The potential for solar cooking

Using wood for cooking leads to deforestation and air pollution that can cause or exacerbate health problems. For many poor people, obtaining wood is either time-consuming or expensive. Where conflicts have led to displaced people, wood shortages can become acute, leading to often violent clashes between locals and refugees. For many refugee women this makes collecting wood a high-risk activity.

Solar cookers have the potential to help many of the world’s poorest. For eight years Agrometeorological Applications Associates and TchadSolaire (AAA/TS) have been training refugees to manufacture and use solar cookers in north-eastern Chad, where there are more than 240,000 refugees.

Solar cookers are cheap and simple to make. They are clean, safe, greatly reduce the need for wood, reduce conflicts, reduce the time girls spend collecting wood thus favouring education and allow pasteurisation of water. However, the availability of sunshine is critical, with clouds or heavy atmospheric dust loads preventing cooking.

Results from a Leeds Climate and Geohazard Services (CGS) studentship project, working in collaboration with Imperial College London, and staff from Agrometeorological Applications Associates/TchadSolaire (AAA/TS) have just been published in American Meteorological Society.

The project used satellite observations of dust and cloud to derive a climatology for solar cooking. It is hoped that such research will greatly inform the future distribution of the solar cooking technology, as well as help those currently using the technology, like the 140 000 users of solar cookers in the refugee camps of Chad.

Ed Butt – June 2014