In November 2006, I traveled to El Salvador to launch the El Salvador HotPot solar cooking program. I worked with the Feed the Children El Salvador (FTC) and Asociación Comunitaria Unida por el Agua y la Agricultura (ACUA) program coordinators to conduct the official program launch. We invited representatives from local schools, health clinics, and NGOs in the program areas. After explaining the program goals and implementation plan, several of the groups expressed interest in hosting solar cooking demonstrations in their communities.
During a two week period, we conducted seven solar cooking training sessions in the FTC and ACUA communities in the Departments of San Salvador, La Libertad, and Cabañas.
Upon arrival in each community, the program coordinator and I performed introductions and ice breakers so the women would feel comfortable with one another. We then divided the women into four different groups. Each group prepared one of the four food items - chicken, mixed vegetables, rice, or plantains. After the food was prepped, we placed it into four different HotPots and placed the HotPots in the sun.
While the food was cooking in the sun, we relaxed in the shade and spoke about solar cooking. We talked about the design of the HotPot, how it works, how to properly use it, and the need for it. After 2.5 hours, all the food was cooked and everyone was able to try a portion. After tasting the food, all of the women were convinced of the HotPot's ability to cook. They said that the food tasted excellent and were amazed at how easy the HotPot was to use.
During the training session, we also talked about the program follow-up. Although the HotPot is not hard to use, it requires a change in cooking behavior. Throughout the first few months following the training, the women will participate in follow-up group sessions. Under the direction of the program coordinators, participants will fill in solar cooking calendar logs where they will note on a daily basis the weather patterns, cooking methods used, and fuel wood purchased. These calendars will help us to better understand the individual needs of the women. Additionally, the women will attend a meeting every two weeks where they will have the opportunity to share solar cooking experiences and ask solar cooking questions. Eventually, we will compile a Salvadoran solar cooking recipe book with recipes submitted by the participants.
On behalf of SHE, Inc, I am excited to share news of our solar cooking program launch in El Salvador. We expect to expand the El Salvador HotPot solar cooking program to other NGOs and other areas of El Salvador in 2007.
Director of Programs for Latin America and East Africa