History of Solar Cookers International
Solar Cookers International (SCI), formerly Solar Box Cookers International, was founded in 1987 by an intrepid group of 17 solar cooking pioneers in the Central Valley of California.
They pooled their considerable knowledge to produce solar cooking manuals to help others build and use simple solar box cookers similar to those developed in the mid-1970s by Barbara Kerr and Sherry Cole. Dr. Robert Metcalf, microbiologist, saw the value of solar cookers for water pasteurization. Solar Cookers International’s first executive director, Bev Blum, spearheaded advocacy efforts to bring solar cooking to the attention of development and relief agencies.
Publicity about SCI’s work spread abroad, and thousands in fuel-stressed communities began contacting SCI for design plans. The publicity also drew the attention of other nonprofit groups worldwide that were starting to promote solar cooking in the developing world.
SCI’s unique role in the early- to mid- 1990s was to encourage local solar cooking promotion efforts and networking with peers. SCI hosted forums for the proliferating grass roots solar cooking promotion efforts in Africa, Asia and Latin America. SCI co-sponsored three international solar cooking conferences: University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA, USA, 1992; National University of Costa Rica, Heredia, Costa Rica, 1994; Deemed University, Coimbatore, India, 1997; Palacio de Congresos de Grandada, Spain, 2006; and regional conferences in Honduras, Kenya and Ecuador.
In 1994, SCI presented a solar panel cooker based on a design by Roger Bernard to the world solar cooking community. This solar cooker, the CooKit remains the most widely recognized solar cooker in the world. SCI proposed solar cooking to relief and development agencies to take advantage of solar cooking’s many benefits in relief situations. In 1995 Solar Cookers International initiated its first and largest refugee project in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, ultimately serving over 15,000 refugees from Ethiopia, Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Rwanda and Uganda. Since 1995, SCI has managed, or co-managed, solar cooking projects in Kadibo and Kajiado, Kenya; Aisha refugee camp, Ethiopia; various communities in Zimbabwe; and Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya. SCI was a project partner with KoZon and Jewish World Watch for the Iridimi refugee camp project in Chad, and originated the Sunny Solutions project in Nyakach, Kenya. By the mid-2000s, more than 30,000 families in eastern and southern Africa had learned to solar cook through SCI’s field projects alone.
SCI obtained special consultative status with the United Nations in 1996, and volunteer UN representatives work with the civil society and ECOSOC to promote solar cooking as a ‘quick fix’ to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals and new Sustainable Development Goals.
Well into its third decade, SCI continues to support field projects, advocate globally, network with SCInet partners and educate the world about the benefits and importance of solar cooking. The Board’s adopted Strategic Plan 2013-2018 continues these global efforts through projects, partnerships, advocacy and education.