SHORT REPORT ON THE SOLAR COOKER SK 14 PROJECT
The Bicycle Sponsorship Project and Workshop (BSPW) is a non – governmental organization promoting non – motorised mobility (especially bicycles) in Uganda by using the concept of the bicycle in poverty reduction as a strategy and addressing issues of accessibility and affordability of NMTs especially bicycles to low income groups, individuals and communities.
BSPW is based in Njeru Town Council – Mukono District – Uganda and is fully registered with the National NGO Board – Ministry of Internal Affairs. BSPW targets women, youth and disadvantaged groups (elderly, persons with disabilities, families affected by HIV / AIDS, widows (ers), and orphans).
The Solar initiative was started at the Bicycle Sponsorship Project and Workshop (BSPW) in 2004, in partnership with EG Solar (Germany), which sponsored 3 Solar cookers (SK14) to the Bicycle Sponsorship Project and Workshop (BSPW). These were primarily used for promotional purposes in preparation for the implementation of the initiative in January 2005.
In January and February 2005, EG Solar took the BSPW team through a series of skills empowerment courses in assembly, refurbishing and maintaining of the Solar Cooker (SK14), with the help of Mr. Karl Wittmann, a consultant from the Senior Expert Service (SES) – Germany. In 2005, BSPW received another consignment of 24 solar cookers, sponsored by EG Solar – Germany. This brings the total number of units received to 27.
Due to high poverty levels in rural Uganda where average annual household income is Uganda shillings 120,000 /= ( US $ 65.7), many households depend on less than US $ 1 per day. Due to poverty and limited availability of land, in their desperate need to survive, many poor urban and rural households have resorted to practices that may be detrimental to the environment.
This includes living in shacks for housing, poor methods of farming, increased use of fire wood and burning of charcoal, poor sanitation and drainage, poor methods of brewing alcohol, and poor human waste disposal. Among the communities there is also poor refuse disposal of both bio – degradable and non – bio – degradable waste like polythene, metallic, porcelain and plastic waste in many urban and rural areas of the country.
A lot of families in rural Uganda also depend on the sale of charcoal and firewood for livelihood, while majority of households rely entirely on the use of firewood for fuel, because charcoal and electricity the would be alternative sources of energy are expensive and yet some villages are not electrified.
However, efforts to discourage this increasing deforestation that is driven primary due to economic reasons calls for the need to provide attractive environmentally friendly alternative sources of income and addressing the issue of reducing the demand for firewood and charcoal at household level by providing cheaper sustainable alternative sources of energy.
The Solar initiative is now one of the strategies that the Bicycle Sponsorship Project and Workshop (BSPW) is employing to help reduce environmental degradation at household level by discouraging deforestation due to the high demand for fuel in the form of firewood and charcoal, both in rural and urban areas of Uganda.
Overall Goal of Initiative:
To reduce the demand for firewood and charcoal at household level both in rural and urban Uganda by providing a cheaper sustainable alternative source of energy, – the Solar cooker (SK 14).
Objectives of the initiative:
1. To reduce environmental degradation by reducing dependency on firewood and charcoal as sources of energy.
2. To reduce the daily workload of women at household level by reducing their daily travel distances in search for firewood.
3. To improve the standard of living of women in both rural and urban households by provide a clean kitchen away from the hazardous smoke and ashes
Other Strategies employed alongside the Solar Cooker initiative:
BSPW is employing a holistic approach to environmental protection and management at household level where it is involved in the following activities:
A) waste management at household level
* Mobilizing communities to put up low cost improved sanitation facilities
* Training communities in making compost manure out of bio – degradable waste
* Training communities in the disposal of non bio – degradable waste like polythene, plastic, tins e.t.c
B) Improved land use
* Training communities in nutrition based organic farming
* Promotion of nutrition based agro – forestry at household level
* Training communities in soil and water conservation
In total, 27 solar cookers were received by BSPW between 2004 and 2005 of which three have been distributed to educational initiatives namely:
– Lords Meade Vocational College,
– Mpora Rural Family- an orphanage,
– St. Jude School of Catering – an initiative to help disadvantaged youths from low income families, who are unable to continue with their education due to lack of school fees and other factors by empowering them with life skill.
The above institutions had also been relying heavily on firewood as a source of energy. However the units distributed to the above mentioned institutions are also used in training students in catering, and also to promote the Solar cooker (SK14), among their communities.
Eight (8) units were distributed to households in rural areas through partnerships with other development partners who included:
- Jinja Diocese Development Co – ordination Office (JIDDECO), an ecumenical organization
- Katakwi Urafiki Foundation a peace initiative,
- Nkondo Development Union a community based organization operating in Nkondo and Kidera Sub – Counties in Kamuli District,
- Solar Cookers International an NGO based in Nairobi Kenya.
Seven (7) units were distributed by BSPW to individual households of which 2 of the households are urban based, while the other households are rural based.
18 pieces have been distributed so far, 3 in urban households, while the other 15 have been distributed in rural households. However 9 units are yet to be distributed.
Our beneficiaries have reported the following on the use of the solar cooker (SK 14) in their day today activities:
It has proved very useful especially in the dry season, and has significantly reduced their household energy expenses though they have to use other alternative sources in the night or on rainy days. Most rural beneficiaries wished the SK 14, could be able to store energy for use even after the sun has gone down .
- It is easy to use even by the young members of their households and they say is very harm free.
- Rural beneficiaries requested if BSPW could also help provide solar lighting in their areas as the solar cooker would make a good combination with solar lighting as their villages are not electrified and even where there is electricity it is very expensive coupled with the consistent load shedding faced in Uganda today.
- Many rural beneficiaries because of the high illiteracy rate, still think the SK 14 is simply an astounding phenomenon of “magic cooking” they do not fully understand how the sun can get their food boiling yet the parabolic mirrors are still cold!!!
However; despite the high demand for the solar cooker by the communities (especially in rural areas), one major challenge still faced by BSPW is the high cost of the Solar Cooker (SK 14), which
is still unaffordable, though BSPW has put in place structures to make its acquisition more friendly to rural communities by encouraging its payment in installments over a period of one year and cash or four months for the average in.
- Increase bicycle and solar cooker distribution among target communities (in March 2007 a consignment of 80 cookers was received through EG-Solar in Altoetting to be distributed)
- Improve BSPW services to the communities
- Improve capacities and capabilities of target communities for sustainable development
Much as there is increasing demand for the solar cooker especially among rural communities, the solar cooker SK 14 is still unaffordable for the rural households. However, where the solar cooker has been introduced, it is a source of relief to the children and women. We therefore commend EG Solar and Jugendhilfe Ostafrika e.V. for their support both moral and otherwise which has enables us to change people’s lives for the better.
Bukaya, March 2007, Pauline Kisambira