How to Cook without a Fire

One of the most difficult facets of life for the poorest people in developing countries, is the daily work of simple cooking. First you must gather firewood (and water), then you need to transport this to where you live, and cook your food over an open flame, while inhaling smoke from this highly inefficient means of cooking your meals. Smoke from indoor cooking fires kills more than 2 million children a year in the developing world.

Despite the quantities of oil and gas currently being pumped out of the ground in Africa, most of the rural population still depends on firewood or inefficient charcoal as shown in this slideshow of people making charcoal in Liberia. (Liberia has severe fuel poverty and a non-existent rating from the World Bank for Alternative Energy.) Both the firewood gathering and the process for making charcoal have contributed to deforestation as well. The time spent in these activities can also contribute to children’s inability to spend sufficient time in school and the distances traveled can frequently present life-threatening situations for women especially, as in Darfur.

A potential solution to these many problems is solar cooking and there are several organizations involved in getting the technology into the hands of the people who most need it. These cookers work purely with the bright light of the sun (no fires!), cook the food in a better way, preserving nutrients, and can even be used to purify water. (Solar Cookers International even brings all the data together in one wiki so you can browse and find the most recent information on a particular country like Liberia.)

Sometimes I think that all the solutions are there: we just need to open our eyes, minds and hearts to see them!

Thanks for stopping by,

Heather McC


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