Solar Cooking
Last edited: 2 October 2023      

Les femmes réfugiées du Darfour cuisinent solaire

Video shows hundreds of CooKits in use at the Touloum Refugee Camp in Chad in 2010.


Solar Cooking Makes a Difference Refugee Camps

SCI Associate Bruce Knotts describes the impact solar cookers had in East African refugee camps in the 1990’s.

Most significant projects[]

  • The Solar Cooker Project helps to improve the lives of Darfur refugees living in Chad - More than 50,000 people in four Darfur refugee camps in Eastern Chad are using locally made solar CooKits designed by Solar Cookers International. The project is run by Tchad Solaire and by the British NGO CORD. It was funded by Jewish World Watch and the Kozon Foundation. The project has improved the safety and survival of the women in the refugee camps. Previously, they were faced with dangerous and arduous trips outside the camps to collect scarce firewood.
Vajra Foundation Nepal 2013 multiple

Bhutanese refugees demonstrating parabolic solar cookers in Nepal.

  • 85,000 refugees from Bhutan have solar cooked their meals in Nepal - The Vajra Foundation Holland (Stichting Vajra) has worked in the Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal since 1995 to bring solar cooking and heat-retention cooking to the refugees there. By 2013 some 85,000 refugees were cooking their meals using these methods. The on-the-ground work is done by Vajra Foundation Nepal and financing is provided by the Dutch Lottery and the Dutch NGO Stichting Vluchteling.


  • September 2023: ECOCA pilot stove program: - Mercy Corps in partnership with the Danish company Pesitho, has initiated a pilot program at the Bidibidi Refugee Camp in Uganda to make PV-powered ECOCA induction stoves available to residents of the camp. The program will provide a pay-as-you-cook method of payment for residents. As in other refugee camps, the women are usually the most vulnerable, having to go the edges of the camp and beyond to gather what little firewood is available for cooking. This leaves them open to possibly becoming victims of violence. The new stoves will help relieve that stress. When fully charged, the ECOCA has enough energy to cook three meals a day. The need for time-intensive firewood gathering disappears, as does the carcinogenic smoke and pollution produced by wood fires. Women have more time to attend community meetings, socialize with friends, care for their families, or invest in income-generating opportunities. Read more...
Palabek Refugee Camp - January 2020
  • May 2018: Derk Rijks reports: 4000 Darfuri women at Iridimi Refugee Camp in Chad have qualified for and received Carbon Credits from the UN Gold Standard Foundation. In principle, the credits from each period of two years should enable them to replace non-functional solar cookers in the next two years, and thus cook for only $1-2 USD per month. In collaboration with the American Meteorological Society (AMS), a study was done on the frequency and length of periods of sunshine in their area. The Annual results, in the zones where the camps exist, ran more than 300 to 320 days for two cookers, a.m. and p.m., plus an additional 10 to 20 days for one cooker per day. This study was published by the AMS in their monthly journal, one of the most important journals for publications in this subject area. We are seeking coordinates of other camps that qualify for Carbon Credits. We will help the other camps get carbon credits, but the initial financing must come from outside the camps. To share coordinates of refugee camps in or near Chad that may benefit from Carbon Credit funding, contact Derk Rijks, Agrometeorological Applications Associates. Contact:
  • September 2017: Webinar: Solar Cooking Sector Updates Refugee Working Group Call - SCI sponsored the refugee working group phone conversation on 21 September as part of the Sector Updates webinar. Godfrey Mawira submitted a summary of current projects in Kenya from the Eco-mandate Group. Eco-mandate efforts in Kenya - Godfrey Mawira
  • March 2017: Refugee crisis strains Lebanon’s deficient electricity network - “The study highlights the necessity of generating an additional 486 megawatts to cater to the electricity usage of displaced Syrians,” Abi Khalil said. “In terms of cost, this is equivalent to $333 million per year. According to Robert Sfairy, the senior Energy Consultant to the Energy and Water Ministry, this energy expenditure comes from two primary sources: direct and indirect usage.” […] “In the short term, Sfairy said, many of the reports solutions focus on what he called “demand side” initiatives designed to reduce the burden on the national grid. “These include utilizing energy saving bulbs, solar water heaters and solar cooking kits. These can be implemented in many households, especially in rural and vulnerable areas.”
  • February 2017: A Kenyan court ruling has blocked the government’s decision to close the Dadaab Refugee Camp in November 2017. Dadaab is the world’s largest refugee camp and home to more than 200,000 Somalians.
  • January 2017: Several important commitments grew from the 6th SCI World Conference 2017 for solar cooking in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons. After Solar Cookers International (SCI) led discussions with experts and those implementing solar cooker projects in Bhutan, Nepal, Chad, Uganda, and many other locations, several plans and commitments occurred: 1) SCI formed a refugee working group to strategize for more solar cooker project implementation in camps and informal settlements; 2) A new partnership formed, leveraging the skills of a crowdfunder with on-the-ground experience in refugee settlements in Uganda; 3) A strategy to educate humanitarian aid donors who choose solar cooking for camps; 4) A data-driven target for solar cooker interventions to decrease wood fuel use by 10% (data indicate that solar cookers can save 40-50% of the wood fuel supplied to camp residents).
  • January 2017: Solar Cooking KoZon reports: A very prominent project right now is the Nakivale refugee camp. It is located in South West Uganda in the Isingiro district. Approx. 60,000 refugees from neighbouring countries live in the Nakivale camp and have lived there for many years. Our programme, in cooperation with other organisations, contributes to better living conditions. The project objectives have been set down in a Memorandum of Understanding and its formal launch was held on Thursday 22 September 2016. The kick-off took place in a celebratory mood in the presence of the district governor and the camp commander. This is a 12-month project, a period during which at least 1,000 Solar CooKits will be supplied. The refugees will thus have access to solar cooking tools. At the same time a group of about 20 people received training in the use and upkeep of CooKits, hay baskets, WAPIs and eco stoves. The "instructor" represent their village(s) and will in turn pass on their knowledge to others.
Training instructors Nakivale refugee settlement - September 2016

Training instructors at the Nakivale Refugee Settlement

  • September 2016: The Solar Connect Association (SCA) visited the Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Uganda where they met with the Assistant Camp Commander, Mr. Kintu Khalid. SCA instructors trained 20 people from different villages to be instructors themselves. The training dealt with solar CooKits, Water Pasteurization Indicators, Heat-retention cooking, improved combustion stoves, and the maintenance of same. Continued efforts at Nakivale, and also at the Oruchinga Refugee Settlement, will be the priority for SCA in 2017. At Nakivale, SCA is currently working with the Julu camp that has about 22,000 refugees. They have distributed 60 solar cookers and 14 improved combustion stoves. In the Oruknga Refugee Settlement, they have distributed 70 solar cooker cookers and 12 improved combustion stoves. SCA plans to sell 1000 solar cookers in the two settlements by end of August 2017. Solar Cooking KoZon has contributed additional funding to help with the projects at Nakivale and Orukhinga.
  • September 2016: The Solar Connect Association reports: "We had a staff meeting with the key players of manufacturing in Biharwe. We kicked off the project in the Oruchinga Refugee Settlement with the presence of the district governor, camp commander, and the project leader Mr. Buyinga Boaz. Additional information was handed over and demonstrations were made for many people. A local radio station broadcast an interview with one of our team members."
  • 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.

  • March 2016: Derk Rijks reports: The total number of refugee families served and awaiting has changed, increased at this moment to about 36,000 households, but obtaining donor money for the start-up until self-sufficiency is not easy. The villages around the camps are being served in the same manner as the refugees. May be able to give more details on all this by the end of this year.
Blazing Tube Burkina Faso refugee camp November 2015

Blazing Tube Solar Appliances in Burkina Faso refugee camps

  • November 2015: Blazing Tube Solar Appliances in Burkina Faso refugee camps - UNHCR delivered Blazing Tube Solar Appliances to 601 households (1 per household), ranging from two to eight family members each. Feedback from the families indicate that the cooker has reduced their need for firewood.
UNCHR supplied Blazing Tube solar cooker in Burkina Faso, 2-9-15

A refugee in Burkina Faso uses a Blazing Tube solar cooker supplied by UNCHR.

  • February 2015: A refugee woman in Burkina Faso cooks rice with a Blazing Tube solar cooker. The stove is assembled in the USA and costs around $100USD. Oliver Lompo, UNHCR Environment Officer in Burkina Faso explained the impact the stove has had. “Beforehand, refugee women had to walk several hours a day to collect firewood. Since we have a lot of sunshine, the stove allows them to cook without spending any more time on firewood collection. And, more importantly, it does not produce any smoke - people love it.” - UNCHR
Solar Cooking in the Sahel map, 1-19-15

Solar Cooking in the Sahel - NOWCAST

  • January 2015: Scholarly paper documents the available sunshine in the Sahel region of Africa - Authors, Beth Newton, Sophie Cowie, Derk Rijks, Jamie Banks, Helen Brindley, and John h. Marsham have published a well-documented analysis of the potential sunshine available for solar cooking in the Sahel region, particularly in northern Chad. This is where a number of Sudanese refugee camps are located. TchadSolaire has been training both refugees and the indigenous population to solar cook in the region since 2005. Even along river population centers where clouds tend to form, solar cooking is possible for over 330 days a year. Read more: Solar Cooking in the Sahel - NOWCAST
  • August 2014: Update on Jewish World Watch 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 Refugee Camp, Oure Cassoni, Touloum, and Iridimi. They also plan to provide an additional cooking pot for 10,000 families. More info...
  • October 2013: The Vajra Foundation reports that recently approximately one third of the Bhutanese refugees had left the camps and found new homes in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union. They have left their solar cookers behind, thus freeing these up to be made available to the Nepali families who live around the camps. Devi Maya Kadariya, a resident of the village of Garamani, reports that she and her neighbors had seen the profile of the solar cookers in the distance and they knew that the refugees were able to cook with the sun. She now considers herself lucky to have a solar cooker for herself. She says she saves a lot of wood and especially saves the time that she used to spend gathering wood, and she feels that her life is better now.
(See individual refugee camp pages below for more extensive news.)


  • There are more displaced people living in refugee camps and IDP camps than at any time in human history.
  • People who live in camps have limited access to most things they need for daily life, including energy for cooking and making water safe to drink. The local energy supply is often very limited. And there are rarely sufficient funds to buy energy.
  • Free solar energy gives people access to energy they need for cooking and water pasteurization. This is critical where the energy supply is diminished and fuel is expensive.
  • Solar cooking aligns with the United Nations High Commission on Refugee’s environmental policy. Solar cooking helps achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But solar cooking in refugee and IDP camps continues to be an exception.
  • Have we accurately defined the problem? Do people in refugee camps express a need for solar cooking?
  • Solar Cookers International invites its network members to help define the problem and ask the right questions. At the 6th SCI World Conference, January 2017, people with experience in refugee camps and settlements shared best practices, and identified complexities that need solving.

What refugees teach us[]

Refugee camps and IDP camps are places where individuals live collectively. There is no single description that applies to every camp resident. People gathered in camps endured different degrees of trauma, varied cultural and political backgrounds, and disparate education levels. Speaking of refugees collectively, as if every person living in a camp had the same circumstances, risks ignoring a wide variety of challenges. Considering each group as a collection of individuals with different needs is a more appropriate assessment strategy. And this applies to solar cooking implementation, too.

What kind of cooking tools do people living in refugee camps want? Project evaluations from camp projects spanning two decades reveal that people who live in circumstances not of their choosing will hold hard and fast to the few traditions that remain in their control - including traditional cooking behaviors.

Historically, camps have been selected for solar cooking projects based on factors like solar insolation, or ease of access by the NGO community. The same well-designed project can succeed in one camp yet fail in another. This is evidence that people, not the technology, can be the most critical factor predicting success in each solar cooking project.

Conference participants at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves Forum 2013 Cambodia, the 5th SCI World Conference 2014, the 2015 SCI Regional Conference in the USA, and ConSolFood 2016 in Portugal frequently shared anecdotal evidence that the greatest barrier to the spread of solar cooking is not technical, but behavioral. It is more difficult for people to learn new behaviors than to acquire a new device. And some people who have apparently successfully adopted a new technology and experienced its benefits have rejected the new technology as soon as an opportunity to return to traditional practices arises. This reveals a complex set of behaviors and responses that may be wholly unrelated to project design.

Historically, successful solar cooker projects in many settings have been driven by a passionate person who uses the technology and shows leadership that is accepted by the community. People artificially gathered into disparate communities in times of disruption still need an impassioned person whom the group perceives as a leader to ignite changes in behavior. That is particularly important for deep, culturally-embedded activities like cooking.

The world community has so many needs, and resources are scarce. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are well-conceived, inclusive, and comprehensive. But funding to accomplish the global goals has fallen short. That's true of the solar cooking sector, too: every solar cooker, every bit of funding, counts. Focusing resources first on the communities where people have a felt need for solar cooking, and local leadership for follow-through, makes the most sense and is the wisest use of resources.

Well-intentioned outsiders may identify solutions. But the community members – in this instance, the camp residents--have the right to identify and choose interventions that they value. Focusing our efforts on the felt needs of the community members may be the best strategy for assigning scarce resources where they will have the greatest impact.

Undertaking projects where people have demonstrated resistance to technologies and behavior change has a predictably high rate of failure and results in a waste of valuable resources for all involved. SCI strongly recommends that site selection begins first in communities where residents identify a felt need for solar cooking and demonstrate a basic capacity for behavior change.

Readers who have lived in or worked closely with people in refugee or IDP camps, are strongly encouraged to share their experience with Solar Cookers International at for the education of the international solar cooking network. Responses will be compiled and shared in the next SCI Digest.

Measures of success[]

Project and pilot evaluations for solar cooker projects in camps span more than two decades. A missing piece in the evaluations is the lack of an agreed-upon measure of success for such projects.

Some reports describe widespread use of solar cookers over a period of time, yet surprisingly conclude with a statement saying that solar cooking adoption was unsuccessful. Even within the solar cooking sector, there is a lack of agreement defining "adoption". Agreement of a baseline metric for adoption among the solar cooking sector is one of the first and most important steps to measure success. And establishing additional, clearly defined measures of success are critical.


Camp residents express a felt need that solar cooking is an appropriate alternative solution for their energy needs. This initial step is not optional: it is critical for success, creates the best possibilities for success, and is the best use of scarce sector resources.

It is generally accepted knowledge that the most important determinant of technology adoption is not only the technology, but the people and their attitudes. Someone who is committed to changing a cooking behavior will make the technology work; if a person is not committed to results that require a behavior change, even a high-priced and sophisticated technology will not result in adoption. Listening carefully to camp residents, learning about their priorities for fuel use, and clearly describing the honest lifestyle changes needed are important. Sector resources are scarce and must be allocated where the opportunity of success is greatest, not only where implementation is possible.

Selection of the best device for the context is also important. During a 26-month period that included two research phases, Working Group collaboration, and feedback from partners around the world, Solar Cookers International has developed a solar cooker Performance Evaluation Process (PEP) to assist with the selection of solar cookers. The PEP process was presented and demonstrated at the 6th SCI World Conference 2017 in Gujarat, India. The PEP tool will give an objective comparison of solar cooker performance by SCI Science Director, Dr. Alan Bigelow. PEP information will help individual householders, as well as agencies, implementing partners, government departments, and UNHCR to select the best technology for the local context.

Local leadership of solar cooking projects is ideally chosen by the residents of IDP and refugee camps, as are the trainers and the people who will lead follow-up and maintain the devices. Their roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. Residents who display a dedication to behavior change are ideally the first to participate in implementation.

All parties commit to a full-project cycle of three to five years, and should clearly define a phase-in strategy, as well as a phase-out strategy.

Further details of successful preparation and planning stages, distilled from twenty-four years of experience in camp implementation projects, was shared in a special session devoted to refugee and IDP camp implementation at the 6th SCI World Conference, India, led by then SCI executive director, Ms. Julie Greene.

Creating solutions together[]

Background. Many solar cooker projects have been implemented in refugee camps since the early 1990’s. Despite evidence of significant fuel wood savings, and significant improvement in project design based on lessons learned, solar cooker adoption to meet the human environmental goals established by the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) is still elusive. Why?

Goal. Distill best practices from twenty-four years of camp project implementation experience. Plan a course of action to increase solar cooker adoption in the refugee and IDP settings.

Process. The Refugee and IDP Camp discussion at the 6th SCI World Conference will begin with oral presentations and a panel. Participants will then gather at roundtable sessions to strategize and identify next-step actions with the goal to meet human needs and provide energy access to the increasing number of political and climate refugees worldwide.

Take a seat at the table. The following people/organizations are expected to make presentations and/ or contribute to the discussion: Vajra Foundation Nepal, The Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Rachel Andres, Pat McArdle, a former UNHCR employee, Solar Clutch, Green Refugees, BISS, World Food Programme, and Relief International. All solar cooker partners are invited to join as space allows. The discussion and goal-setting will be facilitated by Julie Greene, Executive Director of Solar Cookers International.

Outputs. Discussion leaders will guide action and response to the following questions:

  • What evidence of fuel savings and health impacts will UNHCR accept as valid from the solar cooking sector?
  • What evidence do we provide as a sector?
  • Which criteria does UNHCR consult when selecting clean cookstoves for camp implementation?
  • Which refugee/ IDP camp would be best to focus the efforts of the solar cooking sector in 2017 and beyond, based on residents’ expressed, felt need for solar cooking?
  • Identify implementing partners and commit to 3 – 5 year funding cycle for implementation.

History and analysis[]

Best Practices Manual[]

Jewish World Watch has created a manual that details what has been learned that will assure a successful refugee project: Solar Cooker Project: Best Practices Manual

Solar Cooker Project Best Practices Manual

Camps with current projects[]






Camps with past projects[]

Project evaluations[]

Main article: Project evaluations


Articles in the media[]

Audio and video[]

  • May 2022:

Help Support Solar Cooking in the Gaga Refugee Camp-2

  • January 2017: 

Patricia McArdle - The Sustainable Introduction of Solar Cooking in Refugee Camps


  • January 2017:
  • March 2015:

A more Durable Solar Cooker for Desert Refugee Camps

There is a great need for a more durable cooker for refugee use

  • January 2015:

How Solar Cookers Save Lives

The simple CooKit solar panel cooker has made a difference for the women living in Darfur refugee camps. - Jewish World Watch

  • June 2013:

Rujila's dream - Vajra Foundation

Solar cookers shown in use in Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal

  • March 2013:

TAHA CHAMCHIHA Cuisine Solaire au Sahel

Dans les camps Tchadiens de refugiés provenant de Darfur le NGO "tchad Solaire" a introduit le "solar cooker", sur lequel les refugiés peuvent cuisiner, evitant ainsi le deboisement et le danger d´etre ataqué en sortant du camp. Ces simples cuisines solaires sont produits par les refugiés eux memes, sur place.

  • June 2012:
  • July 2011:

TAHA CHAMCHIHA Solar Cooking in the Sahel-0

TAHA CHAMCHIHA Solar Cooking in the Sahel

  • July 2010:
  • May 2010:

Les femmes réfugiées du Darfour cuisinent solaire

VIdeo shows hundreds of in Africa s in use at the Touloum Refugee Camp in Chad.

  • April 2009:

See also[]

External links[]