Solar cooking, a way of cooking with many advantages

Solar Cooking can be advantageous in many ways compared to other cooking techniques, but it is still a rather unknown technique in Niger Republic. Many people still cook their food on the traditional open stove consisting of three stones and a pan on top of them with firewood as energy source. If firewood is scarce or not available people use cow dung instead. There has been some promotion for the more efficient improved stove which saves some firewood, but this model hasn't really penetrated the country. Richer people in urban areas like Niamey and Zinder who do have the means can use a gas stove with a gas bottle. With the present lower prices of gas (prices went down with 50%), the number of people using gas for cooking has increased. However it still costs money for the gas and it consumes a not renewable energy. Cooking with the sun can save money and can save the environment by not having to cut trees to provide in firewood, but there are more advantages than those two:

  • Conserving the trees means a contribution to the vegetation that form the lungs of the earth as they produce oxygen which we need for breathing.
  • Trees are fixing the soil and they contribute to diminish desertification.
  • Trees can provide in edible leaves, fruits and seeds. They form a source of very nutritious forest products. Even in seasons with bad rainfall trees are able to produce leaves, fruits and seeds. Their root system is developed much deeper into the soil. Therefore they don't have the same risk as sorghum or millet.
  • Trees produce food for the animals.
  • Trees can as well produce materials for constructing as long as overexploitation is avoided.

Compared to the traditional cooking technique with an open fire, the use of a solar cooker has several advantages that should not be forgotten either:

  • There is no risk that someone will burn himself on the fire.
  • There is no smoke that will enter the lungs of the woman or people preparing food which will diminish the risk on lung diseases.
  • The food prepared will be more nutritious as the temperature to which food in the (box)solar cooker is exposed is much lower than the temperature of the fire.
  • With most of the recipes there is no need to stay and observe the food, neither to stir the food. This time can be used for other activities.
 
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A young man checking the preparation of a traditional dough in a solar cooker

 

In a sunny country like Niger there are many days throughout the year one can cook with a solar cooker. The local NGO Aridité Prospère has received support from SaharaSahel for training sessions to those who want to learn the technique of cooking with the sun. Also some carpenters have been trained in constructing the  box solar cooker of the type 'Dierkx'. For the moment this type of solar cooker is produced in Zinder and in Niamey. Production in Zinder is still checked by the ngo in order to keep up the quality. With funding several 'Dierkx' solar cookers have been dispersed within the countryside of the Zinder region to promote the technique of cooking with the sun.

 
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Solar cookers made by a local carpenter in Zinder