Because of their traditional responsibilities for collecting fuel and water, in many developing countries women and girls would benefit the most from access to improved energy services. The time and physical effort expended by women and girls in gathering fuel and carrying water seriously limits their ability to engage in educational and income-generating activities. Literacy rates and school enrolment levels are dramatically different for men and women in many developing countries. Much of women’s time is taken up with difficult and time-consuming chores related to producing and processing food without mechanical or electrical equipment and to cooking without clean-burning fuels and energy-efficient appliances.
Many women and girls also suffer from health problems related to gathering and using traditional fuels. In addition to the time and physical burdens involved in gathering fuel, women suffer serious long-term physical damage from strenuous work without sufficient recuperation time. Women must worry about falls, threats of assault, and snake bites during fuel gathering. They are also exposed to a variety of health hazards from cooking over poorly ventilated indoor fires, including respiratory infections, cancers, and eye diseases. Smoke from poorly ventilated indoor fires accounts for close to 2 million premature deaths per year.
Many families living on less than one dollar a day spend 1/3 of it for cooking fuel. This cost often means less food to eat. Solar cookers typically reduce fuel needs by 1/3 and pay for themselves in two months of fuel savings. The gentler temperatures of box and panel types of solar cookers also preserve more nutrients.
Even simply using a solar cooker to sterilize water can make a huge difference:
Waterborne and smoke-related diseases are the primary killers of children. When fuel is scarce and expensive, it is hard to heed public health messages about boiling water. Every solar-cooked meal is smoke-free [smoke from cooking fires is also the major killer of young women in developing countries and is linked to low-birth weight and infant mortality] and solar cookers easily pasteurize water and milk.
But, you ask, how does food cooked on a solar cooker taste? You will be happy to know that that guardian of taste, the New York Times has fully endorsed solar cooking:
Mary retrieved the mushrooms after 90 minutes. Beautiful, juice-packed portobellos, made slightly mellow by the sherry. Then the scallops were done, soon followed by the chicken. ”That looks like something out of Bosch,” Mary said of the scallops, which were swollen and silky. The chicken was piercing and hearty, the peach cake just what you’d want on a summer afternoon.
They even have recipes. More recipes for solar cooking can be found here. [Disclosure: The Mary mentioned in the above