Deforestation, due to the widespread use of charcoal or wood fired cookstoves, is a key issue for Madagascar. Solar energy, often suggested, seems ideal, but introducing such a new technology is challenging. It requires careful, culturally tailored planning to get the community to accept, adopt and utilize something like solar cooking.
Traditionally food, mainly rice, is cooked over open fire in Malagasy villages. Firewood is getting harder and harder to find. Using an improved cookstove can reduce the need for firewood in more than half, but solar cooking could take this a step further.
Introducing a new technology such as solar cooking is a long-term strategy. The need to reduce the need for firewood is more immediate. To address this Zahana developed and promoted an improved cookstove that can be built in a few hours with a few bricks and mud. In the rainy season solar cooking is not a viable option and the improved cookstove, in tandem with reforestation efforts, is a practical immediate solution.
Zahana decided to implement a solar cooking demonstration project in our schools. Introducing and testing this new technology in the schools first, children will learn about the benefits of solar cooking first hand and can take this experience home.
Currently a variety of solar cooker models are sold in Madagascar, but the price makes them unobtainable for most villages. To identify the solar cooker most suitable for the local climate, Zahana plans to buy and test on 4 or 5 of the models currently available. Integrating the solar cooking of rice into the curriculum, the school children will test them, comparing the results over time. Applied math skills will be an added benefit to getting a warm school meal.
By starting small in our two schools and showing that solar cooking actually works, Zahana plans to scale up the project as soon as the most suitable technological model(s) are determined.