Blog of Samuel Rodrigues

Solar kitchen launch with Don Bosco in Kakuma, Kenya

Posted Wednesday 9 November 2022 by Samuel Rodrigues.

This September Solar Fire started another project with Don Bosco, this time in Kakuma.

Kakuma is a small town in the Turkana region, north west of Kenya set in a beautiful yet austere landscape. The region is unfortunately known these days for the climatic stress it is under. It’s the stage for simultaneously aggressive droughts and destructive flash floods that disrupt both the ecosystem and human socio-economic activities. The people of Turkana know all too well the impacts of climate change.

The town itself has currently around 60 000 inhabitants but the total population is much higher if the Kakuma Refugee Camp is taken into account. Established in 1992 this camp is currently the largest in the world hosting about 200 000 refugees and asylum seekers who escaped conflicts in Sudan (58% of the population), Somalia (16%), Democratic Republic of Congo (8%), Burundi (7%), Ethiopia (5%) and other surrounding countries.

The camp is run by UNHCR Kenya and receives support in key social needs like health, education, housing, child protection etc, from different civil society and non governmental institutions.
Don Bosco provides the camp population with several education centers where about 800 students per year are given vocational training in crafts like masonry, electricity, metal working, tailoring, etc.

There are many challenges to these institutions as well as to the camp and local populations. One of them, common in these contexts, is energy supply. The electrical grid is almost non-existent and, mostly because of its remoteness, access to gas or other fuels is difficult and expensive. So most of the cooking and food transformation is done using firewood. In such an arid context in which deforestation promotes an alarming desertification, it is obvious to everyone that this solution is not sustainable and that it is bound to get more and more expensive.

Pile of firewood at Don Bosco used to cook for around 800 students a day.

So the stage is set for this Don Bosco - Solar Fire collaboration. Alternatives like concentrated solar heat (in which Solar Fire specializes) can therefore have an important and positive impact in the preservation of the environment and in the improvement of living conditions for everyone.

There are two main goals for this project:
1- Setting up a solar bakery unit that can serve as training grounds, as employment opportunity for some students and as a source of income to Don Bosco Kakuma.
2 - Installing several solar stove tops to sustainably and economically cook (for the moment a significant part of) the daily meals served to the students.

This September Solar Fire organized a first field mission to Kakuma to assess the local needs and capabilities.

We selected and prepared a site - A terrace on the side of a hill at Don Bosco’s compound was created and prepared to receive five Lytefire machines.

We prepared a working space - An empty room near to the site was turned into a temporary bakery, as we wait for a permanent Solar Kitchen and Bakery to be created.

We installed a first solar oven - we organized an introductory training session with the group of staff and students that will be running the bakery and installed and started production with a first Lytefire solar oven.

The mission was a success! The bakery team has started a steady production (more news on them soon) and Solar Fire is producing the five more Lytefire 5 that we will install soon.

We’ll be back in Kakuma in no time!


In Embu, Kenya, Don Bosco’s Tech School Solar Bakery is up and running

Posted Thursday 7 April 2022 by Nigel Jonathan, Samuel Rodrigues.

The Don Bosco Technical Institutes boasts a number of different workshops. Walking around the school you can see students working on metal objects, wood furniture, masonry structures, electrical installations and many more activities. Now there is a new work post… a solar bakery!

During the first two months of the year, a Solar Fire team was dispatched to Embu with three Lytefire 5s to install a bakery and conduct 3 training sessions.

The bakery…
…is situated just next to the existing canteen kitchen. It consists of an array of three Lytefire solar ovens, placed in a terrace free of shadows where they can collect the maximum amount of solar power throughout the day. As an added perk, this area has a beautiful view!

The solar machines are mounted on concrete rings that allow them to move smoothly and leveled when tracking the sun and to resist all erosion that could come from running water.
A few steps away from the solar ovens is the indoor space for production and storage of the baked goods . The school had an available room that is spacious and perfectly suited for this. The shelving, drying racks, working table and partition walls were all made by the students in the different workshops with excellent results.

Just after the project implementation weekly production is about 160 loafs of bread and some 450 buns. The bakery team is still learning and evolving so they are only working for internal consumption but once they become more experienced the objective is to start producing for surrounding partner institutions, significantly increasing the production and diversifying the range of products. This will create a new source of revenue for the school.

The training sessions…
…were very enriching moments. Three very heterogeneous groups were introduced to different subjects related to these solar bakeries. Four main areas of knowledge were approached:
Solar science - Understanding the basics of energy consumption and its impacts on climate and the environment
Lyte fire technology - an understanding of how concentrated solar energy works and learning to assemble, operate and maintain the Lytefire concentrators

Solar baking - The basics of baking using the sun and a lot of practical training on a wide variety of baked goods

Solar entrepreneurship - Understanding the basics of a solar bakery business model and the complexities of starting and running such a business.
There were also two events opened to the public so that the trainees could have a feel of the complexities of managing a bakery in a busy day!

The training groups were very heterogeneous and constituted by some students of the technical school, staff, relatives of the staff, members of the surrounding community and students from Embu University which allowed for some enriching exchanges.

From the 34 trainees only a few (mostly staff) will be working permanently in the bakery but these weeks of training also allowed to plant the seeds of a small network around the solar bakery that can evolve into different activities. The school is presently looking into two scenarios:
Organizing more baking training sessions so that these trainees can further develop their skills;
Giving them open access to the ovens so that they can keep developing their own baking activities.

Plenty of challenges and possibilities!
All the best for the Don Bosco Solar Bakery team! We’ll be revisiting them soon!


The dawn of solar project in Embu with Don Bosco in 2021

Posted Friday 4 March 2022 by Nigel Jonathan, Samuel Rodrigues.

Embu is a town on the foothills of Mount Kenya, with wide landscapes, endless fields and fresh, crisp air. The town is alive in all senses of the word, the local markets bustle with activity! Traders crowd every street corner selling produce from their farms, and vendors sell various items by the roads. The Don Bosco Technical Institute was founded in 1985 and there are four schools in Kenya.

The Technical Institute in Embu is located 15 minutes from the city centre on an impressive self-sustaining 90-acre property. The school is one huge family, housing within its grounds over 40 members of staff and over 200 students aged between 14 and 21. Resultantly, there is a high demand for bread and other baked goods that are often consumed during tea breaks. The students divide their time between classrooms and workshops where the youngsters are taught vocational skills like woodwork, masonry, metalwork and electrical work.

By installing three Lytfire 5 Solar Ovens the school will be able to make their own bread and other baked goods! Not only is the concentrator saving the school money but surplus items will be sold to the local community and institutions in order to keep the bakery self-sufficient and economically viable.

Three groups of about 12 participants will be trained over the next two months and some will integrate the bakery team.

Don Bosco’s Technical School Embu’s website can be found here. The site of Don Bosco Jugendhilfe Weltweit, the general salesian organization based in Switzerland, is here.

More news on this project to read here!


 

 

 

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