Barefoot College set up the Women Barefoot Solar Cooker Engineers Society (WBSCES) in Tilonia, Rajasthan in November, 2003. It is the first association of illiterate and semi-literate women who independently fabricate, install and maintain 2.5 square metre parabolic solar cookers.
How it Works
A parabolic solar cooker uses energy from sunlight to cook food. Its shape and construction allows the sun’s rays to fall on 300 mirrors that in turn reflect them onto the bottom of a cooking pot and cook food quickly. Parabolic solar cookers work well in places that receive abundant sunlight such as Rajasthan, India. A parabolic solar cooker is eco-friendly since it does not use fossil fuel, wood or batteries to cook food. It helps conserve trees especially in places where they are scarce. Women who spent long hours searching for firewood need not do so anymore; their time can be better spent on other productive activities.
All forms of cooking (such as frying, boiling and steaming) that are possible on a gas stove are also possible on a solar cooker. Twenty litres of water can be boiled within an hour, making possible even large-scale catering. It can easily boil water for vegetables, rice and lentils as well.
Design and Impact
A parabolic solar cooker may not be portable, but it is user friendly. The only attention it needs is an adjustment once in the morning, and it will track the sun all day, allowing for uninterrupted cooking. A spring and clock system completes one rotation every 3.23 minutes, which in turn rotates the cooker and tracks the sun throughout the day.
Building a parabolic solar cooker requires high accuracy and skill in metal craftsmanship. A skill that has traditionally been attributed to men is today being practiced by six women. The cooker weighs 130 kilograms and is built using precise measurements by bending, welding and cutting–all in just one month. There is no margin for error; one miscalculation would result in a faulty cooker. Almost 100 people–including 80 women–have been trained to cook on parabolic solar cookers, expanding their livelihood options and improving their quality of life.