Solar Household Energy: Solar cooking for economic development and environmental relief

Half of the world’s population relies on wood fires to cook.

W e s t    A f r i c a


In May three hundred and fifty HotPotsTM were distributed in 20 villages in the Kaolack region along the border with Gambia. The sunshine was abundant during the trainings which allowed time to cook two dishes in one day. The trainings included details about what could be cooked in the HotPot, the advantages of solar cooking, and a demonstration about the components. Special emphasis was placed on the handling and storage of the cardboard reflectors. In each village a woman was selected to be the point person or first respondent to questions the new solar cooks have; each point person calls on the regional trainer for any support or answers they cannot provide.

These HotPots are part of a 2,000 HotPot Initiative in Senegal. Previously, 1,000 HotPots were distributed in the region of Thies in western Senegal. The remaining HotPots are scheduled to be distributed in the region of Touba in central Senegal over the next few months.


Trainings were held in three cities in northern Cameroon, Gobo, Maroua , and Garoua as part of a 150 HotPot project. Despite clouds blowing by during the training in Gobo, a cake and tomato sauce cooked in 2.5 and 3.5 hours respectively. HotPot participants in Gobo have already taught 20 of their peers to solar cook. Participants in Gobo are also using their fuel efficient stoves to cook at night or when it rains. This project builds upon a 25 HotPot pilot project conducted in Maroua, Cameroon in 2008.

Posted: Summer 2009

Background Information: Mali and The Gambia

Mali’s per capita gross domestic income places it among the world’s 10 poorest nations. Ninety-five percent of the population in Mali and The Gambia burn fuel wood to supply their daily needs, particularly for cooking. The dependence on fuel wood causes enormous strain on the environment, economy and on individual health.

Eighty percent of The Gambia was covered by dense forest and woodland in the 1940s. Only 8% remains today. Similarly in Mali, trees are being cut 20 times faster than they are replaced. Cheap fuel sources are not available and as the forests disappear the lives of the people who depend on wood for cooking become more difficult.

For instance, women and girls are responsible for procuring fuel wood and they must travel farther from home as wood becomes more scarce. This task demands many hours and minimizes opportunities to attend school and participate in income-generating activities. In other areas, it is no longer feasible to gather wood. Families in these areas can spend one-third of their yearly income on wood and/or gas.

In addition to the negative environmental and economic impact of fuel wood dependence, women and children suffer from health problems caused by cooking inside small, enclosed kitchens that often lack windows or other ventilation. Cooking fires give off toxic smoke also known as Indoor Air Pollution (IAP). Every 20 seconds a person somewhere in the world dies from IAP.

To alleviate stress on the environment and improve the quality of life SHE is working to introduce the HotPot solar cooking oven in several West African countries.

----- Photos -----
"HotPot solar cooking demonstration" Thies, Senegal (left)
"Solar cooked fish" Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso (middle)
"Unfolding cardboard reflector" Maroua, Cameroon (right)

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