Solar Oven Partners’ (SOP) always knew that solar cooking could have a real impact on families in developing countries. After all, a woman who cooked in a solar oven instead of over a charcoal fire didn’t have to spend limited money on charcoal, she could pasteurize drinking water, and the family needn’t inhale unhealthy smoke.
We knew that women could earn extra income by selling baked goods that would be impossible to make over a charcoal or wood fire. What we never imagined was that a woman in the Dominican Republic would be earning extra pesos by using her solar oven to make handcrafted bars of soap!
Gregoria García runs her business, Gregali Soap, out of her home in Tenares, a town some 96 miles north of Santo Domingo. SOP In-Country Director Erasme Figaro heard about Gregoria during a follow-up check to Sosúa, where solar ovens had been distributed in 2016. That visit, says Erasme, “exceeded my expectations.” Not only was he pleased to see families using the ovens to cook, but he heard about Gregoria, who lives 2 ½ hours away from her sister’s home in Sosúa.
Gregoria’s organic herbal handmade soaps are plant-based. “The oven is for extracting juices from the plants,” explains Erasme, who traveled to Tenares to meet this entrepreneur. “She brews organic coffee and puts the plants in the oven with the coffee to extract the juice. This extraction process takes her three days, but she saves on gas by using the oven.”
That savings is significant for this home-based business. Gregoria told Erasme that she was previously spending $1,000 pesos (equivalent to $19 in U.S. dollars) on cooking gas for each three-day extraction. With the solar oven, that cost is eliminated. If she were to extract every day with the power of the sun, she would save approximately $10,000 pesos each month.
“The minimum wage in the Dominican Republic varies by sector,” says SOP Director Marj Evans-de-Carpio, “but a monthly income based on the minimum wage ranges between $6,000 and $15,000 pesos ($115 to $286 in U.S. dollars). That’s a potential savings equal to 66 to 166% of minimum wage.Gregoria told Erasme she primarily depends on direct sales from her home, although she does have a website, https://gregali.negocio.site/ , a marketing tool that can eventually help broaden her consumer base.
In addition to being a living example of how a solar oven can improve a woman’s ability to make a living in a tough economic environment, she’s also helping spread another benefit of solar ovens. “I’ve given demonstrations,” she told Erasme, “including to the ex-minister of environmental affairs, Domingues Brito, showing how this oven can save many people by not polluting the environment. No smoke, no firewood.” Good news all around!