Last edited: 30 June 2017
By 2005, the Iridimi Refugee Camp housed over 18,000 refugees who had fled the Darfur region of Sudan. At that time, it was equipped with 14,000 solar cookers. A solar cooker production workshop was completed in early 2006, allowing refugee women to earn income assembling the cookers and conducting trainings.
Solar cooking was introduced to Darfur refugees living in the Iridimi Refugee Camp in Chad by Dr. Derk Rijks of the KoZon Foundation. Jewish World Watch’s Solar Cooker Project adopted this endeavor in 2006, and expanded it to provide solar cookers and training to other refugee camps. Replacement cookers were provided as necessary for the families.
The area is devoid of vegetation; there is abundant sun and very little rainfall—between 3” and 5” (7.5 - 12.5 cm) yearly. The main food currently distributed in Iridimi is maize meal, a food the refugees commonly eat. It is sometimes accompanied by a maize-soya-meal mixture, if available. The pulse plants most frequently distributed are yellow and red lentils, white and red beans, and sometimes pigeon peas, which require cooking for about three hours, depending on the clarity of the sky. The heat from solar cookers is slow and gentle, so while the food stays longer in the pot, it doesn’t stick to the walls or need to be regularly stirred, which is an advantage over the potential to burn food with fire. Women can do other things while the food is cooking, without worrying about stirring. Additionally, there isn’t the lingering smell of smoke as there is with a fire—like women everywhere. Solar cookers are also able to be used to pasteurize drinking water, reducing incidence of water-borne diseases especially in children.
The Solar Cooker Project’s partners included Solar Cookers International, which provided technical assistance, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which managed the camps and coordinated NGO activities, and Tchad Solaire ("Solar Chad"), the NGO that ran the project on the ground in Chad.
Organizations providing financial support for this project have included: Netherlands Refugee Foundation, Jewish World Watch, as the North American Coordinator of the Project, the Darfur Assistance Project, the Dora Levit Family Fund, and the Hesed Fund.
While details are scarce, Derk Rijks, a longtime participant in solar cooking projects in refugee camps, reported in 2017 that there is still an ongoing solar cooking project in this camp.
- June 2017: Derk Rijks, a longtime participant in solar cooking projects in refugee camps, reports that there is an ongoing solar cooking project in this camp.
- September 2015: This project, begun in 2006, protected Darfuri women and girls survivors of the Darfur genocide living as refugees at Iridimi camp in Eastern Chad ̶by reducing their dangerous trips outside of the camp in search of firewood for cooking. Over the years, Jewish World Watch modified and adapted the program as the situation on the ground changed. SCI lauds Jewish Word Watch for operating the longest-running solar cooking refugee camp project in the world and for teaching refugees a new way of cooking that has the potential of preserving their safety and transforming their futures. Based on recent feedback from Iridimi refugee women, Jewish World Watch decided to turn its attention to increasing food rations and developing new strategies to keep women and girls safe from sexual violence, which is the focus of the JWW mission. “I cannot say enough to praise the work of Jewish World Watch in caring for people whose needs are so great and for their part in the global movement to adopt solar thermal energy for cooking,” said Julie Greene, SCI executive director. “Their work with Kozon at Iridimi to promote solar cooking will impact generations to come as women continue to embrace solutions to the dilemma of spending limited funds on food or fuel
- July 2011: A Goedhart Film production, TAHA CHAMCHIHA Solar Cooking in the Sahel, documents daily life for the Sudanese refugees living in camps in bordering Chad. Tchad Solaire has trained over 12,000 women in the use of simple solar panel cookers. These CooKits have provided the women additional free time normally spent searching for scarce firewood. Within each camp there is a workshop center where cookers are made for distribution to the other residents. Though the cookers are somewhat fragile, the women have appreciated being involved with the process of making the simple CooKits. The film also shows how the companion Guffah heat-retention cooker baskets are being assembled to use with the panel cookers to keep the food piping hot for dinner served in the early evening.
The Benefits of Solar Cooking
- Solar cooking helps reduce the need for frequent firewood collection outside the relative safety of the camp, reducing the risk of violence towards women and girls.
- Two solar cookers can save one ton of wood each year.
- There is no need to tend a fire so women are free to do other tasks while food is cooking.
- The production of the solar cookers provides income-generating opportunities for female refugees.
- Solar cooking, as part of the Integrated Cooking Method, reduces the amount of wood necessary for cooking, helping to alleviate tensions between the refugees and locals, whose already slim wood supply was suddenly impacted by thousands of refugees.
Help provide more refugee camps with solar cookers by raising awareness and advocating for solar thermal cooking technologies that help families break the cycle of energy poverty.
Articles in the Media
- February 2014: Surviving Genocide in Sudan and Congo - Tikkun Daily
- October 2007: Evaluation report on the Iridimi Refugee Camp project shows that trips outside the camp to gather firewood were reduced by 86%.
Audio and video
- April 2009:
- October 2007
- February 2009: Simple Tool That Saves Women's Lives - Parade Magazine
- June 2008: Radio Netherlands broadcasts a report on the work of Marie-Rose Neloum working with refugees in Chad (Report)
- May 2008: Rays of hope for Darfur refugees - Guardian Weekly (UK)
- March 2008: Darfur project cooks up first for Bronfman prize - Jewish Journal
- October 2007: Evaluation report on the Iridimi Refugee Camp project
- High-resolution satellite photo of the Iridimi Refugee Camp
- See Jewish World Watch.