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.
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.
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.
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
Cooking with firewood or charcoal releases smoke into the air. That can affect several families. Solar cooking is emission-free cooking!
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.
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.
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?
What do people cook in solar ovens?
Do you have any recipes?
Yes! Download them here: Dominican SOP Recipes for Solar Ovens and Navajo Recipes for Solar Ovens.
How much do solar ovens cost?
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.