Last edited: 15 August 2016
The Solar Cooker Project (suspended in September 2015 and confirmed in summer of 2016 that it is unlikely that the project will be revived), a refugee relief project of Jewish World Watch, is committed to protecting refugee women and girls from rape and other forms of violence. Women and girls who have fled the genocide in Darfur, Sudan are particularly vulnerable while performing the critical task of collecting firewood for cooking. The Solar Cooker Project of Jewish World Watch reduces the frequency of these heinous crimes by providing women in refugee camps with an alternative cooking option: the solar cooker.
Over 288,000 Darfur refugees live in 12 camps on the Chad side of the border with Sudan. Camps have an average of 20,000 people, mostly women and children. The camp is located in an arid area nearly devoid of vegetation, but with abundant sun. Basic food supplies are provided by the United Nation's World Food Programme. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides some firewood, typically enough for a week. For additional fuel, refugee women must venture outside the camp to collect firewood for cooking. To do the latter means risking rape and other egregious forms of violence by militias and local Chadians.
The program contains an economic development piece, with refugees earning income by making a simple solar cooker, called the CooKit, at workshops in the camps. Made from cardboard and aluminum foil, the hand-assembled CooKit lasts 6-9 months with regular use despite the windy conditions. Each CooKit cooks tasty nutritious meals with a few hours of free, renewable sunshine and saves one ton of fuelwood each year. Refugee women are also paid to train others in solar cooking. After a day of instruction by a trainer on how to use and care for CooKits, refugee families receive two CooKits, one to cook the staple grain and one for the accompanying vegetable or sauce. Larger families receive additional CooKits that provide additional cooking capacity.
The project started in 2005 through a partnership between Solar Cookers International (SCI) and KoZon Foundation, both with extensive experience in disseminating solar cookers in refugee camps on the African continent. The project enables refugee families to solar cook, save money and reduce the risks associated with venturing out of the camp. Solar cookers provide a sustainable solution to meet the urgent need for cooking energy alternatives for Darfur refugee families. Jewish World Watch adopted the Iridimi Refugee Camp in May 2006 and became the North American fundraising arm for the project in March 2007.
Jewish World Watch is a project of a coalition of synagogues working together to mobilize synagogues, their schools, their members and the community to combat genocide and other egregious violations of human rights around the world. It is the mission of Jewish World Watch to:
- Develop educational programs to educate the target constituencies;
- Activate constituencies to generate response from the United Nations and US policy makers; and
- Realize resources to provide assistance to the survivors and victims of genocide and egregious violations of human rights
The benefits of solar cooking for the refugees in these camps:
- Solar cooking can reduce the need for frequent firewood collection 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.
- There is no smoke, so there are reduced respiratory illnesses and eye infections.
- The production of the solar cookers provides income generation opportunities for female refugees.
[The original text for this page was borrowed from www.solarcookerproject.org in February 2007. Updates have been added since that time.].
- August 2016: Excerpt from letter to friends of JWW and the Solar Cooker Project - "We want to thank you for your support over the years. As a direct result of your support, we have served hundreds of thousands of Dafuri refugees who are genocide survivors... Last year, we told you that we had no choice but to suspend our Solar Cooker Project due to the critical food shortages in the refugee camps... in light of the current situation, it is unlikely that our Solar Cooker Project will be revived. However, the Darfur genocide, now in its 13th year, continues; and we continue to provide other services, programs, and advocacy to do all we can..."
- September 2015: JWW temporarily suspends Solar Cooking Project in Chad - Solar Cookers International (SCI) learned this week that Jewish World Watch (JWW) made the decision to temporarily suspend its well-known Solar Cooker Project. Read more...
- August, 2014: Update on Solar Cooker Project - Jewish World Watch published their Summer 2014 Solar Cooker Project newsletter. It offers background information on their refugee camp projects, highlights of the latest developments, and how to support it moving forward. Jewish World Watch reports that it has distributed approximately 128,000 CooKits with participation rates of 75% to 100% in the camps where they have worked: Kounoungou, Mile, Oure Cassoni, Touloum, and Iridimi. Dangerous trips to gather firewood outside the camp have been reduced by 85%, and refugee girls' school attendance has increased. JWW also plans to provide an additional cooking pot for 10,000 families. More info...
- Solar cookers preparing food for 130,000 people daily at the refugee camps in Chad - Derk Rijks, a volunteer with the KoZon Foundation, recently responded to Jewish World Watch with this note of appreciation. "Last week I was at the Touloum Refugee Camp. The chief of the workshop, Fatimé, told me there were new arrivals. We walked over to the last of the dunes and there was one woman who had just walked in with four kids, sitting in the sand. Her village was bombed one week ago, and she had fled to escape the Janjaweed, walking for seven nights. Fatimé looked at me, I nodded, 'yes', and in the next few hours she had her cooker and started her solar cooker training, even before she had a shelter. No words needed, no paper needed. That is the way your contribution works." He also explains that in the six camps where they work in Chad, and in the villages of the population around the camps about 29,000 families now do solar cooking, and about 130,000 people are eating solar cooked meals. In this part of the world solar cooking works about 300 days a year. From the empty bags of the food shipped in by the World Food Programme, and the snippets of aluminum foil and cardboard left over from the manufacture of the cookers, the refugees make "thermos baskets" to keep the food, cooked between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., warm until the evening meal at 5 p.m. or 8 p.m. They do not have to search for wood so much any more and there are far fewer conflicts for that reason. As one of the elected representatives of the women refugees said: "Solar cooking brings us justice and peace".
- December 2012: Jewish World Watch, originator of the Solar Cooker Project for Sudanese refugees, reviews their current programs at several of the refugee camps in Chad – As a result of a joint security force between Chad and Sudan, violence against women has declined some since the project began seven years ago. Cord, their partner at the Farchana refugee camp, sees solar cooking as a way to keep girls in school, and not spending hours finding fuelwood for cooking. For others, the project has meant help for the environment and the air quality conditions for women previously using open fires. When the Jewish World Watch contingent first visited the camps many years ago, the refugees had just arrived and the encampment was meant to be temporary. The hope and expectation was that within a few months or a couple of years at most; they would return to their homes. But now, seven years later, it is clear that returning to Darfur is not a reality and the camps are turning into permanent settlements. As a result, the programs for the refugees must begin to move away from survival resources and begin to address ways of achieving self-sufficiency and permanence. In other words, helping to create a life, not an existence. Future larger scale solutions will be needed to address and benefit the surrounding communities, as well as the refugee camps, to help with the integration of the Sudanese residents. Read more...
- January 2011: Jewish World Watch co-founder Janice Kaminer-Reznik is being honored by the city of Los Angeles for her leadership in the fight against international human rights abuses, including her role in a solar cooker project benefitting Darfur refugees living in Chad. The city council has adopted a resolution (Media:11-0059 RESO 1-12-11.pdf) proclaiming Friday, January 28 as as “Janice Kaminer-Reznik Day.” More information...
- December 2010: Offsets for Darfur: is an initiative designed by SENSE Foundation to target both environmental issues and support the Solar Cooker Project - an ingenious solar delivery and training program for Sudanese refugees in Chad based camps delivered and facilitated by Solar Cooker International, Kozon and Jewish World Watch. The benefits of "Offsets for Darfur" are twofold with both environmental and humanitarian aid aspects including the mitigation of: • carbon output in Chad refugee camps, • health issues related to firewood cooking. • women's safety issues related to sourcing firewood outside of camp boundaries • and unemployment in refugee camps - the project offers training and employment opportunities within the camps. More Information on the program.
- August 2009: New Jersery Coalition Responds to the Crisis in Darfur is a group which is currently raising money to provide a solar cooker to each family in the Oure Cassoni Refugee Camp. It has been demonstrated that once the need for women to leave refugee camps is reduced, the amount of violence committed against women and girls falls by over 80%. For more information about this project, click here.
- October 2008 - January 11, 2009: Refuge(e) is a photography-based multimedia body of work that evolved from artist Barbara Grover’s 7-week visit to the Darfuri refugee camp, Iridimi, in 2007. Proceeds from photographic sales will benefit Jewish World Watch’ s advocacy, education and refugee relief projects. Sherry Frumkin Gallery, 3026 Airport Ave., Studio 21, Santa Monica, CA 90405. More information...
- November 2008: Rachel Andres of Jewish World Watch reports in a recent press interview that, "We have just started manufacturing and training women in our 3rd camp, the Oure Cassoni Refugee Camp, which houses 28,000 refugees." Read the full text of the interview with Rachel Andres.
- June 2008: Jewish World Watch would like to thank the Church of Latter Day Saints for their generous support of the Solar Cooker Project! JWW and Church officials met in late May to discuss the progress of the Solar Cooker Project and to receive a gift from the Church of $25,000!
- March 2008: Rachel Andres of Jewish World Watch was recognized with the Charles Bronfman Award of US$100,000 for her work with Jewish World Watch's Solar Cooker Project. The annual award created by Bronfman's two children, Ellen and Stephen, and their spouses, is given to a humanitarian worker younger than 50 whose efforts exemplify Jewish values. Andres, the first woman and the fourth person to be named, will receive the award May 5. The Solar Cooker Project has donated some 5,000 pieces of solar-powered cooking equipment to women who escaped Darfur and fled to refugee camps, where women commonly are raped as they venture away to collect firewood. Since project volunteers started distributing the cooking equipment last year in the Iridimi and Touloum refugee camps on Chad's border with Sudan, the risk to women has been reduced significantly, according to a news release announcing Andres as the award winner. - Jewish Telegraphic Agency
- December 2007: Jewish World Watch Year End Letter
- December 2007: Upon return from visiting the refugee camps in Chad, and participating in an evaluation of our Solar Cooker Project, Jewish World Watch representatives were asked to come to Geneva last week to present the Project to an international forum that included high level representatives from UN agencies. A full report will be forthcoming in our January newsletter, including the possibility of widespread expansion of the Project into other refugee camps in Chad.
- October 2007: Evaluation report on the Iridimi Refugee Camp project shows that trips outside the camp to gather firewood were reduced by 86%.
- February 2007: Jewish World Watch is now coordinating donations for people wishing to donate to provide solar cookers to the Darfur refugees in Chad.
Articles in the media
- February 2014: Surviving Genocide in Sudan and Congo - Tikkun Daily
- December 2012: Forward With Intention: Solar Cooker Project - Huffington Post
- December 2009: Bearing Witness to Tales of Terror - Jewish Journal
- February 2009: Simple Tool That Saves Women's Lives - Parade Magazine
- November 2008: LAist Interview: Rachel Andres of the Solar Cooker Project - LAist
- August 2008:Working to End Darfurian Genocide - Larchmont Chronicle
- May 2008: Rays of hope for Darfur refugees - Guardian Weekly (UK)
- April 2008: Challah For Hunger donates profits - UCLA Bruin
- March 2008: Darfur project cooks up first for Bronfman prize - Jewish Journal
- March 2008: The Simple Tool That Saves Women's Lives - Parade Magazine
- March 2008: Rabbi Harold Schulweis rallies help for the oppressed abroad - The Christian Science Monitor
- January 2008: A Drop Of Rain for Darfur’s Refugees - American Chronicle
- January 2008: Genocide and Cooking - Los Angeles Times
- December 2007: Hanukkah puts light on Darfur - Newsday
- August 2007: Durbin urges people to action on Darfur - Senator discusses what can be done by individuals - Journal Register
- July 2007: Narrated slideshow showing solar cooker construction and use at Iridimi refugee camp - The Christian Science Monitor
- A PBS Life and Times video showing how solar cookers are preventing rape in refugee camps in Darfur
- July 2007: Simple sun-cooker takes off as a way to help Darfuris (includes video) - The Christian Science Monitor
- April 2007: Solar cooker project aims to assist Darfur refugees - Poughkeepsie Journal
- April 2007: Artists for Peace Concert To Help Darfur Refugees - Norwalk Citizen
- March 2007: Hands-on help: Columbia Jewish Congregation gives solar cookers to Darfur refugee women - Washington Jewish Week
Audio and video
- July 2008: 14 years old, Shelby Layne became aware of the horrible treatment of women and young girls in Darfur. When Shelby joined Jewish World Watch, she found a way to raise money for the cause. - ABC Inc., KABC-TV/DT Los Angeles, CA
- 2008: Solar Cookers for Darfui Refugees - Time Magazine/CNN
- Spring 2008: The Women of Iridimi - A film by Barbara Grover
- February 2008: Tzivia Getzug: Battling Genocide One Cooker At a Time - KPCC FM
- November 2007: Jewish World Watch Helps Darfur Victims - Bridges TV
- November 2007:
- Farchana Refugee Camp
- Gaga Refugee Camp
- Iridimi refugee camp
- October 2007 evaluation report on the Iridimi Refugee Camp project
- Oure Cassoni Refugee Camp
- Refugee camps
- Touloum refugee camp
- Solar Cooker Project Fact Sheet
- Solar Cooker 2012 Newsletter
- Solar Cooker Best Practices Manual
- JWW Solar Cooking Project Facebook page
- United Nations World Food Programme
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Tel: +1 818-501-1836