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Last edited: 7 August 2019      

Conventional cookstoves require significant economic investment to operate. This not only includes the direct costs if fuel is purchased, but also more intangible time costs if fuel needs to be gathered—a difficult responsibility often left to women and girls.

The problem

Conventional cookstoves require fuel which must either gathered or purchase or gathered. Strict gender roles leave women and girls burdened with the former, which can put them at risk of being attacked outside the safety of their home area and prevents them from participating in other activities, such as education or income generation. The latter, if it is even an option, leaves families with fewer resources to be spent on food and other essential items.

Lack of time for income generation

For families without access to abundant and inexpensive cooking fuel, gathering biomass fuel such as wood, dried plants, and even animal droppings, is frequently seen as the only available option to acquire the fuel necessary to cook meals. This task is more often than not left to women and girls. This responsibility can take hours to complete and as such, leaves women and girls with little or no time to participate in other activities, including ones which would allow them to generate income to support themselves and their families.

Lack of time for education

When girls are saddled with the burden of gathering fuel to cook their families’ meals, they are prevented from one of the most important parts of childhood—education. By needing to spend their days gathering fuel, they are left out of the classroom. The effects of this are compounded as these girls grow up as a lack of access to education has been shown repeatedly to detrimentally affect an individual’s future personal and professional opportunities.

Cost of fuel

Food versus charcoal

In Nairobi, Kenya each group of food items shown here costs the same as the quantity of charcoal shown in the center.

Although the task of gathering fuel presents its own economic challenges, purchasing fuel carries more direct economic implications for families. Purchasing fuel can limit the economic resources available for other necessities—including the food to be cooked with the fuel.

A solution

Solar ovens do not require their fuel to be purchased or gathered and as such, provide several economic benefits to users:

  1. Income generation: By not needing to tend to cooking fires, women and girls have the opportunity to pursue income generating activities, including selling solar-cooked food!
  2. Education: As solar ovens require only energy from the sun for power, girls do not need to spend time gathering fuel, giving them time to pursue their education.
  3. Reduces costs: By reducing or eliminating a family’s need to purchase cooking fuel, solar ovens provide families with the ability to allocate resources that would have otherwise been used to purchase cooking fuel.

See also

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