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Developing solar cooking with schools. A joint project between schools in Finland and Ethiopia for the development and testing of simple solar cooking technology

A pilot solar cooking school cooperation initiative is currently underway between Veikkola  primary school in southern Finland and two schools in Ethiopia. It will bring together students from across the world to increase understanding of the use of solar energy and spread information and knowledge about simple and cheap solar cooking technology.

During the winter-spring semester, grade 6 students (11 – 12 years old) at Veikkola primary school have been busy constructing simple solar box-type cookers during their handicraft and technical work classes. These cookers have reached temperatures in Finland of up to 180°C. Selected students and teachers will soon travel to Ethiopia to demonstrate their model cookers in Ethiopian partner schools, Yemane Birhan elementary school in Addis Ababa and Sertse Dengel junior school in Bahir Dar.

This educational partnership offers a fantastic opportunity for students from both schools to share their knowledge and experiences of solar cooking technology, as well as lessons in physics, geography, environmental education and home economics. Students from Finland will not only physically demonstrate 3 or 4 cooker models during their visit to Ethiopia, but also share detailed descriptions and drawings of the process by which they were developed so that similar cookers can be constructed in the Ethiopian partner schools. The Finnish team will additionally provide information of the use of solar cookers in the preparation of various types of dishes and Ethiopian solar cooking experts will be invited to participate in the exercise.

When solar cookers have been completed and tested in both Finland and Ethiopia, partner schools will share experiences and testing results to be used in teaching activities in both schools. In future these solar cookers can also be used in school kitchens and as demonstration equipment for promotion of solar cooking technology in surrounding communities. The long-term developmental idea is to speed up the dissemination and knowledge of simple solar cooking technology and thus try to decrease deforestation from the use of unsustainable fuelwood from depleting forest reserves, and help families minimise the cost associated with cooking fuels and electricity.

The advantages of solar energy in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has an abundant supply of solar radiation (about 1 kilowatt (KW) per square meter at noon) so there is great potential for the use of solar cookers, which hold many advantages over traditional stoves and fuel.  Firstly, solar energy is completely free so there is no fuel costs whatsoever associated with solar cookstoves. In addition, no time of effort is needed in the collection of solar energy compared to fuelwood collection, and by reducing fuelwood use, natural forest resources can be conserved and environmental degradation halted. Solar cookstoves also have no associated emissions and the cost of a simple solar cooker can be recovered in less than 1 year. They can be constructed from relatively cheap materials using common wood and metalworking tools, and can be used to cook, bake and heat many different types of dishes, accommodating numerous cooking pots (maybe 4 or more) so that a variety of dishes can be prepared at the same time. Finally, they can also be used in combination with fuel-saving woodstoves.

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