Solar EmpowerSustainably redistributing wealth by providing access to low-maintenance renewable energy technologies in Zambia
Funding for solar cookers to be distributed in Zambia
A contribution to Solar Empower makes a huge difference to the lives of families in Zambia. Buying or contributing to a solar cooker enables Zambian households to be more self-sufficient and resilient, at the same time as saving the vital and precious forests of Zambia. Every penny of your contribution will go towards the cost of a solar cooker. Solar Empower does not have any overheads, running or staffing costs that are not met by volunteers.I am Dr Karen Treasure and I am based in the International Relations department at Plymouth University. My research focuses on development and social justice in sub-Saharan Africa. My PhD research (2007-'08) considered the concept of empowerment and how it is utilised in the context of international aid to Zambia. I have continued to visit Zambia for fieldwork on a range of issues connected to community level development (see biography below for further details). As a result of these experiences, I have come to feel passionately about the distribution of solar cookers in Zambia. Solar cookers are able to address key developmental challenges in Zambia, for example by reducing costs of cooking and making water safe to drink, as well as environmental challenges because Zambia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world due mostly to the production of fuel for cooking. In September 2015, I took five solar cookers to Zambia and gave them to various families I know. I saw, and since have heard, that they have made a positive difference to peoples lives, so I am appealing for funds to be able to take more.
Photo: Dr Karen Treasure introducing women in Chongwe, Eastern Zambia, to solar cooking Parabolic solar cookers harness solar power by simply reflecting and focusing the sun's rays to a spot in the centre, where there is a stand for a saucepan. So you turn the cooker towards the sun and there is enough heat to cook!
Solar cookers can help save Zambian forests
Zambia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. Between 1990 and 2005, Zambia lost 14.3% of its forest cover and continues to lose close to 1% per annum, or around 300,000 hectares. The main cause of deforestation is the production of charcoal, which the vast majority of Zambians rely on as cooking fuel. As the population of Zambia continues to increase rapidly, scarcity of forests is going to become an increasingly significant problem for a range of reasons, including deteriorating biodiversity, loss of wildlife habitats, increasing rates of soil erosion and climate change. Solar cookers have the potential to decrease this environmentally destructive process, by decreasing the demand for charcoal.
Solar cookers can change the lives of Zambians
A majority of Zambians live in severe or extreme poverty. Most sources indicate that 60-70% of the population live on less than $1.25-$2 per day (PPP). Costs of charcoal for cooking are often therefore a significant proportion of household income. The poorest people have to buy charcoal in the smallest amounts and thus pay the highest price relatively, often at least $0.5 per household per day in urban areas.
Providing a solar cooker to a family living in such conditions can have multiple benefits:
- Households are able spend their scarce resources on other essentials - which is important as many people cannot afford to meet their own basic needs.
- Around 60% of the Zambian population live in rural areas where access to charcoal is limited and often prohibitively expensive. Such households collect firewood or collect and dry animal dung for cooking fuel. A solar cooker releases people from the need for this hard labour, as well as leaving much needed trees and organic matter in their natural environments.
- Solar cookers can be used to supplement scarce income, either by renting out use of the cooker to others locally, or by using the free cooking power to produce cooked goods for sale with reduced overheads.
Solar Cookers provide clean water and health benefits
Access to a free source of energy for cooking means that water can be boiled before use, making it much safer to drink. Given that around 35% of Zambians rely on unimproved water sources, and even many technically improved sources are not to a high standard, rates of infection from water are high. Water borne diseases are thus recognised as significant health risks in Zambia, which the use of solar cookers can help to reduce.
Furthermore, less reliance on charcoal and firewood as cooking fuels would also reduce the incidence of respiratory diseases which are widely recognised to be caused by the inhalation of smoke while cooking. A range of other benefits may be accessed through the free source of cooking heat, such as hot/warm water for bathing and laundry.
Making solar cookers work for Zambians
Solar cookers are highly effective during the early hours of the day. The models we distribute boil a litre of water in eight minutes, reaching as high a temperature as a gas flame, but they start to lose their highest temperatures by the middle of the afternoon. This means that solar cookers are not great for cooking the evening meal. However, insulated bags can keep food hot and as good as fresh for several hours, so this project will include one of these bags with each cooker that is distributed. This will enable families to cook on the cooker in the heat of the day and eat the food in the cool of the evening.
Solar Empower: Sustainably redistributing wealth by providing access to low-maintenance renewable energy technologies in Zambia
Solar cookers are a fantastic way to redistribute the benefits of renewable energy, given that there is no maintenance necessay for a solar cooker - they are constructed of robust steel. The reflective surface is supplied as an adhesive tape, so if it should become too worn, it is possible to replace it with minimal skills and costs. For this reason, this transfer of technology requires no ongoing tangible support/spare parts for recipients to continue to benefit. Each solar cooker is supplied with a spanner which is the only tool necessary for construction of the cooker.
The crowdfunding target here represents the direct cost of purchasing 20 solar cookers and 20 insulated bags, transporting them (from South Africa) to Zambia and distributing them. Transportation costs are significantly reduced at this level of bulk. This project supports direct wealth redistribution by offering solar cookers in Zambia as the rewards. This form of contribution recognises the extreme inequality of wealth between you (as a funder) and the recipient. The contributions for the Zambian feast (6x£30 pledge) will cover the cost of utilising this website plus some of the cost of the ingredients for the feast. All additional costs will be paid and distribution will be carried out by me, combined with a research trip to Zambia.
I hope you agree, these rewards are great value for money
A contribution to Solar Empower makes a
huge difference to the lives of families in Zambia.
Buying or contributing to a solar cooker enables
Zambian households to be more self-sufficient and resilient,
at the same time as saving the vital and precious forests of Zambia.