Blog: Understanding Solar 9

5 September 2014

Finally I am able to write an update on our progress in Pakistan.

Prior to my last blog post, I was able to provide weekly updates, but progress has stalled. Matthew’s unexpected passing has meant we are in the process of restructuring the business and, combined  with the challenges of launching new products into new (foreign) markets, slow communications with Pakistan, summer holidays, and the general busyness of everyone doing their ‘day jobs’, this is not surprising. Personally, I would prefer to work at weekends and holidays if it meant maintaining momentum, and patience is not my forte, but this is the situation we are/have been in.

The main barriers to progress with solar cooking in Pakistan concerns the way meals are cooked now. A friend wrote: “Most Pakistani cooking is done using a quick fried onion base which is then mixed with spices and vegetables or meat to make a curry-like dish. This is usually eaten with chapati or boiled rice (especially in the poorer districts). Pakistani food is usually fried in oil at some stage of the cooking process whereas slow cooking usually produces soup-like dishes.

Slow cookers also require more time which will change the flavours and tastes typical of Pakistani food. However the plus point with this would be its convenience. Most adults in the household usually spend the entire day out working so can set this up and have food ready for them as soon as they return. This would also be ideal for remote areas where one pot dishes are cooked (usually lentils and rice all put in one pot)…'

The gentleman in Pakistan responsible for distributing our cookers on behalf of The Lady Fatemah Trust, phoned me from Islamabad yesterday. He explained that my concept of enabling disadvantaged people to set up solar cooking shops and supporting them with business, management and solar cooking training, was much too ambitious. It has been difficult for me to comprehend the extent of the cultural differences between people in the Western world and those in one of the world’s poorest countries –  a country that I would not attempt to visit myself.

The current plan is to identify progressive families in our target region (Chakwal), where women have sufficient education to be able to take notes and learn to master solar cooking skills. Once these women have adapted to solar cooking, are able to cook good family meals, have experienced and are convinced of the benefits of solar cooking, this situation will be able to be publicised, and media attention will lead to wider acceptance by people. At this point, larger projects can be considered, which, as a result, are more likely to attract funding support from aid agencies or other funding bodies.

This approach will take time, but has the potential to contribute significantly to the spread of solar cooking in Pakistan.


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