Cooking with the Sun
March 18, 2014 • Kenya
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Samaritan’s Purse is teaching people in Kenya how to cook with solar energy, a source of fuel that can be easier to find and cheaper to use than firewood

Ndoro Rai has never owned a television in his life, and yet visitors frequently flock to his home asking to catch the latest soccer matches from England. They are obviously confused by the new dish-like gadget sitting outside his front door.

“What my neighbors do not know is that this is not a satellite dish for a television set,” Ndoro said. “It is a solar cooker provided by Samaritan’s Purse.”

Watching soccer games would be an enjoyable way to escape the intense heat in Kwale County, Kenya, where temperatures often blaze above 95 degrees. But there can be a tremendous benefit to living in this climate. The sun provides solar energy, a readily available source of fuel that can be harnessed to improve the quality of life in rural communities.

Villagers look on as the benefits of a solar cooker are demonstrated.

Villagers look on as the benefits of a solar cooker are demonstrated.

One practical application is operating solar cookers made of aluminum plates and a foil sheet that captures strong rays from the sun and converts them into usable energy. The unique dish design directs the heat to a central position where a pot can be placed for cooking.

The first time Ndoro saw this alternative cooking source in action was during a training session conducted by Samaritan’s Purse in his village of Mwakijembe. When he put his own cooker to the test, Ndoro was amazed that it actually cooked green grams, a local legume vegetable, until they were ready to eat.

“I immediately called the Samaritan’s Purse staff member who trained me just to express my gratitude,” he said. “I told him my solar cooker actually works.”

A Shift in Thinking

Using solar energy is a major shift from what is traditionally done throughout much of Kenya.

The solar cookers can lessen the need for firewood.

The solar cookers can lessen the need for firewood.

For generations, cutting down trees for firewood or charcoal has been the preferred practice. Most people disregard the potentially destructive consequences deforestation has on the environment. They are rooted in it because this type of fuel is cheap and easy to find.

Samaritan’s Purse knew it would be a challenge to get people to change.

“We felt that we could not address the problem without giving an alternative and so the alternative was solar cookers,” said Robinson Masongo, a staff member who helps manage the program. “They are ideal in this region because the sun is abundant all year and solar cookers are easy to use.”

An egg prepared in the solar cooker is almost ready.

An egg prepared in the solar cooker is almost ready.

Before distributing the cookers to families in need, Robinson and his team conduct training classes onsite and demonstrate how the power of the sun is utilized.

Already Samaritan’s Purse has handed out 40 cookers, many of them to people who are living with HIV/AIDS and often lack the energy to gather firewood or the income needed to buy it.

Through this project, Samaritan’s Purse is teaching reforestation techniques and given the opportunity to share God’s Truth: “And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Genesis 2:9a).

Ndoro assembles his cooker.

Ndoro assembles his cooker.

Ndoro is just one of the beneficiaries embracing this new cooking technique and passing it on to others.

“We are promoting tree planting and the uptake of solar energy as an alternative source of fuel in Kinango district,” Robinson said. “These types of solar cookers will save people money, which they once used to purchase firewood for cooking.”

For the curious visitors who continue to flock to Ndoro’s home, they see a different use of what is mistaken as a satellite dish. And they are always anxious to learn more about the important and life-changing function it performs.

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Kenya Projects Samaritan's Purse has been sending doctors to Kenya since 1978 through World Medical Mission, supporting hospitals that have helped tens of thousands find new life in Jesus Christ. Samaritan's Purse also operates several community development and children's projects across Kenya. The country is one of four in East Africa where we have launched a comprehensive HIV/AIDS program to strengthen the Christian response to the pandemic.

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