We are all aware of how much our planet needs to conserve fossil fuels. And we are taking many positive steps towards it. From harnessing wind and solar energy to planting more trees, we are exploring new possibilities in utilizing renewable fuels and subtracting fossil fuels from our lives. The road forward is a bumpy one but it is the only path open for us and we should start taking the first step too.
And Mexican women are clearly leading the way. In a poor village in Vicente Guerrero in Villa de Zaachila, women have been taught to use solar cookers. Not only were they delighted, they were also demonstrating this newly-acquired knowledge on the streets and exchanging recipes with each other. Now, what could be the excitement about? Well, despite all their differences, the residents of Vicente Guerrero have one thing that is common for all of them. They are poor and they struggle a lot. The solar cookers have been a blessing for them in disguise. Previously, they used to burn fossil fuels or use LPG for their cooking. Now, these low-tech devices which just uses reflective panels to direct the sunlight to the center of the pot are doing its charm. No more use of electricity, no more fossil fuels and no more toxic fumes – the residents of Vicente Guerrero in Villa de Zaachila are now able to live with free air in a better environment. Even a resident, Reyna Díaz, says how her family loves how the cooker cooks things properly.
There is, of course, one obvious drawback – the solar cooker consumes a lot of time to cook during rainy and cloudy days. In a few statistics, it has been seen that many Mexicans use solid fuel for cooking. The village is in the state of Oaxaca which uses firewood and produces gas from around 49% of its household consumption. Unfortunately, Oaxaca is one of the three Mexican states which suffer from high levels of energy poverty. Now, solar cookers have come to transform it. The distribution of it first started in 2004 and in 2008, many activists began the initiative called Solar energy for mobile food stalls in Mexico. It was sponsored by Geneva, SolarSpar and an NGO, GloboSol. In 2009, a collective, Cocina Solar Mexico, dedicated their work to forward the use of solar cookers for cooking. They found support from the non-government organization, Solar Household Energy (SHE) in Washington D.C. and with their support, they developed a cheap, light-weight prototype. SHE launched their first project in 2016 to check how their plans will be accepted by the locals. According to Lorena Harp, it was difficult to make them understand. However, she succeeded and now they are more open to the idea. Plus, according to Harp, the women have earned more respect for saving money and energy and thus, it is a step toward gender empowerment too.
However, the growth is a bit slow. It has been seen that the Oaxaca have generated less than 500 kilowatts, which is one of the lowest levels of distributed (decentralized) power generation. However, women are not giving up. Now, they are hooked to using solar cookers for their cooking and want to promote it further. It’s clear that the people are accepting solar cookers quite generously. Now, according to Harp, if more governments and other partners join in, there could be a massive move towards sustainable development.
Hopefully, we will be taking a step in that direction soon.
Image Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS
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