30 October 2007

Botswana: Cooking With the Sun


There are many ways to cut back on the greenhouse gases that are causing global warming, but few make more sense for people in southern Africa than using solar energy.

As a matter of fact, according to United Nations figures, Botswana is the most suitable country in the entire world for using solar panels and other sun-driven devices because we have a flat landscape, few tall trees and more cloud free hours per year, than any other country.

So where are all the solar panels?

Okay, there are quite a few in remote locations, but they haven't caught on in the way environmentalists would have hoped in more urban areas; where most of us are using coal generated electricity to heat our water, light our houses and cook our food. Many others, meanwhile, are burning up our dwindling supply of firewood for heating and cooking.

Up in Zimbabwe, frequent power cuts are now driving a move towards cooking as much as possible with the sun; and to promote that trend, a group called Solar Cookers International is encouraging people to use solar stoves.

The US based company makes two types of cookers, both of which use shiny surfaces to reflect and focus the sun's rays onto a black cooking pot. The temperature is lower than what you get on a conventional stove so it takes longer to cook meals and boil water, but once you have bought your cooker and a black pot all you have to pay for are the ingredients of future meals.

Unfortunately, the Zimbabwean made cookers are in short supply, so they are not being exported. To get the larger stainless steel cooker sent from the States would cost about P5000, while the portable foil covered board cooker would cost P600.

Surprisingly, no one seems to be distributing the cookers here in Botswana, but the people at the SCI office in California were kind enough to give me the contact information for the man who sells the Sun Catcher portable cooker out of Durban.

When I called Richard Pocock he said he could send me one of the cookers for a total cost of about P200 including postage.

He also confirmed the devices were extremely suitable for conditions here.

"They work beautifully in Botswana. I've sent quite a few orders there, and I even gave one to some Basarwa in D'kar."

While solar cookers do seem to be ideal for Botswana, it must be pointed out that they are not as versatile as other stoves since they do not work at night or when it is raining or overcast.

Advantages of solar cooking

a) Constant heat doesn't burn food

b) No need to scrub pots

c) No smoke smell or taste

d) Free fuel

e) Slow cooking is healthy

Cooker can be easily moved

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