"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." Dalai Lama

Solar cooking is for us!

by Struan Douglas, afribeat.com

FILED IN: Issue 21 · Most Popular · Sustainability

The sun is a solution. 98% of light striking black is absorbed. Light is energy, not heat. Once absorbed it lowers its frequency and becomes heat. It has more than enough energy to cook with. To capture it, use it and enjoy it has been known for a long time. A naturalist by the name of Horace de Saussure designed the first box cooker. He developed it in the 1700’s. This remains the archetype solar cooking device.

The solar cooker is a tool of tremendous transformation. It has been called the ‘mirror of hope’. The biggest solar cooker in the world is in Auroville in Tamil Nadu India. It has fifteen meters in diameter and can cook for two thousand people every day (www.auroville.org). Auroville was once a barren landscape resulting from two hundred years of deforestation. It is now an ecological village.

A statistic for the developing world reads thus: “A solar cooker saves about one ton of wood per year thereby reducing carbon emissions by 1.8 tons per year.” There are one hundred thousand solar cookers in use in India and China (www.solarcooking.org)

Carbon dioxide release is driving the disruption of our global weather patterns. Solar cooking is a significant step in the direction of creating a ‘renewable energy system’ for our life’s requirements. The solar cooker has not yet reached critical mass, however it is well on its way.

Crosby Menzies of Sunfire Solutions with a parabolic reflector

There is a solar cooker project in every country of Africa! Kakuma Refugee camp in Kenya is a success story with a lot of solar cookers working very well. Kakuma was caught in the vicious cycle whereby the World Food Pogramme was giving them food with no means of cooking it. It was through the support of the Global Village Energy Partnership and generous (Solar Cooker International) donors that the women in the village were given training on how to make, use and sell solar cookers. This project has now expanded into neighbouring communities. An inspiring documentary film called SUNCOOKERS has been made on this initiative. (www.solarcookers.org)

I will always recall the dream of spiritualist, sangoma, visionary, musician and medium Stella Chirweshe: “The earths energy has become very angry with our behaviour. I was standing somewhere between the human beings and the earths energy and I saw the earths energy sinking. And as the earths energy was sinking I started to see people dying from strange diseases that could not be cured, from killing each other, from floods, from hunger. And then from my left side came voices of beautiful singing that the energy of the earth said let me hold on for a second and listen and as it listened it came back and embraced us!”

It is time for humanity to stop, listen and change our behaviour. In the words of artist and sculptor John Jay: “It is more about learning to live with less than replacing your modern energy requirements with renewable sources.”


The traditional design of the box-cooker or Sun Stove is very convenient. The Portuguese model (Lazola) is top of the range.

They are available from Crosby Sunfire Solutions (011 6242432) for R2799. There is a less expensive box cooker available for R360 (see advert to the left).

The parabolic reflector is focused and effective and perfect for a land of low sunshine as it is extremely sensitive to the sun. The use of such reflectors however means constant tracking of the sun and a good pair of sun glasses. They are also available from Crosby Sunfire Solutions for R1200.

Panel cookers are simple, cheap and effective. They are one of the most popular solar cookers on the planet. They are available from Richard at Solarworks (031 2616881 alternativeworks@gmail.com) for R171

Being a Durban boy and being of the opinion that the benefit to solar cooking is preparing your meal and letting it cook slow and true in the sun whilst you go off and do your work, I chose this cooker!

All solar cookers you should use a hot bag: As your dishes finish cooking, keep them warm.

You can make your own with the design of the wonder-box which was simply a cardboard box fitted with cushions. Straw baskets fitted with blankets are popular. A hot bag, which cooks with its own heat, has been developed. They are available from Crosby Sunfire Solutions for R100 to R150.


Solar cooking is more nutritious and tastier. Food is cooked slowly with low power, thus less water is used, conserving vitamins and the original taste of the ingredients.
You can cook any number of delicious recipes.

These recipes taken from ‘healthy solar cooking’ by Sarah Branham:

Banana Muffins
* 2 cups whole-wheat flour
* 2 cups oat bran
* 4 teaspoons baking powder
* ½ cup raisins (optional)
* 2 cups mashed ripe banana (3-4 bananas)
* ½ cup unsweetenened apple juice

Spoon the batter into eighteen nonstick muffin cups, loosely cover them with parchment paper , and top with aluminium foil that has been painted dull black. Solar bake in a large solar box cooker until the muffins are done.

Slow Beans & Berries (A spicy Stew)
* 5 cups water
* 1 cup Great Northern beans
* ¾ cups wheat berries
* 4 small red potatoes , cut in half
* 1 onion , sliced and separated into rings
* 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
* 4 teaspoons ground cumin
* 3 teaspoons turmeric
* Several twists of freshy ground black pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a large pot and cover. Solar cook until the beans are completely done.


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