6. Field study of the project in Namibia

The field study of the project was carried out between February 14th and May 2nd, 1995. The work included contacting Namibian authorities and organisations, evaluating the usability of solar box cookers in Namibia, particularly the Oshakati region in Ovamboland, and organising and implementing three solar box cooker building and using courses. The participants of the last course also evaluated the usability of solar cooker by using PRA methods (see Chapter 6.6).

6.1 Creating a support and contact network in Namibia

One aim was to create a support and contact network for the background of the project in Namibia. Therefore I needed to contact relevant organisations. Those were the University of Namibia, the Ministry of Mines and Energy and other authorities or organisations, which had some information about solar cookers.

I spent the first days in Windhoek, which is the capital of Namibia. During that time I contacted those authorities and organisations, which I knew to have some activities in the field of solar energy. I also got valuable support from the Finnish Embassy. Dr. John Strijdom, who is the head of Social Work and Community Development at the University of Namibia, kindly arranged my accommodation on the City Campus among other students. Dr. Strijdom had many useful suggestions for the implementation of the project.

6.1.1 The authorities

The authorities I contacted before I left Finland were of the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Namibia. I had already obtained legal permission for the project from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Mines and Energy. The Ministry promised financial support for the Namibian counterparties of the project, if necessary.

I had arranged a meeting with the Renewable Energy Section at the Ministry of Mines and Energy. There I had discussions with Ms. Lahja Amaambo (a Namibian, who is presently in England at the University of Reading for post-graduate studies), and Mr. Hansjörg Müller. Mr. Müller has been designated from Germany by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH as a Renewable Energy Advisor until the end of 1997. Mr. Müller and Ms. Amaambo showed interest and promised financial help from the Ministry for costs regarding Namibian participators, if necessary.

6.1.2 Private companies

The only Namibian commercial company interested in solar cookers (at the moment, to my knowledge) is a company called Solarchef Ltd. They have designed and patented their own model (see Appendix three). They say it is specifically designed to operate at Namibian latitudes. Solarchef's cooker is designed for industrial manufacturing, therefore its price is several times higher than the TFL model's price.

We discussed future co-operation possibilities, but we tabled the subject. Anyway, Solarchef has an attorney in Ongwediva, so later I had a chance to discuss the subject more with him. Even so, the co-operative possibilities were left totally open after my departure from Namibia.

6.1.3 The University of Namibia

The University in Namibia is located at Windhoek. The University is social science orientated, though there is a Science and Technology Division at the Multi-Disciplinary Research Centre. The most logical co-operation with the University would be to use Namibian students for the evaluation and implementation of the later stages of the solar cooker project. A preliminary agreement concerning this was made.

I was advised from the Ministry of Mines and Energy to visit Dr. Kuiri Tjipangandjara at the University of Namibia. Dr. Tjipangandjara is the head of the Science and Technology Division at the Multi-disciplinary Research Centre. He was a little bit skeptical at first when I explained the project to him. He criticised the project for leaving the local researchers from the University and the Technikon (the technical college) of Namibia outside from the very beginning of planning and implementation of the project. We discussed the project, its positive and negative effects on local communities and the University's possibilities to contribute.

Slowly he began to become interested in the project. His advice was to use students from these two institutes for planning, implementation and evaluation of the project. He said one needs mentally trained people for successful local-level implementation. These people should be originally from the same region, where the project is, because these people have the channels to reach locals. At the same time, they have gotten the training to understand and evaluate things analytically. We agreed to continue future planning after I come back from Ovamboland. He wanted me to analyse my own impressions and experiences first before we would go to the next stage.

The University of Namibia has a project called 'Renewable Energies in Namibia' (Tjipangandjara 1994). This project was initiated as co-operation between the Centre for Development and the Environment at the University of Oslo (UoO), Norway, the University of Namibia and the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), New Delhi, India. The counterpart of Unam is called the Renewable Energy Group, which consists of a multi-disciplinary team of university researchers and teachers. There are botanists, a chemist, a physicist, a computer scientist, geographers and mineral engineers/chemical metallurgists. Dr. Tjipangandjara is responsible for the overall co-ordinating of the program.

The Renewable Energies in Namibia project includes establishment of an information Centre on Energy and Environment at the University of Namibia. This centre is needed due to the absence of written materials on renewable energy and environment in Namibia. It will help not only researchers, but also all individuals interested in these subjects. The second objective is the installation of renewable energy technology to some carefully chosen villages. This includes multi-disciplinary research on both technical and socio-economical sides. Some other aims are establishment of an education programme at the University and research of basic energy needs and demands of rural people in Namibia. This research would give information about the possibilities of utilising off-grid renewable energy.

According to Dr. Tjipangandjara, Namibia still lacks a national renewable energy R & D program. Mr. Müller from the Ministry of Mines and Energy has compiled a plan for the promotion of the use and the future role of renewable energies in Namibia (Müller 1994). There might also be a chance to include our solar cooking program in a later phase of both the University project and the Ministry program.

In association with the University of Namibia, Yaron et al . (Yaron et al. 1994) conducted a study on solar energy possibilities for rural Namibia. One part of their study deals with the fuelwood scarcity and the solar option, including solar cooking.

Yaron et al. say the average wood use for cooking to be approximately 0.41 m3 per person/year in Ovamboland. This is the equivalent of several hundred kilograms, depending on the type of food used. Yaron et al. claimed wood use for building to be approximately seven times greater than that for cooking in Ovamboland (Yaron et al. 1994, page 13, Erkkilä and Siiskonen 1992). However, I interviewed Mr. Bjarne Häggman who is a forestry Development Advisor at the Directorate of Forestry (under the Ministry of Environment and Tourism of Namibia). He said that this ratio is changing rapidly. He could not give me exact figures, because there are no reliable, covering information available. He estimated that the ratio could now be more like fifty-fifty, or even much more (up to 90 %, see Finne 1992 and Kreike 1995) in favour of firewood. One reason for this is that there are simply not many trees big enough to be used for building there.

Yaron et al. attempted to assess the scope for solar cooking in Namibia in their study. They conducted an overview of existing solar cooker technology with its advantages and disadvantages, but did not include any solar cookers particularly from Namibia. They criticise the fact that in many cases (world-wide) the physical and social environment of the recipients of solar cookers has not been adequately considered. This is true to my knowledge also, but it is too early to say whether there will be a breakthrough in Namibia or not. The reason for this is the early stage of solar cooker dissemination in the country. Nobody has yet really tried. Solarchef Ltd. tried to get their model manufactured in a relatively big Namibian commercial company. The company could not build any technically acceptable unit due to technical difficulties. This also indicates the overall difficulties of introducing new industrial manufacturing.

6.2 Evaluating the usability of solar box cookers by interviewing their users in Ovamboland

The next stage of the project was to locate the users of solar box cookers in Ovamboland and to interview them. After those interviews it would be possible to continue to the next phase of the plan (Phase 2a: Questioning the norms and standards in the real context). This work was done together with the Green Namibia Community Project. They also helped to plan the following solar cooker building and using courses according to the users' experiences and suggestions.

In Owamboland I stayed mainly in Ongwediva, which is a city of about 12 000 inhabitants between Oshakati and Ondangwa (see map in Appendix one). My first task in Ongwediva was to contact the Green Namibia Community Project. Together with women who worked there, we located and visited those persons, who had experience of TFL - solar box cookers. For practical (including my schedule and difficult transportation) reasons we concentrated on Oshakati - Ongwediva - Ondangwa and their neighbourhood. Unfortunately the rainy season had just begun, being several months delayed from normal. Therefore I could not see any of them actually using the cooker at that time.

Unfortunately the local people's English was not very good. Translations from Oshiwambo (which is the local dialect of the ndonga language) to English left some unanswerable questions and most likely, misunderstandings during my interviews. In no case is this the fault of the people, who were helping me with interpretation. It just indicates how difficult it is to have reliable exchange of information between people from different cultures. People tend to be very polite, particularly to foreign development co-workers who might bring them some money or other benefits.

6.2.1 Solar cookers in use in the Oshakati region Jan. 1, 1995.

Because of the rainy season I could not see people using the cookers, I just had to believe what they said. With these reservations I hereby present here the results of my interviews (table 6.1 with explanations). I hope the readers will use their own judgement whether my interpretation of the results is correct, indicative, or totally misleading.

Green Namibia Community Center                    Ongwediva    2    
Gapriel Taapopi Secondary School                  Ongwediva    2    
Mweshipandeka School                              Ongwediva    2    
Valombola Vocational Training Centre              Ongwediva    1    
Rural Development Centre                          Ongwediva    1    
Indeleni Tulveni Eloolo Okano Central 4           Ondangwa     1    
Oshakati Hospital Nutritional Rehabilitation                        
Centre                                            Oshakati     1    
Ohaukelo (a rural village)                        Ohaukelo     1    
Total                                                          11   

Table 6.1. Solar box cookers in Oshakati region 1.1.1995

Nine solar box cookers out of these eleven were said to be (more or less) in continuous use. The cookers at Oshakati Hospital and Valombola Centre were not used frequently. What is astonishing to me, was that the people at Valombola Centre were very keen on beginning to build and sell solar box cookers, but they never used their cooker again after the first demonstration! (Conducted by three Finnish students in 1994). I was told that the reason for this was that they did not have separate food to cook with the solar box cooker. They prepare all their food in the kitchen, and one solar box cooker is too small to make everthing necessary for a school. However, the teachers and students of the Valombola Centre have established a Valombola Vocational Training Centre Solar Club. During the time I visited there 13 teachers and 50 students had joined the Solar Club. The purpose of the Solar Club is to serve as a part of the educational experience. This includes mainly building solar cookers. (Sources: interviews with the Principal, Mr. Titus Malangu and the Chair of the Solar Club, Mr. David Heita, March 1995)

The cookers of Green Namibia belong to Ms. Emma Shivute and Ms. Hilia Imalwa. They were the most enthusiastic about the idea of solar cooking of all the people interviewed. They built six cookers for women working at the Oshakati Hospital, but the women never bough the cookers. Why? This is a very important question considering the larger marketing of the cookers. Why are people very interested at first and lose it later? I did not get satisfactory answers, merely explanations. Some reasons why they did not pay for and use the cookers were: 'the colour is not nice', 'no manuals', 'no money to buy the cookers', 'hinges are not good', ' no motivation'. (Those six cookers did not look exactly the same as the sample model they had, but they were reasonably good.)

Still, I was grateful that they gave me some concrete answers. It was something to base the solar cookers' improvement on.

The most frequently used cooker (used for eight months in 1994) belonged to the Rural Development Centre. The user was very pleased with the cooker, the only problem was that the bottom of the box was eaten by insects. I replaced the bottom with a new cardboard layer and added an extra aluminium foil to the outside of the box to prevent it from occurring again. Her opinion about the cookers' effectivity was, that it is sufficient for twice-a-day-cooking beginning from sunrise and ending late afternoon. Only during the winter season (between April and August) is it better to begin cooking one-two hours later in the morning and to prepare just one meal. Alternatively one could cook only the afternoon meal in winter time, beginning around noon.

To my understanding, the main reasons why she used the cooker were: She was a well educated, environmentally conscious person and she lived in a trailer-tent environment without any good cooking facilities.

Indeleni Tulveni Eloolo Okano Central 4 is a cucashop (a small pub-type shop selling beer and household goods) in Ondangwa. Its name means, freely translated, something like "Come Again and Eat Much"; Okano Central 4 is the address in Ondangwa. They had been using their cooker in the cucashop's backyard. They left the cooker there alone to cook food. While waiting they were free to serve their customers, and in the afternoon they could sell solar-cooked food. They were using the cooker mostly because it saved a lot of time, was convenient and prepared tasty food.

The only privately used cooker belonged to Ms. Imalwa's mother, Ms. Martha Muleka. She used the cooker for the same reasons as those for the Indeleni cucashop; it is convenient to use, it saves time and it cooks tasty food. It seems that the reasons people in Finland consider to be proper, might not be so important in Namibia and vice versa. It should be kept in mind, that whatever motivations we (the outsiders) have for promoting solar cookers or any other technology, which we consider appropriate; still, at the end of the day it is their (the locals) choice, their life and their values.

6.3 Organising solar cooker building courses in Ovamboland

The plan included organising three solar cooker building and using courses for the local participants. The very first draft of the plan included only one course, but in practise there were three of them.

When I contacted different Namibian (in Ovamboland) organisations from Finland I told them that I would hold a solar cooker building course in Ongwediva. When I got there, I was told that two different organisations had arranged students for my course. In addition I collected the people for the third course according to the results of interviewing local solar cooker users.

The first group included six students from the Ongwediva College of Education. They were the senior students of a Finnish technical teacher, Mr. Veijo Koskenkangas. They will become qualified technical teachers at the end of this year.

Mr. Koskenkangas contributed greatly to the successful completion of these building courses, and he also made some technical modifications, that helped us to evaluate the cookers' technical appropriateness.

The second group included (from different organisations) those people, who were the most interested and seemingly most capable candidates for small scale industrial manufacturing. The third group consisted of eight rural women called in by the Green Namibia Community Project via a local radio broadcast.

In conclusion there were three different groups of people for the solar box cooker building courses:

1. Technically educated young people, who had the course as a part of their training.

2. People from different organisations with previous experience with solar cookers.

3. Rural women from neighbourhood villages, mostly technically uneducated.

Before the courses could start we needed to get a proper place for it and all the materials for the cookers. The place and tools were found from Mweshipandeka School (with help from Mr. Koskenkangas, who teaches there also). Materials were found from the local hardware stores in Oshakati, but it took several weeks to collect everything. After all, the cost of one cooker came close to 150 Namibian dollars (1 US$ was about 4 Namibian dollars, so it was about 35 US$). Everybody in the courses considered this price to be reasonable for the quality we achieved.

6.3.1 The first course for technical teacher - students from Ongwediva College of Education

The first solar cooker building and using course was arranged for a group of six students from the Ongwediva College of Education. The course was held as a part of their formal training; therefore we had three hours per day and five days a week for the course. The total length of the course was about two-and-a-half weeks, if all the waiting is counted in. A lot of time was spent in waiting for materials, etc. The total actual working time was approximately from 25 to 30 hours. The students worked in pairs, each pair constructed one solar box cooker according to the instructions (see Appendix two).

As a first step in the course I asked them to explain the operating principle of a solar box cooker as well, as they knew it. They had good knowledge of it, thanks to their teacher, Mr. Koskenkangas, who had built a solar box cooker earlier. I continued to enhance their knowledge, and explained in more detail those principles I considered essential for the proper function of a solar box cooker (see Appendix four, pages 16-17).

The work itself was organised in such a way, that all three pairs worked quite individually, and I was mainly supervising them. At first I explained each work phase to all of them. Then they executed the phase separately. If some group needed more advice, they asked me to instruct them more personally.

As I was the only teacher, this arrangement worked out quite well. The main problem in my opinion was, that they were even too thorough in going into details. I did not have enough time to separate all the essential details from non-essential ones. For this reason some minor details had an unnecessarily big share of concentration and work. But as this was also the first time for me to teach, we all learned by doing. Also, it is very important to transfer information unchanged, otherwise the mistakes made will multiply. I tried to be extremely careful in this aspect.

Two of the three cookers we built quite strictly according to the instructions. For the third one we tried an extra layer of foil in between the outer and inner box, and an extra thick reflecting insulating tape (called "Flashband") inside the inner box. The reason for this was to compare different available materials and construction methods in a real context. The result was, that the normal insulation proved sufficient (mainly due to high open air temperatures). The "Flashband" did not give any significant increase in value to the cooker, and it was also quite expensive. All of the three cookers reached temperatures between 120 C and 140 C, even on a semi-cloudy day.

6.3.2 The second course for people from different local organisations

The second solar box cooker building group consisted of three persons from the Valombola Vocational Training Centre (one of them was the chair of the Solar Club) and two persons from the Rural Development Centre.

The purpose was to teach these five persons how to construct a solar box cooker. As they were already familiar with the solar cooking, we concentrated only in building. We built one solar box cooker during the three days the course lasted.

At the Rural Development Centre one of the participants had been building different types of ovens and stoves. He had a lot of questions and suggestions about using different materials, such as bricks made of mud. They criticised the usage of expensive materials, because many people do not have enough money to buy materials.

6.3.3 The third course for rural women

The third solar box cooker building group consisted of eight rural women. They were called in by local radio broadcast by the Green Namibia Community Project. The course was arranged in two parts, the first two weeks for building and a week break, then an evaluation and feedback (see Chapter 6.5).

Mrs. Imalwa, who arranged the invitation, explained that she wanted the group to consist only of younger women. She said, that there are too many activities arranged only for men, and according to her previous experiences in teaching the young (about 20 years old in this case) people learn faster and are more willing to adopt new ideas.

Most of these women did not speak English. Mrs. Imalwa was a main teacher for the course, and she (and some others, who understood English) also interpreted my explanations to them and vice versa. A lot of my guidance was showing how to carry out a certain phase, but there was always an explanation of why to do so. Mrs. Imalwa proved to be a capable (and also strict) teacher. With her guidance the women built four more solar box cookers (we could not get more cardboard of good enough quality at the moment).

The working phases followed in the same way as the first course: at first each work phase was explained to them and then they were shown how to do the actual work using one of the cookers as a model (sometimes by Mrs. Imalwa, sometimes by me). Afterwards each pair carried out their own work according to our example. Because there were two teachers this time, they worked in turns so we could supervise each phase carefully.

Still, we had some misunderstandings in interpretation. For example, when I explained how and why to insulate the space between the boxes with loose rolls of newspaper, they filled the whole area with thick rolls. To prevent these kinds of mistakes from happening, it is very important to get the idea behind the insulation understood.

We were using those cookers built in the previous courses during this whole course for cooking. We began building usually around 9 o'clock, put food in the cooker around 10-11 o'clock, and had a lunch break around 1-2 o'clock. This was a good method to acquaint the women with solar cooking. Mrs. Imalwa knew different recipes, which she gladly taught to the participants of the course.

6.3.4 Conclusion of the solar cooker building courses

All of the three solar cooker building groups (and individuals) reached the technical qualifications that were set for the courses. The cookers built reached, even in semi-cloudy conditions, temperatures between 120 C and 140 C. It seems obvious, that with time and guidance (simple) solar box cookers could be built by almost anyone. But what if there is no longer guidance and supervision? It is good to keep in mind that the Solarchefs cookers' manufacturer could not assemble technically sound cookers in spite of the fact, that they have had a lot of experience in industrial manufacturing. One of the main purposes for my work was the transformation of information (theoretical, manufacturing and serial production) to Namibian small-to-medium scale serial production. This means that the production must be sustainable without any external help after the initiation stage.

It occurred during these courses, that the most fruitful results will come by teaching teachers to teach others. Teachers are usually those people, who are used to transferring information forward. At the same time they are able to adopt new knowledge. A young generation at school is also more likely to accept new things than their custom-established parents. Other very important groups are motivated people from NGOs or other grass-root level organisations. They have good channels to reach the active local people with a little effort.

6.4 Teaching methods used and transferring of information

The role of the teacher was clear in the sense, that he had a certain theoretical knowledge to transfer forward to the participants. How the transfer would happen in practise, was a little bit more difficult. One of the guide-lines for the teaching was, that the teacher (in this case me) was there as an occasional visitor. Their lives will continue later on as if the teacher had never been there. This means that the important things from the courses are those, which are left and useful even after the teacher's departure. Those important (or imported) things must fit their everyday life, otherwise they are nonsense. People around the world have tried to disseminate solar cookers for decades, so far without any main break-through (see Kuhnke et al. 1990). Why?

What I have read about earlier solar cooker projects indicates (to my opinion), that they did not include local people and their inventive power enough from the very beginning (although this seems to be changing positively).

I assumed, that if we could go through the very idea of the solar cooking together, the participants could later use their own imagination for designing and manufacturing their own, models most suitable for them. To reach this, undoubtedly a very ambitious target, we needed to use a lot of time for discussions and explanations on both sides. It was not my task to only be a teacher, I was there as much a student as they were. I repeatedly asked them to criticise my teaching and to interrupt if they felt I was wrong or they did not understand something. I also constantly told them, that solar cooking is only one (and not The) way of cooking. A particular solar cooker operates under particular conditions, and it is their decision, if this suits them or not.

There was a bit of a different teaching method (or different main language) for each course. Because those six technical teacher-students could all understand and speak English quite fluently, I was the only teacher at that course and for the second group (the people from organisations). Ms. Imalwa was the main teacher for the rural women, because many of them could not speak English at all.

I also wanted to see Ms. Imalwa's teaching . I wanted to learn how she associated with the participants in practical teaching. At the same time I had a chance to correct, if they understood something wrongly or needed more explanations or more information.

Transferring information between two strange cultures is always problematic. The first course with the technical students was more or less practice in one way or another. They were willing to learn, they had the skills needed and enough practise in manufacturing.

Even then, there were moments when I felt we did not speak the same language, both literally and metaphorically. Some of the technical details were very difficult to explain in such a way, that the idea would be understood the way I meant. These moments were the most interesting ones as they indicated the clashes of two ways of living. One is the western, most rationalised one and the other is rural African, which is in a rapidly changing process between its own old and intruding new habits and customs.

The question is, how can the outsider get him/herself understood so, that the cultural differences do not determine the interpretation occurrence? (And vice versa).

What I did, was to try point out THE idea behind my explanation concerning solar cookers as Engeström guides (Engeström 1992). For example, if the question was about the importance of insulation between the boxes of the solar cooker and its proper accomplishment, I tried to find an example as close to their everyday life as possible. I might explain how I feel the wind on my skin in wintertime, and how several layers of loose clothing will keep me warm.

6.5 Introduction to the evaluation of teaching and appropriateness of solar cookers

The second part of the solar cooker course for the rural women included evaluating the appropriateness of solar cookers according to their newly gained experience and skills in building them.

The original plan was to arrange two courses for the same group of about ten people. The first course would teach how to build the solar box cookers, just as it was done with those three groups. The second course would have been after about one month, and it was to include PRA methods for evaluating the learning process and to enhance the cooker according to their experiences. Because of a lack of time, the second part of the course was held only for the group of rural women.

During the time between the courses I was to help them with the things needed. As it often goes, the plan was good but I ran out of time. The main reason was the increased number of courses; there were, all together, nineteen people instead of ten, as originally planned. Anyway, I held this planned second part of the course, abridged, for those eight rural women (see section 6.6) I considered them to be closest to an average local inhabitant, especially those who are responsible for cooking in the family.

There was only about ten days between the two courses. This time was too short for getting proper experience about the cookers, but it could not be helped. It was impossible to change my departure because flights from Namibia are totally overbooked months in advance.

I discussed with the other groups and we gave feedback to each other, but I had no time for any extra courses with them. The student teachers gave a mark (between 0 and 100) for each others' work, and they also evaluated the work orally. I gave each of them between 82 and 85, but their own marks were usually 5-10 points higher. We considered the reason for this. I thought they had not yet internalized the real meaning of the word quality. To them an item's exterior seems to be more important than its function, and especially durability (which is difficult to see at first glance). Their permanent teacher agreed in this critique, and he told us how important it is to emphasise the meaning of quality time after time. This is one of the main things I found out while in Namibia; people tend to consider quality more as something non-existent and not important.

People make things to your standards while you are with them, but when you are gone your standards go with you. Maybe this is the core of the problem. People everywhere know how they would live if they had a chance. They are very able to take care of themselves without your interference in their lives. When outsiders bring in their own technology, they assume that the locals associate it into their way of living instantly. When this does not happen, as it never does, problems occur. The solar cookers must be adaptable to local life, not vice versa. This includes the question of quality. Otherwise we can just forget the whole idea. If people are happy with less industrially-produced-looking cookers, so let it be. Still, they must keep certain key points in mind, otherwise the solar cookers simply will not operate properly (see Appendix four, pp. 16-17).

6.6 Participatory evaluation of solar cookers with the rural women, means and results

To enhance the common background of the participatory methods, Ms. Imalwa and I attended a Participatory Assessment, Monitoring and Evaluation (PAME) training. The training was held in Ongwediva by the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development and FINNIDA.

The actual facilitators were Ms. D'arcy Davis-Case (who is a Community Forestry Consultant from Vancouver, Canada) and Ms. Arja Vainio-Mattila (who is a Senior Community Development Officer at the Water Supply and Sanitation Project in Ohangwena Region (WSSPOR). WSSPOR is a development program supported by FINNIDA. After the PAME training Ms. Davis-Case helped me plan those methods I could use with the women in the second part of the course.

We made a schedule for several practices for the group of rural women for three days. The schedule consisted of three practices 1) making a daily calendar of a rural woman, 2) matrix ranking-scoring by comparing seven different cooking methods and 3) a Venn-diagram describing which institutes are important to the life of rural people.

6.6.1 A daily calendar of a rural woman.

The women were asked to draw a daily calendar of a rural woman. First I asked them to mark the order of events and tasks there are during the day, and then to explain how much time they spent on each task (Table 6.2).

6                                      Wake up                                 
6-13                                   Irrigate mahangu (millet) field         
13-13.25                               Fetch water                             
13.25-13.40                            Fetch firewood                          
13.40-14                               Cook food (also clean the hut)          
14-14.15                               Eat                                     
15-16 (or 17)                          Pound mahangu                           
17-17.10 (or 17.25)                    Fetch firewood                          
17.10-18                               Wash clothes, clean up oneself          
18-19                                  Drink tombo (a local beer) or rest in   
19.15-21                               Cook food                               
21-21.15                               Pray                                    
21.25-22.25                            Tell stories                            
22.30                                  Go to sleep                             

Table 6.2. A daily calendar of a rural woman made by the women of the third solar cooker building course.

The women of the third course illustrated the course of a normal day in a rural woman's life by drawing up a daily calendar (Table 6.2). They quite agreed on the sequence of the events, but the time used on each event naturally varies depending on the circumstances. Still, we can see that according to this knowledge they eat two main meals a day: lunch around 1 o'clock and dinner around 9 o'clock.

A solar box cooker is very suitable for preparing lunch. The user just needs to place the food inside before going to the field and orientate the cooker according to the midday sun. The other option is to give the task of putting food inside the cooker to some of the children. The dinner is a little bit more problematic, as it is eaten after sunset. Still, a box type cooker with an insulated, closable lid can be used for cooking the dinner also. It is just necessary to place the food in the cooker around 2-4 o'clock, and close the lid around 6 o'clock (and put an extra blanket on top of it) to prevent the food from cooling down before eating.

6.6.2 A Venn-diagram

A Venn-diagram shows the key institutions and individuals in a community and their relationships and importance for decision-making (Theis and Grady 1991). Participants are asked to draw their community in the center of a paper, and to place paper circles representing the important institutions around it.

In this case I asked the group of eight rural women to draw a rural village in the center. We had two rules: 1) The size of the paper circle representing an institute means how important the institute is, in absolute terms (for example The Ministry of Agriculture might be very powerful in the country, but not necessary for the people of that village). We used two sizes of circles to simplify the reasons in this practise. 2) The distance of the circle from the center means how important the institute is for them. The results are shown in Fig. 6.1.

Fig. 6.1. A Venn - diagram made by rural women in Ongwediva

In the center of Fig. 6.1 is a rural village. The most influential institute is the school, which is also placed in the centre. The next three (of equal important to each other) are: a hospital, a store and the church. Between the store and church is a (less important) bottlestore. The women agreed that these organisations have a lot of meaning in the village's life, and the most important being the school. Less important to the people of a village is: Namibian Defence Force, FINNIDA and Bank (equal to each other) and less significant ones: Clinic, UNICEF and Police.

The result of this Venn-diagram shows, that if one has the solar cookers' dissemination in mind, the best place to begin would be the local school, store and church. Women considered the hospital to be a place, where people come with a special purpose. Therefore they did not think it would be a good place to introduce solar cookers.

6.6.3 A matrix ranking and scoring

Matrix ranking can be used to for ranking items such as: crop varieties, types and breeds of livestock, trees, fodder, supplementary income generating activities, etc. (Mascarenhas, 1991). In this case we compared seven different cooking methods. I asked them which cooking methods they used and what their arguments were for choosing among them. The results are shown in Fig. 6.2.

The solar cooker ranked the highest (together with the improved cooking stove made out of mud) in the matrix ranking scoring. The women compared seven different cooking methods, including: a small gas stove, a paraffin primus, a traditional three stone- stove, a solar box cooker, a gas/electric stove, a mud-cooking stove and a metal cooking stove. Their values for ranking were: (Which is) 'cheap to buy', 'easy to build', 'easy to use', 'easy to carry', 'easy to sell', 'easy to repair', 'easy to give away', 'cheap to buy fuel for', 'cooks fast', 'safe to use', 'you can depend on it to cook every time' and 'good taste of food'. They could give a maximum of five to each method and value.

The solar box cooker ranked highest in 'easy to carry', easy to sell','cheap to buy fuel for' (naturally), 'safe to use' and 'good taste of food'. It was less valued for 'you can depend on it to cook every time' and 'easy to build', 'easy to repair'.

Arguments  Cheap Easy  Easy  Easy  Easy   Easy  Easy  Cheap Cooks Safe  Can   Good   Total 
and their   to   to    to    to    to     to    to     to         to    depen taste        
coeffici-  buy   build use   carry sell   repai give  buy   fast  use   d on  of           
ents                   xxxxx       xxxxx  r     away  fuel  xxxx  xxxx  it... food         
           xxx   xxxxx       xxxxx        xxxxx xxxx  for                     xxxxx        
                                                      xxxxx               xx               
Small      xx          xxx   xxx                            xx          xxxx  xxxx   18    
gas stove                                                                                  
Paraffin   xxx         xxxx  xxx                      xxxx  xx          xxxx  xx     22    
3-stones   xxxxx xxxxx xxxx               xxxxx xxxxx xx    xx          xxx   xxx    34    
Solar box  xxxx  xxx   xxxx  xxxxx xxxxx  xxx         xxxxx       xxxxx xx    xzxxx  41    
Gas/electr-            xxxxx                                xxxxx       xxxx  xxxx   18    
ic stove                                                                                   
Mud stove  xxxx  xxxx  xxxx        xxx    xxxxx       xxxx  xxxx  xxxxx xxxxx xxx    41    
Metal      xx    xx    xxxx  xxx   xxxx               xxxx  xxxx  xxx   xxxxx xxx    34    

Fig. 6.2. Matrix ranking and scoring between seven cooking methods

Women compared a solar box cooker with six other methods of cooking by making a matrix ranking and scoring (Fig.6.2). According to Fig. 6.2 the solar box cooker and the mud stove are considered the best, at least when it comes to the total points. (I did not calculate the total sum according to coefficients, because this matrix's idea was not to count the numbers together. The purpose was more to look at the strengths and weaknesses of each type of cooker). But if we look at the coefficients they gave for each argument, we notice that easy to build is more emphasised than cheap to buy. Why is this so? They explained to me that rural women seldom have money to buy stoves, therefore it is more important to be able to build them themselves. This gives a good reason to try to simplify the building process of a solar box cooker as much as possible. A first effort has been made in this direction, which can be seen by comparing TFL-cookers; Appendix two (the old design, used on this field study) and Appendix four (the latest design). A solar box cooker is also considered as 'easy to sell', which is promising for future (commercial) dissemination.

6.6.4 Conclusion of the participatory evaluation

The results of these participatory evaluating methods show that solar cookers are quite appropriate for rural women's lives. The daily calendar shows that they cook two main meals every day, one from 1.30 to 2 p.m., and the other from 7 to 9 o'clock. The family eats right after cooking. If they use the heat retaining box-type solar cooker they can cook both meals with it. The only adjustment to their habits they have to make is to begin to prepare the afternoon meal a few hours earlier (it takes less than 20 minutes). They can keep the food warm until dinner time by closing the lid and putting a blanket on top of it.

The solar cooker can be used twice a day between September and April. During wintertime (from March to August) it can be used mainly once a day (Source: an interview of a local solar cooker user, Ms. Volkmann in Ongwediva). The rainy season between October and March limits cooking a little bit. The rain is not a big problem for solar cooking in Northern Namibia. Precipitation statistics (Precipitation..., 1983) from Ondangwa, Namibia, show that the average number of days with 0.1 mm or more is higher than ten only in January and February. The total number of days with 0.1 mm of precipitation or more is only 47. This means more than 300 days a year with practically no rain.

The Venn-diagram was used to find out suitable channels for solar cooking dissemination. The women placed a village in the middle of the diagram, and placed organisations around the village. The size of the organisation shows the absolute importance of the organisation, and the distance from the centre of the village shows its importance to the people who live in the village. The organisations do not need to be located in the village, it is enough that they exist.

The results show that the most important organisation for the village is the school. Second comes the church, stores (including bottle store) and the hospital. The women explained that they consider the hospital a non-suitable place for solar cooker dissemination. They said people come to the hospital for a certain reason, and solar cookers are difficult to include in this. They considered the school and the church (among with local stores) to be primary possible dissemination channels.

After the evaluation Ms. Imalwa held an oral exam for each woman separately. She asked them to explain the phases of solar box cooker construction and the operations needed. One of them made only one mistake, the average was about four mistakes. The usual mistake was a disorder of the phases, but gradually all of them could remember the manufacturing in detail. Therefore there seems to be no major obstacle to teaching rural women to manufacture solar cookers.

6.7 Present situation and future

Solar cookers can be manufactured in several different ways; industrially (large or small scale), hand-made by individuals, in small self-organising groups or teaching the knowledge individually; just to name few. People with different backgrounds were taught to see, which of these methods would prove the most successful in Ovamboland. It is too early to say which method works out the best, but all of them seem to be adequately useful.

The solar cookers seem to be well accepted among the group of rural women. The results from the participatory evaluation practises prove this. Still, it remains to be seen if the solar cookers will be more largely disseminated in northern Namibia and by which organisation. At the moment four organisations are interested in continuing solar cooker manufacturing and marketing. All of them have gained the basic knowledge and their people have been trained to manufacture the cookers. The results of the matrix ranking and scoring is also promising for the future larger dissemination of solar cookers. The solar box cooker was appreciated for its safe and easy use, good taste of food, and easiness to carry and sell.

6.7.1 Solar cookers in the Oshakati region April 15, 1995.

The solar cooker dissemination situation in the Oshakati region when my courses ended is presented in table 6.2. The four most interested organisations are marked in bold face type. To compare the situation on January 1st, 1995 see table 6.1 .

Green Namibia Community Center                    Ongwediva    8    
Ongwediva College of Education                    Ongwediva    6    
Gapriel Taapopi Secondary School                  Ongwediva    3    
Mweshipandeka School                              Ongwediva    2    
Ongwediva (rural women)                           Ongwediva    2    
Valombola Vocational Training Centre              Ongwediva
Rural Development Centre                          Ongwediva
Council of Churches in Namibia                    Ongwediva
Indeleni Tulveni Eloolo Okano Central 4           Ondangwa     1    
Oshakati Hospital Nutritional Rehabilitation      Oshakati     1    
Ohaukelo (a rural village)                        Ohaukelo     4    
Iiviyongo (a rural village)                       Iiviyongo    2    
Oikango (a rural village)                         Oikango      1    
Onimwandi (a rural village)                       Onimwandi    1    
Total                                                          35   

Table 6.2. Solar box cookers in the Oshakati region April 15th,1995

The new solar cooker recipients after January 1st, 1995 (see table 6.1) are: The Council of Churches in Namibia (in Ongwediva), six students from the Ongwediva College of Education and eight rural women from my third teaching course. The rural women live mostly within a 10 km radius from Ongwediva, except those from Ohaukelo, which is about 40 km north of Ondangwa. If we compare the dissemination situation of solar cookers on January 1st, 1995 and April 15th, 1995, we see that the most concentrated areas are is the city of Ongwediva (24 cookers) and the village of Ohaukelo (four cookers). In the near future we will mostly concentrate on encouraging people and organisations from these two places to carry on and spread the use of solar cookers.

Ohaukelo seems to be a logical place for starting rural dissemination of the solar cookers. The reasons for this choice are: Ms. Imalwa from the Green Namibia Community Project comes from Ohaukelo and her relatives still live there, and they have shown a constantly growing interest in solar cookers. Her two young female relatives have been trained to manufacture the cookers and four families have received a cooker, so far.

Ms. Imalwa's mother is a very influential person in the village, and I believe many people will follow her example. In any case, it is very important to get the approval from the chief of a village for the solar cookers (or any other technology from outside), before continuing dissemination there any further.

6.7.2 Prospective actions in the near future

To enhance the solar cooking project in Owamboland, I will go back there for four months at the end of September 1995. The Finnish NGO, Technology for Life will pay the cost of this trip together with the Espoo - Namibia - Committee. I will have a sociologist with me for the whole time. She will concentrate on the sociological aspects both in the cities and countryside. We will spend most of our time in Ongwediva with local organisations, but we have also planned to stay in Ohaukelo for a few weeks (to become more acquainted with the rural people). We are also to hold one teaching course in Windhoek at the University of Namibia. Two more Finnish women will join us in December. They will concentrate on organising school catering by using solar cookers.

During this trip I will continue evaluating the solar cookers' appropriateness and facilitate small-scale-industry manufacturing. I will visit each organisation and individual from my previous courses, to see what actions has happened during these months. Depending on the results of these visits we will decide, which organisations are still the most promising ones. Then we will concentrate on supporting those. If we learn that nobody is seriously interested any more, we will try to determine the reasons for it and try to come up with possible solutions. In case the whole idea of solar cookers proves inappropriate we will be able to close down the project without high costs.

The only building course this time is to be held at the University of Namibia. We will invite two technical teachers from each Vocational Training Centre in Namibia (excluding Valombola, which already participated). In this way we will to be able, with little effort, to disseminate the knowledge of manufacturing solar cookers country-wide.

6.8 Conclusions

The number of solar cookers in the Oshakati region in Namibia has increased from about ten to more than 35 during the first half of 1995. The number of the cookers is not (yet) big in itself. A much more important matter is that four local organisations in Ongwediva are interested in manufacturing and marketing the solar cookers. About 20 people from these organisations and rural villages have been trained to use and manufacture solar box cookers.

The solar cooker project could possibly be included in the 'Renewable Energies in Namibia'- project at the University of Namibia. Also the Renewable Energy Section of the Ministry of Mines and Energy in Namibia has facilities and interest to support the Namibian research and development of solar cookers.

Local people from different organisations, as well as mostly technically uneducated rural people, can quite easily learn how to construct a solar box cooker. The best results in teaching, if resources are scarce can be attained by collecting highly motivated people with an appropriate technical background together. For this reason a solar cooker manufacturing course for the technical teachers from the Vocational Training Centres of Namibia will be held. Two teachers from each Centre will be asked to attend the course, and it will be held at the University of Namibia.

The teaching of how to build a solar box cooker is not a big problem, if there is enough time and resources. The more important question is; will the people still use the cookers after the foreign partners have left? For this reason it is necessary to employ local, educated people to evaluate the project together with the outside partner. The University of Namibia and the Ministry of Mines and Energy could employ Namibian students and professionals to do the critical evaluation of the solar cooker project. Later on they could continue the local development of the solar cookers and their dissemination to the whole country. The outsiders (only) role would be to consult and facilitate when necessary. The whole project would be run by the Namibians, for their own purposes. In this way the solar cookers could be assimilated into the Namibian culture successfully; and create local jobs, which are badly needed.