Mexican Women Use Sunlight Instead of Firewood or Gas to Cook Meals

Reyna Díaz checks the marinated pork she is cooking in a solar cooker at her home in a poor neighbourhood of Vicente Guerrero, Villa de Zaachila municipality, in the southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca. The use of solar cookers has made is possible for 200 local women to save on fuel and stop using firewood, providing environmental and health benefits. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Reyna Díaz checks the marinated pork she is cooking in a solar
cooker at her home in a poor neighbourhood of Vicente Guerrero,
Villa de Zaachila municipality, in the southwestern Mexican state
of Oaxaca. The use of solar cookers has made is possible for 200
local women to save on fuel and stop using firewood, providing
environmental and health benefits. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
VILLA DE ZAACHILA, Mexico, Aug 13 2019 (IPS)

Reyna Díaz cooks beans, chicken, pork and desserts in her solar
cooker, which she sets up in the open courtyard of her home in a
poor neighborhood on the outskirts of this town in southwestern
Mexico.

“My family likes the way it cooks things. I use it almost
every day, it has been a big help to me,” Díaz told IPS as she
mixed the ingredients for cochinita pibil, a traditional pork dish
marinated with spices and achiote, a natural coloring.

She then placed the pot on the aluminum sheets of the cooker,
which reflect the sunlight that heats the receptacle.

Before receiving the solar cooker in March, Díaz, who sells
atole, a traditional hot Mexican drink based on corn or wheat
dough, and is raising her son and daughter on her own, did not
believe it was possible to cook with the sun’s rays.”I learned
while working with the local women. It was hard, like breaking
stones; people knew nothing about it. Now people are more open,
because there is more information about the potential of solar
energy. In rural areas, people understand it more.” — Lorena
Harp

“I didn’t know it could be done, I wondered if the food
would actually be cooked. It’s a wonderful thing,” said this
resident of the poor neighbourhood of Vicente Guerrero, in Villa de
Zaachila, a municipality of 43,000 people in the state of Oaxaca,
some 475 km south of Mexico City.

One thing the inhabitants of Vicente Guerrero have in common is
poverty. But although they live in modest houses that in some cases
are tin shacks lining unpaved streets and have no sewage system,
they do have electricity and drinking water. The women alternate
their informal sector jobs with the care of their families.

Diaz used to cook with firewood and liquefied petroleum gas
(LPG), which she now uses less so it lasts longer. “I’ve saved
a lot,” she said.

Women in this neighborhood were taught how to use the solar
cookers and then became
promoters, organising demonstrations in their homes to exchange
recipes, taste their dishes and spread the word about the benefits
and positive changes that the innovative stoves have brought.

The solar cookers are low-tech devices that use reflective
panels to focus sunlight on a pot in the middle.

Their advantages include being an alternative for rural cooking,
because they make it possible to cook without electricity or solid
or fossil fuels, pasteurising water to make it drinkable, reducing
logging and pollution, helping people avoid breathing smoke from
woodstoves, and using renewable energy.

The drawbacks are that they do not work on rainy or cloudy days,
it takes a long time to cook the food, compared to traditional
stoves, and they have to be used outdoors.

In Mexico, a country of 130 million people, some 19 million use
solid fuels for cooking, which caused some 15,000 premature deaths
in 2016 from the ingestion of harmful particles, according to data
from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography
(Inegi).

Lorena Harp (L), head of a project that promotes the use of solar cookers in Mexico, shows retired teacher Irma Jiménez how to assemble the device, in the poor neighborhood of Vicente Guerrero, Villa de Zaachila municipality, in the southwestern state of Oaxaca. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Lorena Harp (L), head of a project that promotes the use of
solar cookers in Mexico, shows retired teacher Irma Jiménez how to
assemble the device, in the poor neighborhood of Vicente Guerrero,
Villa de Zaachila municipality, in the southwestern state of
Oaxaca. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The main fuel consumed by 79 percent of these households is LPG,
followed by wood or charcoal (11 percent) and natural gas (seven
percent).

In Oaxaca, gas and firewood each account for 49 percent of
household consumption.

Of the state’s more than four million inhabitants, 70 percent
were living in poverty in 2016 and nearly 27 percent in extreme
poverty, according to Inegi. Twenty-six percent lived in
substandard, crowded housing and 62 percent lacked access to basic
services.

Oaxaca is also one of the three Mexican states with the highest
levels of energy poverty, which means households that spend more
than 10 percent of their income on energy.

Solar cookers can help combat the deprivation.

They first began to be distributed in Oaxaca in 2004. In 2008,
activists created the initiative “Solar energy for mobile food
stalls in Mexico”, sponsored by three Swiss institutions: the
city of Geneva, the SolarSpar cooperative and the
non-governmental organisation GloboSol.

Cocina Solar
Mexico
, a collective dedicated to the use of solar energy for
cooking, was founded in 2009. With the support of the
non-governmental Solar Household Energy (SHE), based in Washington,
an economical, light-weight prototype was built.

In 2016, SHE launched a pilot project in indigenous communities
to assess how widely it would be accepted.

“I learned while working with the local women. It was hard,
like breaking stones; people knew nothing about it. Now people are
more open, because there is more information about the potential of
solar energy. In rural areas, people understand it more,”
Lorena
Harp
, head of the initiative, told IPS.

The four-litre pot, which has a useful life of five to 10 years,
costs about $25, of which SHE provides half. The group has
distributed about 200 solar cookers in 10 communities.

Harp said it is a gender issue, because “women are empowered,
they have gained respect in their families.”

The southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca fails to take advantage of is great solar power potential. The picture shows a rooftop at a solar panel factory in Oaxaca City, the state capital. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca fails to take advantage
of is great solar power potential. The picture shows a rooftop at a
solar panel factory in Oaxaca City, the state capital. Credit:
Emilio Godoy/IPS

Despite its potential, Oaxaca does not take advantage of its
high levels of solar radiation. Last June, it was listed among the
10 Mexican states with the lowest levels of distributed
(decentralised) generation, less than 500 kilowatts, connected to
the national power grid, according to the government’s Energy
Regulatory Commission (CRE).

In the first half of the year, Oaxaca had an installed
photovoltaic capacity of 6.69 megawatts with 747 interconnection
contracts, in a country where distributed generation only involves
solar energy.

This Latin American country registered 17,767 contracts for
almost 125 megawatts (MW), almost the same volume as in the same
period in 2018 -when they totaled 35,661 for 233.56 MW, although
there were more permits. Since 2007, CRE has registered 112,660
contracts for 817.85 MW of solar power.

Luís Calderón, president of the Oaxaca Energy Cluster,
says things have evolved quickly.

But “there is a lack of precise, reliable information and
certainty about the savings achieved with distributed generation,
which is generated for self-consumption while the surplus is fed
into the grid. In addition, there is no policy in the state,”
Calderón, also a member of the National Solar Energy Association, told
IPS.

In 2018, Mexico registered a total installed capacity of 70,000
MW, three percent more than the previous year. Gas-fired combined
cycle plants contributed 36 percent, conventional thermal 17
percent, hydroelectric 18 percent, coal almost eight percent, wind
just under seven percent, and solar only 2.6 percent.

But the government of left-wing President Andrés Manuel López
Obrador, who took office in December, is driving the exploitation
of fossil fuels and standing in the way of the growth of renewable
energies.

It plans to modify the Business Ecocredit initiative, led by the
government’s Electric Energy Saving
Trust
for micro, small and medium enterprises for the
acquisition of efficient appliances. The measures include
eliminating the 14 percent subsidy and a limit of some 20,000
dollars in financing, but the government has yet to define its
future.

In addition, the Oaxaca government’s plan to create two
cooperatives for energy for agricultural irrigation does not yet
have the 1.75 million dollars needed for two 500-kilowatt solar
plants in the municipality of San Pablo Huixtepec to serve 1,200
farmers in 35 irrigation units.

The local women don’t plan to stop using the solar cookers, in
a neighbourhood ideal for deploying solar panels and water heaters.
“We’re going to keep using it, we’ve seen that it works.
We’re going to promote this,” Díaz said, while checking that
her stew wasn’g burning.

The SHE assessment found that the solar cookers were widely
accepted and have had a positive impact, as nearly half of the
local women who use them have reduced by more than 50 percent their
use of stoves that cause pollution. Some use the pots up to six
times a week, and they have proven to be high quality, durable and
affordable. Users also report that the solar cookers have saved
them time.

Harp said more partners and government support were needed.
“There’s still a long way to go, there are many shortfalls.
Something is missing to generate truly widespread use, perhaps a
comprehensive policy,” she said.

The post
Mexican Women Use Sunlight Instead of Firewood or Gas to Cook
Meals
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Mexican Women Use Sunlight Instead of Firewood or Gas to Cook Meals