Solar Cooking
Last edited: 30 May 2022      

May 2017 - Kakuma refugee camp setting the pace in use of renewable energy

"Kakuma refugee camp could be setting the pace to encouraging the use of clean renewable energy not only in Kenya but the whole continent. This is after they were introduced Solar cookers that depend on sun in cooking. In the recent years, the importance of shifting to clean renewable energy has been dominating both International and Local News. NTVs Sharon Barang'a was in Kakuma and now reports how the initiative is expected to cut reliance on firewood and charcoal by half therefore honouring the principles of Geneva conventions."

Solar Cookers International’s first and largest refugee project began in January 1995 in the Kakuma Refugee Camp located in Kenya. At the time, the camp provided a safe haven for 28,000 refugees, primarily from Sudan and Somalia. The camp also housed refugees from Ethiopia, the DRC, Burundi, Eritrea, Rwanda and Uganda. Kakuma had considerable refugee turnover, but by 2004, when Solar Cookers International (SCI) concluded the project, the camp had tripled in size to nearly 90,000 refugees. Though rapid growth posed problems for assisting all those who wanted to solar cook, SCI ultimately served over 15,000 families. Beginning in 2016, new efforts have been made to bring solar cooking back to Kakuma.

Most significant solar cooking projects[]

Refugees from Sudan are trained by Solar Cookers International in the use of their new CooKit solar cookers.

  • A refugee camp in Kenya was the first to receive a large scale solar cooking project - The Kakuma refugee camp was formed in 1972 when Sudanese refugees first arrived in Kakuma, Kenya. Introducing solar cooking to the camp was Solar Cookers International’s first and largest refugee project, beginning in January 1995. Kakuma had considerable refugee turnover, but by 2004, when Solar Cookers International (SCI) concluded the project, the camp had tripled in size to nearly 90,000 refugees. Though rapid growth posed problems for assisting all those who wanted to solar cook, SCI ultimately served over 15,000 families. The program also extended solar cooker technology to schools, especially primary school, through demonstrations, poems, songs and drama.


The Solar Education Project reports that Grace Chepkemei shared her skill and knowledge about solar cooking and heat-retention basket cooking, Photo credit: Solar Education Project

Heat-retention cooking baskets were constructed at the workshop.Photo credit: Solar Education Project

  • NEW: May 2022: Solar and heat retention cooking workshop - The Solar Education Project reports that Grace Chepkemei shared her skill and knowledge about solar cooking and heat-retention basket cooking at a workshop at the Kakuma Refugee Camp. These skills demonstrate how the Integrated Cooking Method will benefit the trainees and community.
  • 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.
  • November 2020: SCI shares successes at the ReEnergy Africa E-Summit - SCI's Executive Director Caitlyn Hughes discusses the impact of solar cooking around the world and shared success stories from Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. Watch video

Refugee women with a Heliac Solar Cooker

  • June 2019: Solar Cookers International has recently brought life-saving solar cooking to more than 300 people in the Kakuma Refugee Camp. Before you stepped in, women were often forced to sell their precious food rations for cooking fuel, putting their children at risk of malnutrition. If they dared to journey outside of the camp to collect firewood, they risked violence.

Roger Haines meets with the Alliance for African Assistance to discuss distributing solar cookers in Uganda. - Photo credit: Roger Haines

  • October 2017: Dedicated solar cooking proponent visits Kenya and Uganda  - Roger Haines, CEO of Haines Solar Cookers, spent most of the first half of 2017 by attending and networking at the 6th SCI World Conference 2017 in India, and then traveling throughout central Africa to promote various solar cooking projects. The seeds for the Kakuma festival began at the conference. See more about the festival in April news below. Next he met with solar cooker entrepreneurs Camily Wedende, Dinah Chienjo, and John Amayo in Nairobi, Kenya, and then toured the situation in Uganda. He met with the Alliance for African Assistance in Gulu to find ways to distribute subsidized Haines Solar Cookers. At the end of April he was back in Kenya at the Kakuma Refugee Camp to help with the planned festival. Faustine Odaba was on hand to help the student participants use their new solar cookers to best effect. Read in more detail about Roger's trip at: Roger Haines trips to India and Africa, 2017

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.
  • 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 in Kenya. The has been an enthusiastic response to thee workshops as participants prepare for the time when Kenya closes the camps.
  • September 2012: The Swedish Church and the aid agency Lutheran World Federation (LWF) are launching Solvatten in Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. The goal of the project is to reduce environmental degradation by enabling people to use alternative sources of energy in the camp and in the host community that surrounds it. 

Supply of firewood has been a problem in Kakuma region since the camp was set up in 1992 but it has escalated in the past two years, despite that the refugees are not allowed to harvest firewood directly from the bushes. This is attributed to the continuous massive influx of people into the camp leading to the environmental degradation through the harvesting of sticks from the available vegetation for firewood. Firewood has become very expensive and the UNHCR struggles to purchase and supply fuel to the growing population of refugees in the camp.


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