Solar Cooking
Last edited: 15 February 2020      
SunFire Solution project photo, 4-16-13.jpg

Johannesburg-based NGO SunFire Solutions has aggressively promoted integrated cooking in South Africa. SunFire Solutions has given considerable effort to its publicity campaign to raise the profile of integrated cooking by introducing solar cookers, retained heat cookers and fuel-efficient woodstoves across southern Africa.


  • NEW:  12-14 July 2023 (A Coruña, Spain): CONSOLFOOD2023 - Organizers have released a first call for abstracts to participate in the Fifth International Conference, taking place in Spain in 2023 as an in-person conference. The deadline for submission is 15 December 2022. More submittal information...
See also: Global Calendar of Events and past events in South Africa

Most significant projects[]

Crosby Menzies demonstrates a parabolic solar cooker at a SunFire Solutions project in southern Africa.


The Patio Solar Oven from SunGenius Photo credit: SunGenius

  • October 2019: SunGenius has begun sales of their new hybrid solar box oven, the Patio Solar Oven. The cooker uses all-weather construction allowing the cooker to also be stored outside when not in use. It includes a metal stand with wheels, and incorporates an electrical heating element to supplement the solar thermal. More information...

Industrial design student, Unamandla Mjo, at the University of Johannesburg demonstrates her solar cooker design - Photo credit: Antonio Marin-Pacheco

  • September 2019: Celebrating spring at the University of Johannesburg - Second year students enrolled in the Department of Industrial Design were instructed to create their design for a solar cooker, and prepare a meal item to be sampled at a gathering held at the end of the assignment. More information...

A community-scaled solar box oven to serve as a bakery for the SOS Children's Village in Mamelodi, South Africa. Photo credit: Bongani Shilubane / ANA

  • October 2017: New solar bakery for orphanage - The SOS Children's Village in Mamelodi, South Africa, recently received a community-scaled solar box oven to serve as a bakery, funded by the Embassy of Switzerland. The new solar oven should meet their own needs as well as generate a surplus of baked goods to be sold, providing an income for the institution. On a good day it takes the bakery about 40 minutes to bake 80 loaves of bread. Read more...

Greenpop - Solar for Trees planting group. Photo by Jacques Smit

  • May 2014: (Platbos) Planting update - Greenpop - Solar for Trees is pleased to announce that they tallied up the numbers from their Reforest Fest in May, a two-weekend reforestation project, and they planted a whopping 10,002 trees. This means that to date they have planted over 40,000 trees in southern Africa — over 18,000 of which were in the Platbos Forest Reserve — making this one of the largest reforestation projects in South Africa! The group also sponsors research using parabolic solar cookers in Livingstone, Zambia, with a women's group called Solar Venture.

Crosby Menzies of SunFire Solutions, attends a solar cooking demonstration as part of the SunFire Stoves Project in South Africa.

  • November 2013: SunFire Solutions partners with Beyond Carbon to promote local solar cooking businesses. - SunFire Solutions and Beyond Carbon recognize that long-term solutions need to include local business communities with shared sustainability objectives. Their current SunFire Stoves Project joint venture is based in South Africa. The project's goal is to protect the area around Kruger National Park from deforestation through the implementation of solar cookers. Three hundred parabolic solar cookers were initially purchased for the project, and 213 have already gone into households as of this fall. With access to the solar cookers, more than 10 new locally owned enterprises have been created.

The Villager Sun Oven is donated to the Tertiary School in Business Administration (TSiBA) Eden campus in Karatara, South Africa.

  • April 2013: On the 26th of April, various local and international Rotary Club representatives will officially hand over a Villager Sun Oven solar oven to the Tertiary School in Business Administration (TSiBA) Eden campus in Karatara, South Africa. Dr. Dereck Wheeldon will talk about the benefits of solar energy — especially important for South Africa with high electricity costs and relatively abundant sunshine. Not only will the solar oven help TSiBA save the environment, but it will help save electricity costs for this unique not-for-profit tertiary education institution. Read more...
  • February 2013: The non-profit Sunstove has more than 15,000 solar cookers in use throughout southern Africa. With a new mold, they are already getting orders from Mozambique and Mauritius. A group of Canadians is working to bring SunStoves to Lesotho. This group works "Granny to Granny" allowing the local community to identify the most needy elderly ladies, most of whom are looking after their orphaned grandchildren.
  • January 2013: SunFire Solutions receives media attention for their work – Visit these links to learn more about SunFire Solution's latest projects: Cooking With the Sun South African firm aims to supply millions with solar cookers In June, SunFire Solutions visited Ghana to look at spreading Solar Cooker technologies further north, sure to be the first of many visits to West Africa. Recently they have started receiving particularly strong interest from Zimbabwe — their deteriorating political situation leads to a deteriorating environmental situation. Read more of their update at SunFire Solutions Fall 2012.
  • November 2010: The photos are in! As part of a project titled "eARTh BIG Pictures - Climate Art Visible from Space," the Canary Project and local Cape Town citizens created an enormous solar sun out of 70 parabolic solar cookers with the “rays” being on-the-ground tables where the local community will feast on traditional food made in the solar cookers. The solar cookers will be donated to the Khayelitsha community of Cape Town where many people do not have access to electricity. Each cooker lasts for 10 years and requires no fossil fuels, saving money for families while also protecting their health and the environment.
  • November 2010:

    Predicted satellite view of the Cape Town, South Africa solar cooking gathering November 27th, 2010.

    Cooking your food with the sun in South Africa, November 27th, 2010 Imagine if you used the sun to cook your food instead of using electricity or gas? Well, in the sunny, balmy climate of Cape Town, South Africa they are doing just that! On 27 November 2010, 1,000 people will sit down for a meal together that will be cooked exclusively with solar cookers. But before the community sits down to feast they will engage in an intergalactic photo shoot. They will create the above image out of the solar cookers and will have a 59-second window where the design will be photographed from a passing satellite. People all over the world are joining this event in South Africa by donating USD 150 to buy a large solar cooker for this event and as a permanent solution to carbon reduction in the Khayelitsha neighborhood of Cape Town. More information...
  • July 2010: Solar Cookers for Africa: Solar Caravan 2010 - SunFire is an NGO in South Africa that has partnered with Solar Cookers for Africa to create the Caravan as a way to reach the portions of the population that live in areas typically difficult to reach. It will be a convoy of knowledge, experience, and partnerships in the area of sustainable household and community technologies and practices. The Caravan will start in Mozambique, to eventually cover most of southern Africa. Far from relying on the knowledge and resources of a few, the Caravan will link experts, product suppliers, communities, and funders. Starting in August 2010, a core team of four people from three countries will start travelling from Johannesburg, South Africa, towards Beira, Mozambique. In each community the Caravan visits, its members will be presented with a flexible curriculum of applied introductory workshops and demonstrations about the core topics and technologies. One fixed workshop module concerns clean energy; another food security, waste management, and nutrition. To learn more, see how your experience may be of value, and offer financial support, see: Solar Cookers for Africa: Solar Caravan 2010
  • July 2010: Five Rotary-based organizations have joined forces to introduce solar cooking principles in South African townships, helping to alleviate poverty and improve health. The project will bring solar cooking to townships in Cape Town and 500 miles to the east, in Grahamstown. The Rotary Club of Fresno, in California, has been promoting solar cooker technology, using designs that are easy and cheap to make, produce no carbon emissions, avoid firewood collection and burning, and are healthier to use than conventional cooking and water-sanitizing methods. Wendi Hammond and Patti Thornton from the Rotary Club of Fresno, California, both expert trainers in solar cooking, have travelled to South Africa this past spring as volunteer trainers for the Sustainability Trust-sponsored solar cooking project. More Information...

SunFire Solutions at the World Cup

  • September 2008: Solar Cookers in Soweto - Project seeking investors. Solar cookers are being installed by Credible Carbon in a home for the elderly near to Soweto in Johannesburg. You can help to bring more affordable cooking to the pensioners, cutting carbon emissions by reducing their consumption of coal-fired grid electricity. The Soweto Solar Cooker project involves the installation of 18 solar cookers at the Mapetla home for the elderly, home to many women belonging to the SOWETO ANC women's veterans league, which has been an influential body throughout the history of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. More information.

SunFire 14 solar cookers are reducing firewood dependence and improving lives in Masihambisane

  • November 2007: SunFire Solutions, a solar cooker promotion and development agency based in Johannesburg, teamed up with Umgungundlovu District Municipality in June 2006 to install 20 of its SunFire 14 parabolic solar cookers in Masihambisane as part of an off-grid electrification pilot project. Masihambisane is a small village situated in a Tribal Authority area 80 km north of Pietermaritzburg, beyond the sugar cane plantations. The community was selected because of its remoteness and suitability for off-grid electrification. According to SunFire representative Crosby Menzies, the response was amazing. “A marked and definite improvement in living standards was immediately noticed,” he said. “The overall … response from families included in this project was a unanimous vote of confidence, and thanks for the opportunity to use solar cookers.” In December 2006 SunFire returned to install 60 more solar cookers. A visit in early 2007 confirmed the cookers’ usefulness to the community and provided opportunities for the new solar cooks to get additional training and have questions answered. One woman cooked her family’s entire Christmas meal on her new SunFire 14 and was very proud of not needing to light a fire on Christmas day, as this meant not needing to wash the smell of smoke from her family’s clothes. Early adopters of the solar cookers were predominantly from the younger generation, ages 14-24. Since they do much of the firewood collecting, they immediately recognized the benefits of cookers powered only by the sun. SunFire hopes this project will lead to further support from the South African government, as is the case in a few other countries like India and China. SunFire produces parabolic solar cookers in Johannesburg, and has recently founded a non-governmental organization called Solar Cookers for Africa to help poor African families throughout southern Africa gain access to solar cooker technology.


The unique situation of South Africa has played a major role in its development. In the apartheid era, relatively little development assistance from outside agencies was received. With the birth of an African-led government and the leadership of Nelson Mandela, considerable effort has been made by donors to assist the nation, which has experienced a relatively high GDP per capita (for Africa) and solid growth. In the latter years, a number of efforts to introduce solar cooking have taken place in the country, including a large and well-funded collaboration with the government of Germany.

South African collaboration with GTZ

A program in South Africa involving a collaboration between the nation's Ministry of Minerals and Energy and the German technical cooperation agency (GTZ) was one of the first large-scale attempts to introduce solar cooking within the country. It was implemented in 1999. The understanding was that it would be a thoroughly planned project, enjoying substantial financial support to "do it right." The initial report prepared was Moving Ahead with Solar Cookers. A panel of European solar cooking experts was convened to examine a wide range of available cooking devices. After careful testing, six devices were chosen on the basis of cooking performance, durability, and potential cost. With the devices chosen, the next step in the project, Phase One, was a yearlong market study, evaluating the preferences of selected households in three sites in the project area of northwest South Africa. Devices were rotated at two-month intervals, and the sample population was surveyed repeatedly on each, evaluating convenience, durability, fuel saved, time spent, and other uses of saved time. A team of three social scientists conducted this carefully conceptualized and meticulously carried out study over a period of one year.

In Social Acceptance of Solar Stoves in South Africa , the project describes that evaluation process and results. One hundred families were in the sample with 30 others serving as a control group. The topics evaluated included end user acceptance, impacts on household fuel consumption and expenditure, planned purchase of stoves, and affordability issues. The study provided important lessons, including the promise of solar energy demonstrated by high usage, the importance of options in solar devices (no one size fits all), and the link between high use and payback time.

With the information gathered in Phase One, the project was prepared to go into full swing. Phase Two involved a large-scale venture with manufacturing firms that would produce the cookers selected by consumer panels. Next came the commercial campaign to sell cookers (Phase Three), initially in the study area, but with a plan to cover more of South Africa over time. Arrangements were in process for households to be able to finance cooking devices. Extensive advertising campaigns were to be mounted in multiple media, newspapers, radio, TV, etc. Commercial outlets were secured in existing appliance and department stores to make purchasing a cooker convenient.

In 2014, Crosby Menzies, who worked with the implementation phase of the program, reported at the SCInet Solar Cooking Convention 2014 that though well intended, there was a disconnect with the potential users of the new technology, and much of the program resources did not provide benefits. He chose to continue his efforts at solar cooking introduction on a smaller and more personal platform; a summary of his experiences with the program can be viewed at: The most well-funded solar cooker program in the world: Lessons learned from GTZ

Individual efforts

The work of Anna Pearce is prominent in South Africa, since she lived in that country for many years. An organization called Women For Peace/Wonderbox seems to have multiple goals. Its members have taught many others to cook and to use the Wonderbag, a commercially made hay box, as well as solar cookers.

A University of Natal community resources worker, Ms. Marianne Green, taught women to use solar cookers for a number of years in the southeastern section of the country. She and her colleagues first conducted a survey on local perceptions of need, finding that collection of fuelwood was the biggest problem for women, resulting in exhaustion and lost time. To assist with that problem, a solar cooking program was devised, training women in solar cooking use, and teaching them how to build inexpensive ovens themselves.

A description with considerable detail on this work was presented at the Kimberly world conference in 2000. Their study allowed them to arrive at a number of conclusions. Solar cooking is clearly feasible in this part of South Africa and could ease the burden of fuel collection for women. However, attention must be paid to gender issues, aimed at reducing the substantial inequities. The report ends with a description of their plan to proceed, including local hosting committees, microfinance or revolving credit schemes, and development of income-generating activities utilizing solar ovens.

An individual living in KwaZula, Natal, Richard Pocock, was also a promoter in his area of South Africa. He has invented a variant on the panel cooker, made of a cardboard box folded to a pentagon shape. Like other panel cookers, the black pot was enclosed in a heat shield of plastic.

SunStove Organization

The SunStove Organization, allied to the international organization of that name, has had a strong presence in South Africa as of 2018, complete with manufacturing capability and local staff. Their stove was one of those selected for the GTZ project (see above) and has been widely promoted in South Africa.

Tiger Kloof

In the community of Vryburg, a school hosts the Tiger Kloof Training Center that has focused on teaching students and members of the community about solar cooking. The operation began in 2000, initially working with the school's students, then adding work in the local community. They developed a collaborative relationship with the Palmer Group, a South African consulting firm concerned with solar cooking, and served as local staff backup on the GTZ project (see above). Tiger Kloof had a larger goal: to establish a formal instructional system for food caterers, a project which earns income for the school and meets a need for employment training. Along with formal teaching, the operation's commitment is demonstrated by the fact that all of the buildings in the school and the catering training center are solar powered.

Archived articles

Climate and culture[]

Solar Cookers International has rated South Africa as the #6 country in the world in terms of solar cooking potential (See: The 25 countries with the most solar cooking potential.) The estimated number of people in South Africa with fuel scarcity but ample sun in 2020 is 11,000,000.

Cooking conditions in rural Maphephethe in 2000[1]

See also


Possible funders[]

Facebook groups[]


Project evaluations[]


Articles in the media[]

Audio and video[]

  • January 2017: 

Calitzdorp Solar Cooker Introduction-0

A short film showing the advantages of using Elnatan Calitzdorp Solar Cookers for everyday use. Please visit for more information.

  • July 2014:

Menzies The most well funded solar cooker program in the world lessons learned from GTZ

  • November 2012:
  • January 2011:
  • September 2010:


The entities listed below are either based in South Africa, or have established solar cooking projects there:

SCI Associates[]


Manufacturers and vendors[]


Government agencies[]

Educational institutions[]

See also[]