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 trees)
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 respiratory problems.
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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