fire and cooked in a Hay Basket @ SCA.

Water Pasteurization Indicators (WAPI's) being made at the SCA office.

Kawesa Mukasa, founder of SCA, showing me some educational materials they distribute on solar and integrated cooking.

The team at Solar Connect Association in Kampala, preparing to leave on the journey to Obia, on the other end of the country.

Father Alexander Inke, me, Mary Lou Ozimek and her son Max.

A baboon on the road.

Baboon family.

The Nile!

A typical outdoor market in Kampala. (There's an awful lot of bananas in Uganda!)

Grasshoppers. Taste like liver.

The beautiful and green Nebbi district, where Obia is located, is in the northwestern region of Uganda ~ you can see Congo in none-too-far-off distance.

Downtown Obia.

Cute kids in the village.

This is how most people cook ~ don't ask me why cooking inside is so popular, but it isn't uncommon for a number of women to cook together in an enclosed space.

This exposes these women and their children to amazing amounts of indoor air pollution and greatly increasing the risk of respiratory disease.

Prior to the workshop, I gave a PowerPoint presentation of the causes for and history of integrated cooking and water pasteurization. While a translator is often needed, the photos of situations and experiences in their native land normally get people's attention.

Mukasa and Olivia of Solar Connect Association (SCA) are the lead professionals in solar and integrated cooking in Uganda.

The training center where we had our 5-day Integrated Cooking Workshop. It was basically just a big hall without water or electricity, so we brought in a generator, fan and sound system for the translator and my slide show.

This was our audience ~ our 36 workshop participants, and just about everyone they knew in the vicinity.

Mukasa and Olivia of SCA did a great job of facilitating.

SCA provides a basic instruction handout that is very helpful.

Our audience was very attentive and did a great job of listening and participating in our various demo's.

Olivia of SCA is a solar chef indeed!

If Olivia is the Head Chef, then Mukasa is the King Chef and knows his biz.

SCA is adept at solar cooking and demonstrating the do's and don'ts of the practice and techniques.

We cooked a number of local dishes with solar cookers.

The fun part is showing people how local dishes, like rice shown here, cook perfectly in a solar cooker.

A proud participant shows off some solar cooked greens ~ "Sukoma Wiki" is a Ugandan staple, and cooks perfectly in a solar cooker.

Surprising most locals, the African dish of Ugali cooks amazingly well in a solar cooker, eliminating the time consuming pounding process with a mortar and pestle normally associated with this dish.

The workshop taught technical tips of solar cooking, like placing small rocks underneath the pot in the bag so that the heat reaches all areas of the pot.

Folding and unfolding the CooKit quickly was mastered as well.

Local dishes were served and the participants and onlookers were genuinely impressed by how well their local, everyday dishes turned out.

Participants enjoying a lunch of solar cooked food.

Olivia demonstrating some materials used to make a hay basket.

A hay basket, for those who don't know, is a great supplement to a solar cooker as it can keep food hot for over five hours. It can also cook food that has been brought to a boil over a regular fire. It's an amazingly simple and effective component to integrated cooking.

Women walk miles every day to gather water for cooking and drinking.

Unfortunately, the water they collect is often contaminated by feces, which causes the virus E-Coli and can cause serious disease.

It's a pretty safe bet that this water will be contaminated with the E-Coli virus, since there is cow dung in the water already.

This was, of course, one of the sources we tested.

...as women were filling their water jugs...

I only hope that some of the women who gather their water here will learn to pasteurize their water with a CooKit during the workshop, and understand the importance of this process.

These women and their kids drink this water every day.

Kids gathering water from a local piped water source.

This water actually came out okay, which is often the case with a water source that is piped from a deep well, since less chance of fecal contamination.

Less than a cup is gathered in a sterilized bag, to be taken back for testing.

These plastic jugs are better than the buckets used in some countries, since they can be covered until use.

Nobody wanted to test this water, since it was necessary to wade in a pool to get it. As a person who got schistosomiasis from wading in a running river in West Africa, I was none too keen on this process either... but you do what you gotta do!

After the fun of gathering the water samples in the village, we were ready to test it for E-Coli with the PML (Portable Microbiology Laboratory) created by our own board president, Dr. Bob Metcalf. The PML allows for accurate scientific testing of any water source without the need for a laboratory or even electricity.

These are the Whirlpaks ~ the sterile bags in which water samples are gathered.

The water is transferred from the Whirlpaks to test tubes already containing an E-Coli indicating powder, to test the presence of E-Coli.

The same water sample is then placed on a petrifilm (a portable petri-dish), to indicate the number of E-Coli present in a given sample.

The water is transferred with a sterile pipette.

1 ml is all that's needed to test on a petrifilm.

Members of SCA, some government representatives attending the workshop, participated in an informal water testing workshop at the facility where we stayed.

Each participant was responsible for incubating his/her own sample on their body overnight.

The following day we used the UV light to indicate the presence of E-Coli in the test tubes.

Max and I created an easy to understand chart for the workshop the following day.

With results of water testing with the PML, we were able to alert the people of the village to the dangers of drinking water from certain sources.

We explained some of the reasons for water contamination, and encouraged people in hygienic practices, including washing hands and making sure that no fecal matter of any kind is anywhere near their water source.

This segued nicely into the water pasteurization segment of the workshop, where we showed the participants how to make contaminated water safe to drink using only the CooKit, a WAPI (Water Pasteurization Indicator) and the sun.

Olivia did a great job of explaining that the WAPI is a reusable and inexpensive device, used by observing when the wax has melted (it's especially formulated to melt at 150 degrees F) in a pot of water.

We pasteurized water in 2 hours during the workshop, and were able to test the water again, proving the simplicity and effectiveness of simple solar water pasteurization.

A common sight in all parts of Africa, women walk many miles a day looking for wood to cook with.

This not only depletes local resources, but takes up a great deal of time that might be used for other things; i.e. income generation, planting of crops or sharing with family.

Charcoal stoves are cheap and effective, but most people don't realize how much wood it takes to make charcoal, or how polluting the process is to the air and environment.

These are two types of fuel-efficient stoves sold by SCA ~ the smaller is a charcoal burning "jiko" (meaning stove in Swahili) and the larger is a wood stove.

The fuel-efficient jiko burns less fuel due to a cupboard underneath the charcoal which maintains the heat supply.

A fuel-efficeint wood stove burns far less wood as a result of the design, keeping the twigs up off the ground and directing the heat towards the top of the chimney.

The twigs light quickly and food cooks faster.

The 6-Brick Rocket Stove is a similar design made completely from natural and locally found materials.

Mud bricks being made and dried in the sun.

Construction workers mixing mud to make bricks.

The bricks used in a 6-Brick Rocket Stove are supplemented with 'filler' organic materials, like hay, rice hulls or sawdust, to increase their insulating properties and retain and conduct heat better than regular mud bricks.

These few materials are all that are needed to build a 6-Brick Rocket Stove.

The bricks are shaved and cut to the appropriate size and shape.

The 6-Brick Rocket Stove is basically that ~ the 6 bricks are situated upright and in a circle to create a chimney.

The 6 bricks are fastened with a wire.

Then an intake is created with the remainder of the bricks to protect the fire from wind and ensure that it remains lit doesn't lose any heat through the front. The wood burns more slowly, using the unique design to maintain the maximum amount of heat and direct it solely to the pot.

Where with a normal cooking fire a number of good sized logs are needed, with a rocket stove you need only a few small twigs. Literally a fraction of the wood is needed to cook a meal versus traditional wood fires that lose heat in all directions.

The twigs light quickly due to their small size and lack of outside disturbance.

The fire is ablaze literally in seconds.

As soon as the stove is lit and the fire going, a pot of food or water can be placed on top and heats up quickly.

Because of the inductive quality of the adobe bricks, the stove is very cool to the touch ~ another reason why the Rocket Stove is a safer model to cook with in a village.

This water on the Rocket Stove was boiling in minutes ~ faster than any stove I've ever seen, including in the US!

A Rocket Stove next to a standard fuel-efficient stove. While the method of cooking with each stove is almost identical, the Rocket Stove is much more environmentally friendly and easier to make in most areas, since made with local materials.

Here are some great How To videos on How to Build a 16 Brick Rocket Stove and How to Build a Tin Can Rocket Stove ~ published by one of SCI's most active Board Memebers, Pat McArdle.

Olivia cutting out a CooKit.

One of the few male participants in the workshop, learning to make a CooKit.

Olivia of SCA showing participants how to cut out the design of the CooKit from cardboard, after foil has been pasted on.

Applying weather-sealing tape to CooKits during the workshop.

Workshop participants showing off CooKits made at the workshop.

A croud gathers for the Integrated Cooking demo put on before the Awards Ceremony in Obia.

Bam and Prissy of Aid Africa demonstrating the small amount of wood used to cook a full meal with a fuel-efficient Rocket Stove.

The three facilitators: me, Prissy of Aid Africa and Olivia of Solar Connect Association.

Set up for the Awards Ceremony, demonstrating solar cookers, fuel-efficient stoves and hay baskets, serving food, etc.

You can even cook an egg in a solar cooker! It was fun demonstrating to what seemed like the entire village how food can be cooked in a solar cooker, a fuel-efficient stove or a hay basket.

Father Inke is a Catholic priest in Ohio, and was instrumental in getting this project going in his village of Obia.

Prissy of Aid Africa demonstrates rice cooked in a Hay Basket.

Olivia of Solar Connect Association serving solar cooked food at the Awards Ceremony in Obia, following the 5-day Integrated Solar Cooking Workshop.




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