Evaluation Report: Solar Oven Exposition, Kaedi, Mauritania

Evaluation Report: Solar Oven Exposition, Kaedi, Mauritania

AUGUST 10, 2004


This project was a coordination of efforts between RPCV Shelagh Bocoum, Solar Household Energy, Inc (SHE), Mr. Abdoulaye Touré and Peace Corps Mauritania staff, particularly Assistant Peace Corps Director Mohamedou Aw and Trainer/RPCV Racey Bingham.

Ms. Bocoum (PCV 2000-2003) has been interested in the virtues of solar cooking in Mauritania since serving as a volunteer in Kiffa. Shelagh made numerous experimental solar cookers, and tested them seeing first hand the efficiency of this clean energy technique.

Mr. Touré has 17 years of extension experience in Solar Cooking. He has trained people all over West Africa, and has traveled around to South Africa and the United States for trainings in this domain. He had done one training in Kaedi, Mauritania in 1991 for local women. Unfortunately, we were not able to find these women to participate in this training.

Agriculture APCD Mohamedou Aw and RPCV Racey Bingham were both aware of the necessity of this training for the new trainees and acted as the on-site coordinators for the workshop.

Upon returning to the states, Ms. Bocoum discovered that SHE was currently employing local trainers and RPCVs to do Solar Cooking projects in Senegal and Mali, and was interested in expanding these trainings into neighboring Mauritania. This interest corresponded with the 2004 Peace Corps Mauritania’s Pre-Service training, during which new volunteers are trained in language, culture and technical aspects of life and work in Mauritania. RPCV Racey Bingham was traveling from the US to Mauritania to act as Lead Trainer for the new group of Small Enterprise Development volunteers, and at Shelagh’s request, she agreed to organize an informal workshop for the trainees at the training center in Kaedi, Mauritania. In order to facilitate this, SHE sent Ms. Bingham one reflective panel to use for demonstration purposes. This panel is part of the solar cooking kit, which SHE promotes around West Africa.


June – July 2004

Upon Ms. Bingham’s arrival in Kaedi, she worked with the training director to find an appropriate time to hold the workshop. The workshop would target all trainees (42) from the five sectors (Agroforestry, Health, Education (English), Gender and Development, Small Enterprise Development and Environmental Education.), therefore the timing needed to be convenient for all programs. Unfortunately, this meant that the demonstration would be going on simultaneously with other training activities.

mauritania1Ms. Bingham concurrently coordinated a date with Mr. Touré in which he would be available to travel from Dakar, Senegal to Kaedi.

SHE agreed to compensate Mr. Touré for his transportation to and from Nouakchott, and Peace Corps Mauritania pledged an additional 15,000UM (approx. $54) honorarium. Peace Corps also agreed to provide food, lodging and transportation in Nouakchott and Kaedi. In addition to Mr. Touré’s compensation, Peace Corps also paid 11,000UM (approximately $40) for the materials needed for stove construction and to pay the local carpenter’s labor fee.

Week of August 2, 2004

In the week preceding the workshop, Ms. Bingham spoke several times with Mr. Touré to discuss the materials he needed that were not available in Kaedi. The only materials not available locally were the glass panes required for the “stand-alone” box cooker stove that Mr. Touré was going to construct in addition to demonstrating the SHE HotPot promotional model. APCD Mohamedou Aw purchased these panes in Nouakchott and transported them to the training center.


August 8-11, 2004

Mr. Touré arrived in Nouakchott on August 8th, and traveled to Kaedi on August 9th, at which point he met with Ms. Bingham to develop a final schedule of the workshop day. Together they finalized the list of materials, which were purchased in the market with Peace Corps funds.

The workshop day was organized as follows:

  1. 9h30 – Arrival of local carpenter, organization of materials, construction begins. Simultaneously, PCVs prepare a dish of Banava (local Mauritanian beef stew) to be cooked using the SHE HotPot kit.
  2. 10h00 — Viewing of stove construction by trainees during 30-minute break. Explanation of earlier activities to trainees by visiting PCVs (approximately four). Assistance to construction team (i.e. gathering miscellaneous materials such as paper) by visiting PCVs.
  3. 10h00-13h00 — Continuation of construction until lunch break. Observation by Peace Corps staff (language trainers, technical trainers and office staff) of construction process. Responses to questions posed by staff given by Mr. Touré.
  4. 13h30 — Brief explanation (30 minutes) of the environmental importance of solar energy and caveats related to introducing such a technology given following lunch to trainees and staff by Mr. Touré. Approximately 40 people are present: 10 Peace Corps staff, 25 trainees and 10 volunteers.
  5. 2h00-3h00 — Participation by trainees in the final touches of stove construction. Sampling the Banava prepared in the HotPot kit.


mauritania2This exposition comes at a very pertinent time in Mauritania for a two key reasons. First, due to the natural climate of Mauritania and droughts that occurred in the 70s and 80s, the tree cover is severely degraded. Obtaining fuel requires substantial time and financial investments; city dwellers must purchase charcoal or wood and those in rural areas are forced to walk long distances to gather timber. Furthermore, the commodity prices in Mauritania have been steadily growing and budgets are incredibly tight.

Second, there is significant support from the government and NGOs for solar energy projects. As Mr. Touré noticed, this is evident along the road from Nouakchott. Numerous cell phone towers are powered by solar panels, and in many of the villages, wealthier families power their TVs, refrigerators and electricity from solar panels. Solar cooking techniques are being refined on site by a number of international organizations and more trainings are planned for the future.

A number of structural changes should be made so that volunteers and staff can reap the maximum benefit from this workshop:

  • Reserve a full day for the workshop that does not conflict with other training activities. This requires planning in advance and persistently proposing the solar cooking workshop to the training director.
  • Establish more effective and frequent communication with Mr. Touré before his arrival to better prepare for the workshop (i.e. gathering needed materials, finding the local woodworker, etc). This will enable Peace Corps to troubleshoot and execute a successful demonstration.

The following were the positive aspects of this workshop:

  • Local Carpenter Moussa Diop and apprentice were trained to make the stove. Moussa’s carpentry shop is well known by volunteers in the Gorgol region. Each year pre-service training is held in Kaedi, the capital of the Gorgol. Thus, volunteers and future trainees/training staff will have access to a local expert.
  • The non-technical Mauritanian staff (language trainers, logistics coordinator, drivers) was very engaged in learning all that they could about this process.
  • Trainees were exposed to the basics of solar ovens, and given resources for follow-up (i.e. typed handout about solar box cooker: usage tips, construction materials, construction guidelines, and price listing for construction materials purchased in Mauritania) if they are interested in teaching this technique to their community counterparts or community members.

The success of this training will manifest itself in the next few years, as trainees, volunteers and Peace Corps staff who have learned the process and importance of solar ovens begin renewable energy projects in their sites around Mauritania. More immediate results may be seen in amount of discussion around this topic. The Mauritanians that were present for the exposition were much more receptive to the idea of such a “strange” cooking system than anticipated. They expressed an interest in introducing solar cooking as an alternative fuel source for their families. The mostly male staff stated that although they themselves are not the cooks in the family, they are paying for the wood or charcoal, and the solar option will decrease or even eliminate the family’s fuel expense. Many are also aware of the alarming degree of land degradation that has happened since their youth.


  • A Solar Energy IST should be held for all sectors according to volunteer interest. This would allow local counterparts to learn the importance and technique first hand and would enable volunteers to gain a more thorough understanding of the construction process.
  • Peace Corps Mauritania and SHE should continue to communicate about the opportunities for further collaboration. They should discuss the inclusion of a Nouakchott-based NGO Partners in Aviation and Technology (PACTEC) to their ‘team’. PACTEC has experience in solar cooking and its promotion in Mauritania.
  • Peace Corps Mauritania should contact Mr. Touré before the end of the year (2004) to confirm arrival of HotPot kits materials that volunteers requested and arrange pick up of materials in Dakar.


mauritania3It is important to remember the caveat that Touré gave during his presentation: he has worked to promote solar ovens for 17 years in West Africa, and it is just recently that he has seen a significant increase in the number of people using solar ovens daily. He worked in Burkina Faso for seven years before he saw significant changes. As he emphasized, cooking methods are traditions passed down from mother to daughter and are not simply a culinary product, but a cultural statement. In order to cook with a solar oven, cooking styles need to be adapted to the “one pot” method, which takes a significant amount of time to change.

Overall, this was a valuable experience for trainees and Mauritanians alike. The two stoves that were distributed following the exposition will be used for demonstration purposes. The solar box cooker, due to its relatively large frame and fragile glass panels, will remain in at the Peace Corps office in Nouakchott. It will be used for a weekly demonstration benefited by staff, volunteers traveling through, and visitors. The HotPot kit is easily transportable, and volunteers in the nine regions will be able to request it for a trial/demonstration period. These models will increase Mauritanian’s exposure to solar cooking. It could take a long time to modify traditional cooking habits, but as the Mauritanian saying goes: drop-by-drop the valley is filled. Eventually, consistent efforts will amount to a significant transformation.


Materials Distributed to Trainees and Peace Corps Staff

  • Translated Version of exhaustive list of materials needed to build wooden stove. (25 total copies distributed)
  • French Version of 30 page directions for construction of wooden stove (25 copies provided to PCVs and interested staff members)
  • One copy of an Ecological Study done by Mr. Touré given to APCD Aw Mohamedou for PCVs to reference if interested.
  • One constructed solar oven given to 3rd Year PCV and Environmental Education Coordinator Amy Hemlock. This stove will be kept used as a demonstration model at the Peace Corps office.
  • One SHE HotPot kit (cardboard reflector and glass pot with black interior bowl) given to PCV Amy Helmick, Environmental Education Coordinator. Volunteers can obtain this model from her for trail/demonstration upon request.


  1. Peace Corps Director Obie Shaw — oshaw@mr.peacecorps.gov
  2. Assistant Peace Corps Director Aw Mohamedou — maw@mr.peacecorps.gov
  3. Assistant Training Director Daouda Diallo — ddiallo2@mr.peacecorps.gov
  4. RPCV Racey Bingham — rachel.bingham@tufts.edu, (781) 698 9578
  5. Environmental Education Volunteer Coordinator, PCV Amy Helmick — niecey43844@yahoo.com
  6. SHE Solar Oven Extension Agent, Abdoulaye Touré — pcsatoure@yahoo.fr
  7. Kaedi Carpenter, Moussa Diop — contact through Peace Corps Mauritania by phone only (email Obie, Aw, Daouda, or Amy).

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