Solar Powered Cookers

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I often question when it comes to “stuff”- ‘do we really need this – Is this
excessive?’ And when it comes to Sustainable and Development technology, I almost
always conclude ‘it’s necessary.’ Solar Cookers are definitely necessary, they
just need to be done a little differently. Let’s start with the benefits of solar cookers:
1) Smoke/Disease: One of the biggest killers of women in the developing world are indoor
cooking fires. The huge amount of smoke being produced from coal and wood fed fires
fills the family’s home and the wife, mother and provider is forced to breathe it in 
and damage her body. 
Solar Cookers are smoke free and eliminate the health risks to
women associated with traditional indoor cooking. Secondly Solar Cookers generate
enough heat to cook out most diseases from food and protect eaters from becoming sick.
2) Nutrition: When food is cooked at high temperatures more nutrients are lost
in the cooking process. Solar cookers cook at temperatures lower than traditional
fires and for that reason preserve nutrients. In developing countries food can be
scarce, and every nutrient counts.
3) Time: A huge cause of developmental stagnation in the developing world is a
lack of time. Individuals have to walk long distances for food, water, and cooking
fuel. With a solar cooker, an individual doesn’t need to go anywhere for fuel: it’s
all coming from the sun! People also need not walk as far for clean water as solar
cookers can be used to purify water and make it safe to drink. With more free time,
people can focus their energy on education or work or simply sitting back and taking
a break from life’s hardships.
4) Environment: A solar cooker means that individuals don’t have to deplete the
natural resources that are already disappearing so quickly. Fewer trees need to be
cut and the natural landscape and beauty can left unharmed. An untouched
environment can leave room for ecotourism business and further lift communities from
cyclical poverty traps. This is just one of the many possibilities that solar
cooking could offer the developing world. The wood that is not being cut down
leaves intact a giant carbon cache that can continue to suck up carbon from the
atmosphere. Not burning wood also leaves carbon stored and reduces green house gas
emissions.
5) A new market: If an individual in a community learns how to repair and
advertise solar cookers, you’ve created a new, community level market! Instead of
solar cookers being given away and left as junk when they are no longer functional,
individuals trained in repair and selling can do just that! Putting market power in
the hands of the community broadens the economy because of an extremely necessary
piece of technology.
6: Durable: Solar Cookers, in theory, should last a long time. They are made from the
most basic of materials, are relatively simple designs, and are not used in ways
that lead to end-of-life. A solar cooker is durable and minimalistic so repairs can
be basic and easy tasks to learn to perform.
So obviously Solar Cookers are Cool. They provide innumerable benefits to the
communities that use them and are one of the stepping-stones to long-term
sustainable development. So why would I take issue with solar cookers? Well the
two big reasons are taste and material use. Good old barbecue tastes good, it’s
charcoal fed and takes in a smoky flavor. Secondly, charcoal cookers are made
mostly from metal that doesn’t come from 
recycled or scrap metal but mined metals.
1) Taste: gas and solar cooking just doesn’t taste as good as barbecue, and some
even say that tastes weird. How can you expect someone to use a solar cooker if
they are never going to enjoy a meal out of it? Yes, taste isn’t the biggest issue,
but it definitely plays a role in the choice to use it or not.
2) Materials used: I will never deny that solar cookers are a sustainable
technology; in the long run solar cooking can save millions and even billions of
trees and cut carbon emissions effectively. However, why are so many of the solar
cookers out there not being built from scrap metal and old and disposed of parts?

A solar cooker made from recycled items!
Solar cookers can be built, in its most minimum form, from strips of metal. There
doesn’t seem to be a need to finely weld and perfect newly mined metal from mines
that are destroying the environment. Instead, we should be using scrapped and
recycled metals, like that of an old coke can, to build our solar cookers.
So that’s my rap. Clearly the benefits outweigh the costs but I think the costs can
be completely eliminated. Here’s my proposal: All solar cookers need to be able to
handle minimal amounts of wood, charcoal, and compost use. The design could be as
simple as having a small box-like attachment beneath the solar cooker that has a
tube that feeds directly into where the food is cooking. The 
design requires boxed
solar cooking opposed to a more satellite type of solar cooker. In the box design,
the lid could be airtight and the material burned would release all of its smoke
into the box, giving the same rich smoky flavor to food at a fraction of the
previous material used. And that material- it could really come from any natural
source.

We Could Modify This!
Excrement from cattle or other animals that isn’t being used as fertilizer
and is just a disease and algae causing runoff can be used as the smoky fuel.
Excess wood that has fallen from trees or collected leaves could serve as the
material; the sky really is the limit.
The second part of my proposal is that instead of the developed world mining new
metal, NGO’s and nonprofits that work with solar cookers get people to 1) donate
their cans and scrap metal, and 2) get the communities that they are serving to
college scrap metal. The scrap metal serves as a very productive recycling system
that protects the environment. Furthermore, a recycling system in a local
developing community would boost its economy. Professional “collectors” could be
scrap metal providers; there could be professional welders to build the solar
cookers as well as professional repairmen and salesmen. If Nonprofits are willing
to give up and control of the flow of solar cookers than the developing world can
begin to grow on it’s own. The growth, of course, relies on an initial massive push
by nonprofits to educate communities on solar cookers, how to build, operate,
repair, sell, and pass information on to future generations. Isn’t, in theory, the
goal of nonprofits to not need to exist anymore?
So think about it, bust a move, and make the world a better place. Until Then,
Much Love,
Andrew
www.vc4africa.com

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