Blog: Understanding Solar 7

15 July 2014

In order to make progress with our efforts to distribute solar panel cookers in Pakistan, Roger and I met with The Lady Fatemah Trust, which has recently distributed 1,000 cookers there.

Although they arranged a cooking demonstration, made available a training video and included an instruction leaflet, the charity was not able to organise continuous training and support, and many women are having trouble adapting their recipes to their new cooker.  This situation confirms that the use of solar panel cookers is unlikely to spread, unless those who use them are well trained and continuously supported.

This makes sense, based on my research findings mentioned previously, and my own experience. When I first learned to cook I needed recipes that explained every aspect clearly, including exact ingredients, amounts, cooking temperatures and times etc. To obtain these recipes I read books, newspapers and magazines, observed celebrity chefs on TV and exchanged recipes with others. Even then, it took a few attempts before I was happy with the results.

Our target users cannot risk failure. 

I vaguely remember getting a pressure cooker but never bothered with it because none of my cooking sources addressed this technology, at least not enticingly.

Without doubt, a robust distribution model which incorporates training and ongoing support is needed, and I have been inspired by Village Enterprise whose mission is to equip people living in extreme poverty with the resources to create sustainable businesses. For more information, please visit http://villagenterprise.org.  What is particularly interesting is their recruitment and training of business mentors, who proceed to help very disadvantaged people develop new businesses. 75% of businesses are still operational after four years.

One of the ways that the UK supports business is through the Growth Accelerator (GA) http://www.growthaccelerator.com/,   which employs ‘growth managers’ and ‘growth coaches’ to help new or established businesses grow. As a GA growth coach myself, I am convinced that using mentors and coaches, combined with subsidised training for businesses, works really well.

I intend to produce a business model and plan for Pakistan with help from Lady Fatemah Trust and contacts in Pakistan. We aim to raise sufficient funds to test the concept in one village, to start. The concept? Setting up 'dealerships', responsible for marketing to and training consumers, repair and replacement of solar products, including our solar cookers.

I have written many business plans in my career, but never one like this!

 

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Comments

This sounds like a very practical way to introduce solar panel cookers. Definitely useful to know, thanks.

Viv Sloan, 17 July 2014


Your observations about the difficulty of technology transfer vis-a-vis solar cookers was spot-on. It's such a strange, new technology that learning to prepare food with it, does require a long period of teaching and experimentation with close support from a trainer. One option is to simply teach women how to heat water in their solar cookers, since 1/3 of all fuel use in villages is for heating water. Just by using it for hot water they can save fuel and have the convenience of access to hot water all day. Once they are comfortable heating water for tea/cooking/etc, many will on their own try cooking rice and other simple foods.

Patricia McArdle, 15 July 2014