The Mekhe Solar Cooker Project – Senegal
This project promotes the use of solar cookers in a Senegalese village. “The Mekhe Solar
Cooker Project” trains mostly women in Mekhe on how to use local materials to produce and
market the cookers. A reforestation component also supports the project’s goals to address
the overuse of wood for fuel.
- 105 women trained on how to produce solar cookers
- Each cooker saves at least 3 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year (equivalent of 12
- Nearly 4,000 trees planted
The successive West African droughts in the 1970s and 80s, led populations in fragile areas like Mekhe to
rely heavily on natural resources for firewood, charcoal, and livestock subsistence. This has caused
rampant deforestation and forest degradation. Due to poverty in the region, 85 per cent of energy used for
cooking comes from wood. Consumption of firewood in this region results in four hectares of deforestation
per family per year. The use of wood for cooking not only causes environmental damage, but also chronic
Women of the Ndiop Association are being encouraged by the
UNDP to use solar cookers in place of firewood. The project has instructed women on how to produce the
solar cookers, and trained them to train others. It has additionally identified 30 traditional recipes that
can be easily prepared with the cooker. Women are also involved in community reforestation by enabling them
to plant specific types of trees.
Helping the planet
The project addresses deforestation by harnessing the sun’s rays for clean, renewable energy for
cooking. Using less wood reduces pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions. Similarly, leaving trees
standing allows them to store carbon from the atmosphere. Restoring forests contributes to healthier
ecosystems, including the capacity of the earth to hold water.
Households that use solar cookers save money, while respiratory health is improved since smoke in the
kitchen is eliminated. Villagers, in particular women, save time that would have otherwise been spent
collecting firewood and they are also able to generate additional income through the sale of baked goods.
Stove artisans make money off selling the cookers, which improves their quality of life including allowing
them to send their children to school.
A micro-credit scheme to finance the women’s activities will help assure their ability to survive and
grow. The approach taken of training the trainers will allow its scale to increase exponentially. Workshops
supported by the national energy ministry have taken place under the project, while materials such as a
manual on solar cookers were also developed to spread knowledge and ensure institutional memory. The model
of combining reforestation and the use of solar energy as an alternative to firewood has been successfully
replicated in more than 50 villages in Senegal, Mauritania, and Burkina Faso.
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