Improving lives through solar cooking in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya
Solar Cookers International (SCI) has implemented solar cooking projects in Kenya over many years with recently focused efforts in Kakuma Refugee Camp. According to the World Health Organization, 90% of the population in Kenya relies on polluting fuels (i.e.: firewood, dung, charcoal, kerosene) for cooking. However, Kenya has a substantial solar resource and Kakuma has some of the highest insolation values in Kenya, with approximately 300 sunny days/year, positioning it well for solar cooking.
Approximately 2.4 billion people around the globe, including those in Kakuma, cook over open fires with polluting fuels. This results in severe health and environmental impacts and adds to climate change. The good news is that, unlike most cooking methods, solar cookers produce no greenhouse gas emissions. Solar cooking is a proven thermal process that uses appropriate technology to convert incoming sunlight directly to heat without using complex or costly equipment or electronics. Solar thermal cookers are off-grid, and a solution that can be implemented relatively quickly with no large-scale infrastructure required. Solar cooking is a cross-cutting solution that has a positive impact on all 17 SDGs of the United Nations Agenda 2030.
Solar thermal ovens provide households access to clean and sustainable cooking energy, particularly households that have challenges accessing energy for cooking and for making water safe to drink. To address the challenges, SCI distributed 1,094 solar cookers in Lower Nyatach, Kenya in 2016 and 2017 and provided training regarding the use and maintenance of the solar cookers. These efforts directly benefited more than 4,400 people. SCI resumed solar cooker initiatives in late 2018 in Kakuma Refugee Camp and as of 2022 has supported and guided the construction and distribution of solar cookers currently impacting an additional 1,908 people. Using best practices, 234 box solar cookers have been constructed in Kenya by residents, with locally sourced materials, for use by Kakuma families. It is estimated that the solar cookers will avoid 5,229 metric tons of carbon dioxide over the cookers’ expected lifetime of 15 years. Solar cooking allows Kakuma residents to breathe cleaner air, drink safer water, and experience increased safety and opportunities for women and children. Efforts continue in Kakuma and these impacts and figures will grow.
SCI estimates that if all the households in Kenya currently cooking with polluting fuels switched to preparing meals with solar cookers, over 19 million metric tons of CO2 could be avoided annually. If the population cooking with polluting fuels switched to using solar cookers one-quarter of the time, Kenya could save over 2 billion dollars annually through avoided health and environmental costs.
SCI continues to advocate for the adoption of emissions-free solar cooking in Kakuma and around the globe to empower women and their families to live healthier and more sustainable lives while helping mitigate climate change. The need for solar cooking has never been more urgent.
Solar cook in Kakuma Refugee Camp
Photo credit: Ecomandate