Why Solar Ovens?
A Powerful Tool for Poverty Reduction and Well-being

Economic Well-Being

Household Savings

Cooking fuel is a large expense in our oven recipients’ household budgets. Charcoal for a cane-cutter’s family can burn through one third of their monthly wages! By cooking with the free energy of the sun, money that used to go up in flames is available for other needs.

Families with gas stoves turn to wood or charcoal when they don’t have money to add gas to their tank. Solar cooking stretches the gas, which can be reserved for rainy days or night time cooking.


While lighting the charcoal she shares her excitement about solar cooking. First, the sun is free. “Everything is expensive now,” says Fredrica. One estimate is that a week’s worth of charcoal for a family of five costs anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 Leones (the Sierra Leone currency)—equivalent to $2 to $4—depending on where you live. In a country where 60% of people live on less than US$1.25 per day, $0.28-$0.57 for cooking fuel each day represents almost a quarter to a half of people’s limited income literally going up in smoke.


Solar Baked Income

In our follow-up visits, past oven recipients sometimes share that they use their solar ovens to earn an income. This increases their economic stability.

One woman with a small basic grocery store solar bakes cookies two days a week. Customers come because it’s the only place selling fresh-baked cookies! Another woman uses her solar oven to get the plant extracts used in her organic soap-making business. Her fuel savings are substantial. Another uses her oven to make little dolls of flour and wax. We have no doubt that many more such stories exist!

Physical Well-Being

Smoke Reduction

Smoke from cooking fires harms people’s lungs and eyes. Solar cooking is clean cooking! Cooking over a fire exposes the cook, as well as children in the cook’s care, to the risks of smoke inhalation, including asthma, lung cancer and eye irritation.


A study in the scientific journal The Lancet found an association between the use of biomass cooking fuels and asthma. Wheezing in children and eczema in adults were also associated with biomass cooking fuels. Much more research needs to occur to prove causation. Still, the article concludes by saying, “Our results provide further evidence that public policies and measures to reduce indoor air pollution from burning of biomass will translate into significant health benefits especially in developing countries.”


When pasteurizing water expends costly cooking fuel, impossible decisions must be made. That’s why oven recipients receive a water pasteurization indicator (WaPI) with their kit.

This enables them to use their oven to pasteurize water and milk. A WaPI consists of a small vial on a wire with a plug of soy wax in it, which melts at 10 degrees hotter than the pasteurization temperature. The cook submerges the WaPI in the water or milk with the plug of wax on the top side. If the liquid is hot enough, the wax will melt and will run to the bottom of the vial, and the liquid is safe from parasites. The WaPI takes the guesswork out of a high stakes process, assuring people can take a drink with confidence that it is free of parasites.

Burn Prevention

Even the most careful cook can suffer burns from the crackling embers in a cooking fire. The solar oven is not hot on the outside, preventing burn injuries.

As Fredrica Saffa lifts the large metal pot on top of the small stove, she complains about the smoke and heat. “You see a lot of smoke. It burns my eyes, and the pot is hot and very heavy. You can see my hands,” she says, pointing to scars. “They get burned. It is painful. And you have to keep watching your food on the fire. If you go to do something else, the food burns.”

Flavor without the Fat

Diabetic recipients rave about how delicious their solar-cooked, diabetic-friendly foods are. The cooking process requires much less fat than traditional pots do.


“The food is healthy.  It doesn’t contain fat, and it’s the best for cholesterol for a diabetic person..” – Minorca, a Solar Oven Recipient with a diabetic husband



Cleaner Air

Cooking with firewood or charcoal releases smoke into the air. That can affect several families. Solar cooking is emission-free cooking!

Deforestation Prevention

Charcoal is firewood processed in a smoldering fire. The charcoal-making industry requires cutting down precious forests. There are many negative effects of deforestation…

  • Soil erosion and soil depletion make farming difficult or impossible, especially detrimental to people who are already struggling to survive.
  • Devastating floods and landslides destroy homes, businesses and commerce routes and take the lives of persons in their path.
  • Desertification, the result of the removal of vast swaths of plant life that play an essential role in the water cycle, is an extreme result. When there are not trees and other plants to capture the rain water and transpire the moisture back into the air, a previously forested area can become a desert with reduced rainfall.

By switching to a solar oven, cooks who might have felt powerless to do anything about the environment are now proud to contribute to a solution. 

Spiritual Well-Being

Living into the Kingdom of God

Jesus preached the good news, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” He described the Kingdom of God as being like a tiny mustard seed, which grows into a large bush in which birds make their nests. He described it as being like yeast that is mixed with flour to leaven it. He said, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” He said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Yet, in his healing the sick, welcoming the children, touching the unclean, forgiving the sinners, and relating to the outsiders, the empire found him to be a threat.

Solar Oven Partners forms partnerships across dividers that humans have created: nationalities, economic status and race. As volunteers in mission, we care as much about how we do things as what we do. We are not simply delivering ovens, we are living into the Kingdom of God! Through these partnerships, we do, indeed, get the tasks of oven assembly and distribution done, but most importantly we spend time with God’s beloved people in the Dominican Republic, the Navajo Nation or Sierra Leone. We both experience the Kingdom of God growing within ourselves, and leave a sign that the communities that the principalities and powers of this world consider inconsequential are central in God’s eye.

As teams head home, they are asked to ponder the meanings of Holy Communion: the grain that is many and spread across the field becomes one loaf, so we who are many become one body; the one body of Christ is broken; I take Christ’s brokenness into my body; ordinary, bodily nourishment becomes holy, spiritual nourishment; a covenant of law is replaced by a covenant of grace. This is about more than solar oven distribution; it is about the Kingdom of God breaking in and healing the brokenness of this world!


What is a solar oven, and how do they work?
A solar oven is a means of concentrating the direct energy of the sun for the purpose of cooking food. There are various models. The one Solar Oven Partners distributes consists of an insulated box with a clear, thermal pane lid and a set of reflectors that sit on top of the box to direct a greater amount of sunlight into the box, creating temperatures that typically range from 250° to 350° F.
What do people cook in solar ovens?
Rice, beans, meats, fish, eggs, vegetables, breads, cakes—just about anything that is not deep-fried can be cooked in a solar oven. And water and milk can be pasteurized so that the people who consume it do not risk getting parasites!
Do you have any recipes?
How much do solar ovens cost?
Each solar oven costs $150. The cost includes $50 for shipping and training and $100 for the component parts.

Few recipient families can afford the real cost of an oven, so students are offered an investment opportunity of 10% of the full cost. This creates ownership for those who choose to take a solar oven. These donations remain with our in-country partners to fund follow-up visits to assure success and to fund local team oven distributions.