From: IN%"[email protected]" "Industrial Design Forum" 3-JUN-1994
To: IN%"[email protected]" "Howard Lawrence"
Subj: Introducing Solar Ovens to Rural Kenya

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Date: Fri, 3 Jun 1994 17:53:00 EDT
From: [email protected]
Subject: Introducing Solar Ovens to Rural Kenya
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To: Howard Lawrence <[email protected]>
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* Introducing Solar Ovens to Rural Kenya *

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY Communications and Publications
Stanhope Hall
Princeton, New Jersey 08544-5264
TEL 609/258-3600 FAX 609/258-1301

Contact: Sally Freedman (609/258-5735)


Princeton, N.J.--For the past three years, Daniel Kammen,
Princeton University assistant professor of public and
international affairs, has been involved in a project to introduce
solar ovens to rural Kenyan communities.

"More than two billion people wordwide depend primarily on wood
for their energy needs," Kammen says. "Biomass burning leads to
deforestation and contributes up to 40 percent of global
greenhouse gas emissions. It's also firmly linked to acute
respiratory infection, which is the leading health hazard to women
and children in developing countries." Domestic cooking accounts
for 60 percent of wood-burning in developing nations and as much
as 90 percent in some areas, Kammen says, but simple, cheap
technology is available to reduce wood-burning for that purpose by
half -- or more.

"The solar oven," he says, "is remarkably simple, just an
insulated box with a glass top. It works by the green-house
effect: Light enters through the glass and is absorbed and
reflected by the foil-covered walls as infrared radiation (in
other words, heat); the glass blocks the infrared, so the heat
stays in the box, where it cooks food like a crockpot -- slowly
but steadily, as long as the sun shines."

In Kenya the sun shines enough to make the solar oven a viable
adjunct to the traditional way of cooking over open fires or on
little cookstoves fueled with wood. "People don't like to abandon
the way they're used to doing things," Kammen says, "but they'll
adopt new ideas if they see the use of them."


Kammen's project is structured to win people over to the
concept of the solar oven rather than simply to provide ovens.

"First we take a solar oven into a community, make up a stew or
cake and put it in the oven. Then we sit back and talk for a
while. We tell people how it works and talk about how to build it.
Then we come back to the oven and show off the cooked food -
proving it really works."

A stew made with rice, meat, potatoes and tomatoes takes about
three hours to cook in a solar oven on a sunny day. A pot of water
takes about half an hour to boil for tea. "People can cook the
foods they're used to, in the pots they already have," Kammen
observes. "It just takes longer than over a fire." For members of
the microwave society, that may seem like a serious drawback. But
or members of rural Kenyan communities, where gathering firewood
is the most time-consuming task of the day and respiratory
infection from smoke inhalation is the most frequent cause of
death in children, the extra effort of advance planning may not
seem excessive, particularly for people who work in markets or
fields near their homes.

"After they've seen our demonstration," Kammen continues, "we
encourage the community to form a committee and discuss whether
they want to pursue the project. If they do, we come in with
materials and conduct a workshop for three or four days in which
we help community members build the ovens themselves. The
materials are simple and affordable -- plywood, foil, glass, nails
-- but there's quite a lot of carpentry work. It takes a while to
make each oven, and once people have done it themselves, they're
invested in it. They use the ovens. And when they do, other people
get interested."

An integral part of Kammen's approach is training community
members to teach others how to make and use the ovens. He and his
collaborators help establish local "renewable energy committees"
that can continue to organize and conduct workshops when the
foreigners have gone home. "It's technology transfer and project
management transfer," he says.

"The principle of the solar oven has been known for a long
time," Kammen points out. "A basic design was published in 1884 in
Scientific American. The version we use is similar to the model
invented in the 1950s by Maria Telkes, who used to work at
Princeton Research Labs. It was introduced in a number of
developing countries in the '60s and '70s, with minimal success. I
think what was missing in those projects was the social component.
Now we work very hard on education and community involvement.
Local health and environmental issues are the biggest motivation
for adopting this new behavior, and local management is the best
way to keep it going."

Support for the solar oven project is provided by Earthwatch, a
U.S.-based environmental-action organization, and several Kenyan
institutions: the University of Nairobi, the Kenyan National
Academy of Sciences, the Ambassadors Development Agency (of East
Kenya) and the African Center for Technology Studies (ACTS), which
now has a staff member devoted to the program: project manager
Monique Nditu, a graduate of the University of Nairobi, and
community leaders Christine Mwende and Josephine Mwota, all of
whom trained with Kammen.

During the summers of 1992 and 1993, Kammen, half a dozen
volunteers, three students from developing countries and several
Kenyan teachers visited between 20 and 30 communities and
conducted full-scale projects in six. "The largest," he notes,
"was Zombe, a market town of about 800 families. We helped build
60 ovens there, and now the community continues building and
selling ovens on its own."

In all, he says, the project has helped introduce approximately
110 solar ovens in East Kenya, and there is a waiting list of more
than 60 communities that have requested informational visits.
Nditu and others in Kenya are working on that waiting list now;
Kammen will go back with his Earthwatch volunteers to continue in
June. "I can only do three or four workshops a season," he notes,
"so you see how important it is to have a network in Kenya that
can work year-round."


For his part in the solar oven project, Kammen recently won
Japan's 1993 21st Century Earth Award. This carries a cash prize
of $45,000, which he is using to subsidize efforts connected with
the project both in Kenya and at Princeton. In addition, he
recently received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to
study the introduction and dissemination of renewable energy
technology in Africa.

At the University since September 1993, Kammen is serving this
year as head of the Woodrow Wilson School's program in Science,
Technology and Public Policy. He brings to the faculty an eclectic
background, including both a bachelor's degree and PhD in physics.
"I started college in Asian studies (my friends used to say I
majored in Marx) and physics," he recalls. "For my PhD I studied
neural networks, modeling the brain; it was really an intersection
of physics and biology."

Paralleling Kammen's interest in science was an interest in
developing countries. During graduate school he worked on
development projects in Latin America and Southeast Asia. He "got
involved with solar oven work" in Managua with William Lankford of
George Mason University, which he continued while doing
postdoctoral research at California Institute of Technology. He
established the project in Africa while working as a research
associate at Harvard's Northeast Regional Center for Global
Environmental Change and in the physics department.

Kammen's interest in environmental and development issues
extends beyond Kenya and solar ovens. "The oven project is just
one component of what I call the Renewable Energy Project," he
observes. "Others include improved stoves for traditional open-
fire cooking, manure-fueled underground plants that produce
methane for home heating and cooking, and small windmills for
pumping water. There are many new technologies that could improve
both the environment and the lives of people in many different
societies and climates." Kammen believes that the community-
oriented process of implementation is crucial to the success of
these new technologies in developing countries. And he plans to
keep on proving it.
Daniel Kammen
[email protected]

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