Solar Cooking
SCI Association Logo.gif
Last edited: 29 June 2020      

Faustine Odaba, continuing her work to spread solar cooking, teaches a class in April 2016.

Faustine Odaba is the Director of Natural Resources and Waste Management Alliance (NAREWAMA). Earlier, Ms. Odaba was Head Trainer at the former Solar Cookers International East Africa Office. When Solar Cookers International (SCI) hired Faustine Odaba as a Field Assistant in 2000, she had already proven her mettle.

In the very early 1990s, Faustine was an active member and a leader of the Amagoro Housewives Group in the Busia District of western Kenya. The group soon met up with US Peace Corps volunteer Barbara Ross, who brought with her a wooden solar box cooker obtained from Trans World Radio (TWR).

The members of the group shared the cooker, and soon learned to be expert solar cooks. They quickly realized that one solar cooker was not enough and began searching for ways to acquire more, but were unable to afford the TWR cookers. When they heard of Solar Cookers International, they contacted them for information about making low cost solar box cookers from cardboard.

After receiving basic instructions from SCI, the group followed up with several more correspondences seeking additional tips, including how to test aluminized gift wrap, which was very easily available, as a substitute for aluminum foil. (Tip: heat a small sample of the gift wrap by conventional means or in an existing solar cooker. Many aluminized gift wraps will melt. Others will hold up fine in temperatures of 300° to 400°F (150° to 200°C).)

By 1992, Faustine and her colleagues were demonstrating solar cooking at fairs, agricultural shows, markets and even along roadsides. In 1993, Faustine explained to a reporter from the Kenya Times that, "after using it in our homes, we did not want to keep this information to ourselves.”

She also told the reporter that solar cookers work well for arrow root, sweet potatoes, githeri, and ugali from both cassava flour and from maize flour. The recipe she gave for ugali was "for every cup of unga, put two cups of cold water, stir it well, place it in the cooker and leave it for a while. After one and a half hours, it will be well cooked and hard. This cooker saves us time as well as having a smoke-free environment.” (Note: preferences for ugali’s texture apparently vary from region to region; not all people will necessarily enjoy Faustine’s ugali recipe.)

In 1994, Faustine and other members of the Amagoro Housewives attended the first Kenya-wide solar cooking conference. As the only seasoned Kenyan solar cooks in attendance, they were stars of the show, overwhelming the doubts of skeptics with their first-hand experience of solar cooking success.

When SCI launched the world's first solar cooking refugee camp field project in Kakuma Refugee Camp in 1995, Faustine was there, one of three volunteers who led the initial teaching program. Faustine was also a key volunteer when SCI launched its first project for settled communities in Zimbabwe in 1996.

Again, in 1997, Faustine was deeply involved with the launching of SCI’s project at the Aisha Refugee Camp in Ethiopia.

Faustine began service as Field Supervisor for the Nairobi East "SOLACOOK” solar cooking program. She also continued to help out with SCI’s field projects. In 1999, she distinguished herself again while on a working trip to Kakuma by helping to convince a depressed refugee to not commit suicide.

In 2010, Solar Cookers International inducted Faustine - as first non-American - into its Order of Excellence.

NAREWAMA continues to provide solar cooking training to communities throughout Kenya. In 2013, Ms. Odaba and traveled to Liberia at the request of Marylanders for Progress (Liberia) to introduce solar cooking to communities eager to learn about this technology.

Experience, commitment and great heart! SCI is indeed proud to have Faustine Odaba as a partner in East Africa. In 2012 and 2013, NAREWAMA partnered with SCI to provide quality solar cooking training to several communities in the Nairobi area.


Heat retention baskets made under the direction of Faustine Odaba, Photo credit: Faustine Odaba

  • February 2020: Faustine Odaba recently displayed some of her recent heat-retention cooking baskets, once again showing that useful, practical appliances can also be objects of visual delight.

Fireless cooker workshop held at the Armstrong Women Empowerment Centre in Rabuor under the direction of Faustine Odaba. Photo credit: John Amayo

Faustine Odaba demonstrates how a parabolic cooker works well with a fireless basket, at the Korando Educational Center in Kisumu, Kenya. Photo credit: Better Me Foundation

  • May 2017: Solar cookers and fireless cookers complement each other - Faustine Odaba shared her extensive solar cooking experience at the Korando Educational Center in Kisumu, Kenya. She uses two solar thermal technologies, working together, to cook efficiently for large groups. A parabolic cooker is good at bringing a large pot of food quickly up to cooking temperature, then the pot can be transferred to a fireless basket to continue cooking, while the parabolic cooker can begin heating further foods.

Kakuma refugee camp setting the pace in use of renewable energy

  • April 2017: On April 29, 2017, a solar cooking festival for 500 schoolchildren was held at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. The idea was originated by three of the participants at the 6th SCI World Conference 2017, put on in January by Solar Cookers International in Gujarat, India. Roger Haines, CEO of Haines Solar Cookers, Ritesh Raithatha, CEO of Simplified Technologies for Life, and Godfrey Mawira Kaburu, an engineer with the World Food Program in Nairobi. At the Gujarat conference, Godfrey presented the results of his study showing that in October, 2016, solar cooking was the second-most preferred method of cooking at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, even though very few solar cookers were available. To create an inexpensive, durable cooker for the festival, Roger collaborated with Sharon Clausson, designer of the Copenhagen Solar Cooker, to design a “Haines-Copenhagen” cooker using Roger’s metallized polyester (MPET) foam reflector, and a UV-resistant polycarbonate Haines Cooking Sleeve. The cookers were made in Kakuma by refugees from materials donated by Haines Solar Cookers, and should last 10 years with proper care. Ritesh’s company, Simplified Technologies for Life, has produced “Suryakumbh” solar cooking festivals for almost 120,000 participants in India, and holds the Guinness Record for the most people solar cooking at the same time: 7,438. Ritesh and his colleague, Vivek Kabra, provided expertise and leadership for the festival. Godfrey put together a team of experts, including Mwenda Wilkinson, who handled the logistical, financial, and personnel details. The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) generously donated the services of Raphael Nyabala and Wilson Kinyua and many others to recruit the children and provide facilities and transportation. Funding was provided by Haines Solar Cookers and the San Diego, California, Rotary Club. Additional support and resources came from Solar Household Energy (SHE), a Washington, DC solar cooking organization. Other partners included Eco-Mandate, which sells solar cookers in Chuka, Kenya, the Alliance for African Assistance, a San Diego-based refugee resettlement organization, and the Rotaract Club of the University of California, San Diego, which made 500 Water Pasteurization Indicators (WAPIs) for the Festival participants. Training was provided by Faustine “Mama Solar” Odaba, and her Nairobi NGO, NAREWAMA. Significantly, Ms. Odaba had been one of the trainers in 1995 when SCI first introduced solar cookers in Kakuma. Before the festival, 50 refugee women were trained to use the cookers, and they in turn trained the children. The festival took place at Hope Primary School in Kakuma Camp Four. During the festival, “Mama Solar” set up fifteen cookers and cooked a wide variety of food, including rice, vegetables chicken, eggs, cabbage, ugali, beans and cake. The children sat in neat rows as trainers handed out the cookers, cooking pots, food and water. Each child assembled their own cooker, and successfully cooked delicious noodles before an enthusiastic crowd of family members and relatives. The children were elated and proudly showed off their new cookers. Follow up studies are planned, and Roger Haines is working with a local entrepreneur to offer Haines-Copenhagen solar cookers for sale in Kakuma for a sustainable price of around $25 USD.

Faustine Odaba hosting a workshop in Lordariak, Kenya in November 2016. Photo credit: Bernhard Müller

  • November 2016: Faustine Odaba conducted a workshop about solar and heat-retention cooking cooking in Lordariak, Kajiado County, located between Nairobi and the Tanzanian border, for 132 participants.
  • October 2016: EcoZoom meets Mama Solar! - Ecozoom UK
  • February 2016: Steam collection in evacuated tube cooking: Faustine Odaba from NAREWAMA, describes the behavior of steam inside a tilted vacuum evacuated tube.
  • February 2015: "Mama Solar" celebrates 20 years of spreading solar cooking in East Africa - To mark 20 years of work to disseminate solar cooking in Africa, Faustine Odaba, Director of Natural Resources and Waste Management Alliance (NAREWAMA), traveled to Uganda for 10 days to give presentations on solar cookers, fireless cookers, and gasifiers. Esther Nattabi of Awamu Biomass Energy, Kampala assisted Faustine with the presentations.
  • October 2014:
1. On 4th October 2014, the Natural Resource and Waste management Alliance was invited to the launch of the Kenya Interfaith Network on Environmental Action(KINEA). The event that was held at Tangaza college in Nairobi and was attended by various universities, colleges, NGOs and different religion denominations, of which the guest of honour was Rt. Rev. Bishop Alfred Kipkoech Arap Rotich. The network engages in programs related to climate change and livelihood enhancement, which include faith-based institution promotion of tree growing, education for sustainable development(ESD), and sustainable agriculture and faith based wildlife conservation programs.
2. A training of Alliance of women in Coffee at the coffee plaza office in Nairobi on 25th September 2014. The women were trained in solar cooking, plastic waste recycling, and water testing. They learned of the need to be self-reliant and environmentally aware. The training was attended by 30 members.
3. At home in Nairobi, I spread the solar news when guests visited my home, and trained them in solar cooking, fireless cookers, and plastic bag recycling.
  • September 19, 2014: At her home in Nairobi, Faustine shared solar news with guests and trained them on solar cooking, fireless cookers, and plastic bags recycling.
  • September 2014: Faustine Odaba recently demonstrated solar cooking to interested Makerere University students and to employees of Awamu Biomass Energy Ltd. in Kampala, Uganda.
NAREWAMA logo, 9-24-14.jpg
  • August 2008: With support from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the long anticipated “training of trainers” water testing and solar pasteurization workshop was held in June at Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu, Kenya. Participants included 20 top staff members each from the Water Resources Management Authority (WRMA) and the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MPHS). Solar Cookers International (SCI) staff members Margaret Owino, Faustine Odaba, Elijah Achola, Dinah Chienjo, Simon Ogutu, John Amayo and Karyn Ellis were instrumental in the success of this workshop, as was John Rimberia from Embu. Microbiologist and SCI Board President Dr. Bob Metcalf led the workshop. Topics included a review of bacterial properties and growth, pasteurization principles, use of the bacterium Escherichia coli as a contamination indicator, properties of the Colilert® and Petrifilm™ tests for E. coli, and solar pasteurization using the CooKit solar cooker and SCI’s wax-based, reusable Water Pasteurization Indicator (WAPI).

Audio and video[]

  • June 2020: Faustine’s granddaughter Bakhitta, has published an excellent and professional video presenting a fireless basket cooker where she is also offering a recipe.


  • December 2014:

Fireless Cookers complement Solar Cookers

  • July 2014:

Müller, Odaba Water Boiling Test for solar cookers

  • September 2012:


Faustine Odaba an environmentalist popularly known as mama solar, uses solar energy she taps from the sun to make most of her meals. Published Sept. 2012


See also[]