In November 2006 I traveled to Senegal to meet our partners and to review the progress of our pilot launch preparations. I visited five villages north of Dakar where, over the last six months, our local partner and coordinator Mr. Toure (known locally as Mr. Soleil: Mr. Sun) has been conducting demonstrations and training. In each village a woman has been recruited to demonstrate the HotPot. These women, our village coordinators, will be the primary support for the 120 women who will participate in the pilot project from January to June 2007.
In each village the village coordinators greeted me with meals cooked in the HotPot, ranging from the national dish of rice, fish and vegetables to cakes. Since mid-November the village coordinators have been using the HotPot at least once a day and showing their neighbors the varied dishes which can be cooked with the HotPot. Every meal brought a flock of villagers to admire the HotPot and taste the food (I am not even sure how much the coordinators’ families got to eat!). Every once in a while a skeptic would peer under the table or the roof where the Hotpot was set to make sure that there was no fire doing the cooking! The coordinators use these daily gatherings to explain how the HotPot works and how they have benefited from it.
The women I met expressed a keen interest in the HotPot. They found it attractive and liked its portability, and they were very interested in the benefits experienced by the coordinators. In one village the coordinator explained how she had taken the HotPot to the field her husband was preparing. She set up the HotPot and worked alongside her husband while their lunch was cooking. This not only helped them get the field ready sooner but also saved her a great deal of time; usually she would have to cook at the homestead and then bring the meal to her husband. Another coordinator spoke about the money she was saving by using the Hotpot every day. On a daily basis she used a quarter less cooking oil for their main meal. She also estimated that she used a third less gas and wood. Although she clearly understood that there would be periods such as the rainy season when she would not be able to use the Hotpot, she was also adamant that using it even only once a day during the dry season was certainly worth the savings.
Twenty women from each village have been selected to participate in the 6-month pilot. At the end of January these women will each have a HotPot and will record their experiences using it. During my visit there was a clamor to have the HoPots sooner than that! All felt that two weeks of demonstrations was more than enough and wanted to get started right away. That level of enthusiasm makes us all very optimistic about the outcome of the pilot project.