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SCI News

SCI Featured in Lift Up Africa Newsletter  |  August 6, 2009

Olika Solar Cooking Distribution

Helping Maasai women in Southern Kenya

Since July 2005, Solar Cookers International (EA) has been working with women's groups in Kajiado to promote the use of solar cooking as a means to help poor women save their meager resources for other pressing needs. The women are generally Maasai women with their new CooKits, a small, portable type solar cookerwidows or single parents who need group support to move forward with their lives. Many are engaged in petty trade like selling vegetables, beads, milk and eggs.

Several groups devised a way to purchase solar cooking materials for each member. Thus far, some have been able to purchase CooKits--a small, individual solar cooker. (See photo) However, this system is slow and many women are still waiting to receive the materials they need to either begin or fully realize the maximum benefit from solar cooking.

Because the purchasing process has dragged on for three years, SCI approached LUA. They asked us to partner with several of these groups so the women could more quickly enhance their energy savings, thus improving their living standards.

On May 22, 2009 the first of these partnership distributions took place in Oloika. At the distribution event, SCI's Stella Odaba informed the women that through Lift Up Africa (LUA) they would now receive donations of the equipment they still needed, including hay basket fireless cookers.

Although the weather was a bit cloudy, some CooKits were set up to demonstrate pasteurizing water using the WAPI (water pasturization indicator.) The use of the fireless cookers was also demonstrated. While the members watched and timed the process, some rice was simmered for 5 minutes. Then the rice was transferred to the hay basket. Half an hour later a member went to check and found it cooked.

At the meeting Agnes Osoi, one of the group members, said:

"... solar cookers have been of great help to us....We can pasteurize our drinking water and our children don't suffer from diarrhea because of taking dirty water. FurtherSCI's Faustine Odaba demonstrating the hay basket fireless cookermore, it's safe around the child; I can leave the food to cook while I go to sell my beads in the market without any fears of fire accidents at home. Now with the addition of fireless cookers life will be even simpler for me. I will warm water at night, pour it in the ten liter plastic container then put it in the fireless cooker. In the morning my children have ready breakfast and warm water to bathe before school. I will not be exposed to smoke for so long; I will use firewood only when there's no sun and save some wood."

Other participants chimed in saying:

"The fireless cooker will bring peace in my home; my husband will always find hot food whenever he comes late. I don't have to wake up to light a fire to warm the food for him."

"...I am so excited and grateful to SCI and Lift Up Africa for their support in making our lives better!"

A vote of thanks was given by Esther Sekeyian, the group's chairlady. The women then gave gifts (beaded ornaments) in honor of Lift Up Africa and adorned Ms. Odaba with beaded ornaments, too.

The distribution to the 17 women who attended the event cost $700 (USD). This small grant will help an estimated 150 people.

Information on all of our solar cooking projects is available on LUA's Solar Cooking Wiki.

Please help Lift Up Africa help Africa's vulnerable special needs children! Just let us know you want to support KCCL or a specific KCCL need. Thanks!

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Solar Cooking Article Published in the Public Service Review  |  July 16, 2009

Sun in the oven

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Across Africa, cooking fires are projected to release about seven billion tons of carbon in the form of greenhouse gases by 2050. More than 1.6 million people, primarily women and children, die prematurely each year from respiratory diseases caused by the pollution from such fires. Scientists estimate that smoke from wood cooking fires will cause 10 million premature deaths among women and children by 2030 in Africa alone. These statistics can be addressed by promoting inexpensive, effective solar cookers, along with hay baskets (retained-heat devices that extend cooking temperatures after food is removed from a heat source) and fuel-efficient stoves for cooking when sunshine isn't available. These technologies are made with local materials whenever possible, and are easily used and constructed by anyone willing to learn.

Smokeless cookers can dramatically reduce respiratory infections caused by smoky fires, treat drinking water by eliminating waterborne pathogens, reduce the debilitating effects of deforestation, free time from hours of firewood gathering for women and girls and enable young girls to attend school rather than spend their days looking for firewood.

Millions of people become sick each year from drinking contaminated water. Worldwide, about 1.3 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water, resulting in an estimated 1.5 billion cases of diarrhoea each year and the deaths of nearly two million children. Yet, in many of the most severely affected regions, sunshine is an abundant source of energy that can not only cook food but can also heat water to temperatures that kill harmful microbes, making water safe to drink. This process is called solar water pasteurisation.

SCI co-founder Dr Bob Metcalf, a Professor of Biological Sciences at California State University, Sacramento, studied solar water pasteurisation in the early 1980s with one of his graduate students. They found that water heated to 65�C for a short time will be free from microbes including E. coli, Rotaviruses, Giardia and the Hepatitis A virus.

Since thermometers are not accessible to many people around the world, there is a need for a simple device that indicates when water has reached pasteurisation temperatures. In 1988, Fred Barrett of the United States Department of Agriculture came up with the idea of using wax with a specific melting point as an indicator. In 1992, engineering student Dale Andreatta created the Water Pasteurisation Indicator (WAPI), a reusable clear plastic tube partially filled with a wax that melts at 65�C. So, with minimal investment in a simple solar cooker and reusable WAPI, people in developing areas are able to pasteurise their water and make it safe to drink.

While solar water pasteurisation helped, the question still remained as to which water sources were contaminated. The Portable Microbiology Laboratory (PML), designed by Dr Metcalf, contains tests for E. coli. Each PML includes 25 inexpensive and easy-to-use water tests. Using principles and methods from food microbiology, the PML is able to accurately test water in rural areas without the need for electricity, running water, or the expensive laboratory equipment normally needed.

In 2007, as part of its Safe Water Project (SWP), SCI began teaching Kenya's rural health workers how to test water sources using the PML and how to treat contaminated water with a solar cooker and a WAPI. The PML can be used anywhere by practically anyone, and is currently helping Kenyan government ministries in charge of water analysis who have had difficulties gauging water quality in rural areas due to travel limitations and technical expenses. Anticipated outcomes from the SWP include significant reductions in the incidence of waterborne diseases in over 20 communities, and broader community awareness of simple and effective water testing and water pasteurisation techniques. In June 2008, PML was used to help contain a cholera outbreak in Kenya's Nyakach region near Lake Victoria.

SCI is also now exploring collaborations with local solar lighting companies to meet another express need of those who benefit from its programmes.

Successful execution of solar cooking and water treatment programmes in developing areas can drastically decrease hunger, respiratory and waterborne diseases, and deforestation; increase food security, school attendance, and income generation; and empower women by providing entrepreneurial prospects and participation in micro-business.

By Karyn Ellis
Director of International Programs
Solar Cookers International

The Public Service Review: International Development Online is an online publication based in the UK.

To see this article in the July publication (14th Issue) of the PSR, click this link and see the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene section under contents on the left.




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