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Cooking in Africa

Following the late cancellation of the speaker from the Nelson Trust, Julia gave a presentation about the problems of cooking in Africa. Julia lived in three different Sub-Saharan African countries for ten years and encountered the numerous problems associated with ‘dirty cooking’; four out of five Africans cook with polluting fuels like charcoal, wood or kerosene. These fuels cause many problems:

  • carbon emissions
  • smoke – inhaled by those nearby (mostly women and children) causing respiratory problems
  • using up natural resources (deforestation)
  • time consuming to gather firewood (and danger of rape)
  • cooking pot needs constant tending
  • danger of clothes catching fire
  • danger of children falling in fires

There are many fuel efficient stoves available worldwide, but often cost too much for the average family. Schemes such as micro finance can help make them accessible. Families save in the longer term from reduced fuel bills and the women benefit from improved health.

Another alternative is the Wonderbag, developed in South Africa to deal with power cuts. It works on the ‘hay box’ principal, or thermal heat retention – a slow cooker without a plug! The food is heated on a stove to and boiled for five minutes in a pot which is at least 3/4 full. The pot is covered with a tight fitting lid and placed in the Wonderbag to continue cooking for 4-5 hours or more.  The advantages are much reduced use of fuel and all the associated dangers, and it frees the women up to spend time doing other, more productive tasks.

Julia recounted how she had tried to set up a social enterprise making the Wonderbag in Uganda, with the profits going to support Alive Medical Services, an Aids/HIV clinic in a poor area of Kampala. The sewing was done by women of Watoto Church who were being trained as seamstresses, many of them were HIV positive, and being paid a good wage while they learned.

Unfortunately the cost of production put the bags out of the reach of ordinary Ugandans, but many were purchased by NGOs and distributed in the refugee settlements in the north and west of the country. Uganda is home to over 1 million refugees from South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo and this puts a great strain on local resources, especially wood for fires. Women and girls have to walk long distances to find wood and are often raped on the way.

Although solutions exist, it is frustrating that these are not being more widely disseminated. The main problem is affordability and therefore, microfinance could help, but this too can be costly to implement.

We should all be grateful that we can cook quickly and cleanly at the flick of a switch or knob!

Club Business

Liz reported on a proposed motion for the upcoming conference which proposed that Associate Members could become national office holders. She wanted to  propose that they should also be allowed to hold office at regional level, which could be a stepping stone to national level. There was some discussion about whether they should be allowed to hold any office.

Janet Musgrove has taken on the PAC role and will be reviewing all our projects with a view to ensuring they are representative of the interests of members and involving as many people as possible.

A straw poll was conducted to choose the date for Bras and Bubbly, but both dates were evenly suitable to members. The host will choose.

Our 27 June meeting will be a walk around the city focussing on Her Salisbury Footprint locations. For those who don’t want to walk, we will meet at the New Inn from 8pm.

Members were told to expect an invitation to our Birthday Brunch to celebrate our 5th birthday in August.