Solar Cooking
Last edited: 12 April 2022      

Based on the early successes of Solar Cookers International's Kakuma Refugee Camp project, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) asked Solar Cookers International (SCI) to begin solar cooking training in Dadaab, a cluster of refugee camps also located in Kenya.

The solar cooking project began in September 1995, when SCI conducted a series of three-day solar cooking workshops for 36 refugee women that would become trainers. These women were extension workers for the organization German Technical Cooperation (GIZ), which was implementing afforestation and fuel-efficient stove programs in the camp.

A unique aspect of the Dadaab project was that refugees earned solar cookers by either working on camp improvement projects for five days, or by planting 25 tree seedlings and nurturing them for three months.

By late 1996, several hundred families had earned solar cookers and were waiting, sometimes for several months, to be trained and receive their cookers. SCI trained an additional 16 extension workers to help reduce the backlog. By mid-1997, 2000 families had received CooKit solar cookers and 32,000 trees had been planted.

The El Niño floods of late 1997 had severe consequences for the project. Because refugee shelters were poorly made, nearly all the CooKits previously distributed were damaged or lost, as were many cooking pots. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. government began funding firewood distributions to help curb the rapes that were occurring while women and girls collected firewood outside the camp. The distributions did reduce the number of rapes, but also disrupted SCI’s efforts to restart the solar cooking project after the El Niño losses; with free firewood, there was less incentive to try solar cooking.

Despite its unexpected end in July 1998, the Dadaab project had long-term positive impacts. For example, the Trans World Radio organization started to promote solar box cookers in Dadaab a few years later, and benefiting greatly from the groundwork and educational efforts made by SCI. Likewise, several thousand Somali Bantu refugees benefited from SCI’s efforts in Dadaab. When they were transferred to Kakuma refugee camp they were already familiar with solar cooking and embraced the solar cooking opportunities provided there.


  • January 2022: Focus groups in refugee camps - Roger Haines reports that Haines Solar Cookers has been organizing three simultaneous “focus group” projects for 10 women in each of three refugee camps:  Dadaab and Kakuma (in Kenya) and Palabek Refugee Community (in Uganda). Materials to make about 250 Haines 2.0 “pop-open” cookers are already in each Camp. These are the original “wrinkly” MPET rolls that I imported into Kenya in 2014, so we must tape three pieces together to make the new one-piece “pop-open” design.  We will not order new one-piece reflectors until we obtain reports from the focus groups. The Alliance for African Assistance-Kenya has identified and will soon hire the lead trainers, who are themselves refugees well-connected with each Camp.  We will start small and make sure we have the right design and the right partners in each camp before scaling up.
  • February 2017: A Kenyan court ruling has blocked the government’s decision to close Dadaab camp in November 2017. Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp and home to more than 200,000 Somalians.
  • September 2016: Renewed solar cooking workshops at Kenyan refugee camps - Solar cooking advocate, Faustine Odaba, and her daughter have been conducting solar cooking and fireless cooking workshops at the Kakuma and Dadaab refugee camps. Participants prepare for the time when Kenya closes all refugee camps. Dadaab camp is the largest in the world, housing 330,000 refugees, many from Somalia. Kakuma camp was originally created for refugees from South Sudan, and now houses Congolese, Rwandans and Burundians. The date of the final closing of the camps has not been released.

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