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close this book Boiling Point No. 22 - August 1990
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Solar Box Cooker Demonstration in Somalia

The following is an extract from an article in the ''Somali Energy Newsletter" of December 1989 (Ministry of National Planning - Energy Planning Department).


FIGURE

 

On October 31, 1988, a solar box cooker made of cardboard covered by aluminium foil, glass and a black-painted piece of cardboard was assembled at the MNP by the staff of EPD using instruction provided by FAO.

The box cooker was developed in 1976 by two American women in Arizona, USA. The cooker has been patented and the rights have been acquired by FAO, who are attempting to popularize the device in tropical countries, including Somalia. FAO believes that the device is simple enough to be assembled by individual households. The EDP assembled one unit, with the aim of getting first-hand experience and concluding whether this assumption is valid in the specific circumstances of Somalia.

The preliminary findings have confirmed that the unit is not very difficult to assemble, but this does not mean that many households would find it easy to actually make their own cooker. The cutting of the individual pieces of cardboard requires rather precise measurements to be made. A tape measure or a suitable ruler has to be used and the instructions offered by FAO would have to be clarified and translated into Somali. Then, the correct procedure for pasting the foil and fitting the glass to the lid must be followed to ensure success. A solution to the need to have black or dark-coloured pots must also be found.

The procedure of painting ordinary pots is successful for a few cooking sessions, but the paint tends to wear off quickly due to the heat generated during the cooking.

Moreover, the availability of cardboard at reasonable cost needs to be worked out for the innovation to have a reasonable chance of becoming widespread. The problem of the price of aluminium foil and of glass has to be tackled. This suggests that the box cooker may have to be aimed at small-scale industrial, rather than do-it-yourself, production.

There is also the question of suitable open space inside or outside many homes in Mogadishu for the cooker to be used. This would be a limiting factor for the device's applicability. Like any solar cooker, the FAO cooker is only suitable for the preparation of lunch because of the requirement to operate the device during hours of bright sunshine. Even then, cooking can take up to two or three hours, depending upon the kind of food. Not all kinds of foods can be prepared with it. Stewing and boiling are feasible, but frying seems ruled out by the danger of deteriorating the box's material.

However, the staff of the EPD were able to prepare a delicious dish of rice and chicken stew with the cooker and it is estimated that up to 2kg of charcoal were thereby saved. At today's (admittedly unusual) prices this would mean a saving of SoSh 280: not a bad saving! For this reason, it is suggested that a small pilot programme be implemented to explore the reaction of potential consumers in more detail, as well as to find ways to make the cooker's manufacture more efficient and economical.