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Oaxaca: cooking with solar pots and ovens
A demonstration of how to cook using the solar pot - Photo: Mario Arturo Martínez/EL UNIVERSAL

Oaxaca: cooking with solar pots and ovens

05/09/2018
11:48
Christian Jiménez/Corresponsal
Oaxaca
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According to some users, the food tastes better, as the flavors are more intense

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It's a special day in the elementary school in the Unión Zapata municipality. Teacher Vicenta Olivera, who teaches 6th grade, will show the children the qualities of solar energy, that's why she invited one of the "solar cooks” to bake a cake using solar energy.

Evangelina Reyes, one of the children' mom, began cooking with solar energy three years ago; she is currently taking part in a solar ovens pilot project, that will drive the economy and the recognition of the community.

In class, the children will observe the process of baking a cake and will participate by mixing the ingredients. The pot is placed in the school's patio and will bake the cake in a time lapse of four hours, depending on the sun's intensity.

Cooking with the sun

Lorena Harp started the “solar cooks” project 15 years ago, who had met with UNAM researchers and learned about the method.

Later, through the Solar Household Energy Association (SHE), she took the project to Oaxaca and developed a second prototype called the “Heins” pot, made with lighter and cheaper materials.

In the beginning, the SHE planned to develop the project in Africa, but after learning about Lorena's work with the first prototype and the way of life of the communities in Oaxaca, they developed it in Tlacolula. Last August, they began with the first stage, with the aim to distribute 50 pots; although the earthquake interrupted the work, and they started again in October.

In November, Lorena proposed to donate 100 solar ovens, which were distributed in Juchitán, the Mixe mountain range, and San Mateo del Mar, in collaboration with a group of singers from Oaxaca and the CAMPO organization.

The promoters in each community are in charge of showing and selling the oven, as well as showing people how to use it, and they receive a commission for every sale.

They plan to open a factory in Oaxaca, to save up on expenses.

During the project's second stage they plan to distribute 100 ovens and later, 200 more.

In the incoming weeks, the organizations will donate pots to women in Ixhuatán.

Food culture

Although using solar pots and ovens has represented a saving of gas and firewood, it has also created a cultural clash. The use of the oven hasn't been easy, as many have been confronted by their families because of the ignorance surrounding the object.

Despite the benefits and savings, there are rumors that it's bad for health, which has complicated its distribution.

According to some users, they've had to adapt their recipes, and now they cook everything in it, from beans to meat. One of them says that her husband says it tastes better, that the flavors are more intense.

Substantial savings

While the firewood is scarce in the hills and the mountains in the Valles Centrales region, the gas prices increase and families have to spend more money to cook.

Bibiana, one of the users, says that with the pot, the gas usage is reduced to half, and they no longer have to pay a fee to cut firewood.

 
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