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Solar cookers create a stir in Chad

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The power of the sun holds the key to at least some of the challenges facing Sudanese refugees Eastern Chad.

That was the conclusion of Cord’s research, validated by a successful pilot and is now the focus of a new programme which will see around 16,000 people benefit from the cooking power of the sun.

Some 250,000 Sudanese have crossed the border from Sudan into Chad since the eruption of violence in the Darfur region in 2003. Inevitably, tensions rise between these new encamped communities and the local Chadian population. Not only is competition over scarce firewood for cooking and heating a common cause of conflict between the two communities, but it also leaves women exposed to the risk of violence when they travel the ever-increasing distances necessary to collect it.

Research commissioned by Cord was conducted by 'Bolivia Inti Sud Solaire' and looked at these issues. They concluded that due to the high population density, few trees are left in the vicinity of the camp resulting in it taking on average 10 hours to collect the wood needed for cooking and warmth. The research also recognised the growing environmental toll, especially in the semi-arid climate of Eastern Chad with little rain much of the year. In order to help overcome some of these difficulties, the team proposed the introduction of solar cookers as an alternative to fuel wood.

In Farchana Camps, Cord has begun rolling out the ‘Cookit’ - a completely solar powered solution which can be left unattended while food is cooking. The Cookit is able to cook a wide variety of foods including beans, meat stews, roast meats, eggs, cake, bread, rice and potatoes. It not only has the power to reduce tensions between the communities but also allows women and girls to carry out other activities while food is cooking. Reducing the need for women to be away from the camp for long periods reduced their exposure to the risk of violence and prevents further decline of natural resources. It also frees time for girls to be part of Cord’s education programme. Quite a groundbreaking solution!

Cord Chad’s Meschac Bondo Samba said “Not only will this make a great contribution to protecting the environment, it will reduce girls and women domestic workload giving them time to study. Importantly it will greatly reduce the daily risk of rape or violent attack as women venture out of the camp in search of a dwindling resource - firewood, for cooking and for warmth.”

Faiza Mahamat Abdallah, one of the trained refugees, gave us her views. “This will be very helpful for us; we will save a lot of time. Cookit will help us avoid the violent incidents generated when we have to go out of the camp collecting fire wood. I will do my best to look after my Cookit for the next five years,” she said.

Souleyman Ahamat Adam added “It’s the first time I’ve seen a solar cooker. It means the men can cook while the women are busy with other tasks.”

Alexis Tokelal, working to protect the environment in Chad with AFRICARE, said, “I am really impressed to see that the sun can cook food, I believe this technology will reduce deforestation.”