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The Somali culture and way of life based on pastoralism is under threat. The trees which are so necessary to maintain that way of life are disappearing due to massive cutting for charcoal production. Somali families use an average of four large sacks of 25 kgs each of charcoal per month (100 kgs), the equivalent of one large tree. In the arid to semi-arid environment of Somalia, large trees can take 30 to 50 years to grow. If charcoal production is to be stopped, Somalis must have an alternative to using charcoal for household cooking. Sun Fire Cooking has an alternative:

an efficient solar cooker.


Trees, our trees,

Oh my people, save our trees

and use solar cookers instead.

Let our trees grow and be free

from charcoal makers and buyers

so that we can live a secure life.

by Shukria Dini, Bosaso, Somalia, 2005


Solar Cooking in Bander Beyla, Somalia

From December 2006 to March 2006, Sun Fire Cooking, in partnership with Horn Relief and with a grant from the United Nations (UNOCHA), distributed 950 butterfly-design solar cookers to five villages in the tsunami-affected region of Somalia, along the Indian Ocean coast. In August 2006, four Sun Fire Cooking research team members revisited the largest of the five villages, Bander Beyla to find out how the villagers were using the solar cookers. Here is a summary of what they found, based on participatory action research.



Most of the solar cookers are used between 8 am and 4 pm, giving eight hours of cooking. The types of food cooked include rice, beans, fish, meat and tea with some families also making injeero (a type of flat bread) with the solar cooker. Families use the solar cooker to boil water for children. Families who previously used 3 bags of charcoal (25 kgs each) now use only one, saving about US$14 per month (US$7 per bag of charcoal).  Larger families who previously used four bags now use one, saving US$21 per month. The families use the savings for food, medicine and childrenšs education. 


In the focus group discussions: Question: How has your life changed since the solar cooker?

There was a big change in the economy of the family as the money we saved from the charcoal we are using  for medicine and for educating our children. Question: How has women's health changed since the solar cooker? The house remains cleaner. There are no ashes or smoke and the dishes need less cleaning because the black soot of the dishes is less now. Question: What do you think is the effect of solar cooking on the environment? We think the trees that used to be burning for charcoal will be spared and we shall have more trees in the locations where the charcoal used to be produced.


Two Stories about Solar Cooker use in Bander Beyla Somalia

One morning Dahir, the Sun Fire Cooking technician went to visit a family to see how they were using the solar cooker. He met a woman with two children, but she was not feeling well and was not using her solar cooker. Dahir then set up her solar cooker and working with her, he cooked tea, porridge, and heated water for making powdered milk.  Then he cooked fish. Dahir then invited the neighbors over. That same women talked to the women telling them how the solar cooker saved her family. Next morning all those women were cooking with their solar cookers.


Most of those men whose wives are not in Bander Beyla this time of year go to the sea in the morning. They come back late in the afternoon carrying their fish. When they return, they set up their solar cooker and cook their fish together with their other food. These men said that the solar cookers are ideal for their life. They do not deal with ashes or collect firewood or buy charcoal.


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