Powering Houses, Igniting Futures: The ECOCA Photo voltaic Cooker

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This piece was beforehand printed on Mercy Corps Know-how for Improvement weblog. In 2017, Cisco launched a 5-year, $10 million partnership with Mercy Corps referred to as Know-how for Affect. Our aim was to assist Mercy Corps use know-how to ship humanitarian help quicker, extra effectively, and to extra folks.

Each meal tells a narrative. For a lot of of these in rural communities, that story lives within the prolonged and generally perilous journey to gather firewood for cooking gasoline to feed households. Although firewood has been a staple of conventional range cooking, the smoke of cooking over an open fireplace is dangerous to each folks and the atmosphere. Inhalation of smoke from coal, charcoal, kerosene, and different conventional brokers can result in stroke, lung most cancers, coronary heart illness, and persistent obstructive pulmonary illness. Family air air pollution equally harms kids. As cooking usually falls on ladies and ladies, they disproportionately bear these grave well being burdens and will even face familial battle if they’re unable to safe cooking gasoline to organize meals for his or her family.

Collectively, PESITHO and Mercy Corps are telling a brand new story by reimagining conventional cooking strategies within the Bidi Bidi refugee camp and surrounding communities in Uganda in order that the resounding story is one among accessibility, affordability, and sustainability. Supported by Mercy Corps’ partnership with Cisco and the Elrha Journey 2 Scale (J2S) grant, PESITHO and Mercy Corps have launched an modern enterprise mannequin, the pay-as-you-cook (PAYC) mannequin, to subsidize the capital prices of the ECOCA solar-powered cooking range. As a result of many rural communities reside off-grid and lack entry to vitality, few different vitality sources exist to assist the day by day wants of residing, most notably, cooking.

A cooking unit TeamJiX
PESITHOs ECOCA unit

​​The ECOCA Cooking Unit

The ECOCA solar-powered cooking range is designed by PESITHO to energy households with their cooking and electrical energy wants. Based on PESITHO, a household with a median of 5–7 members can prepare dinner 3 meals per day, together with after hours at midnight. The cooking unit additionally options two USB charging ports, which can be utilized to cost different home equipment, corresponding to cell phones, and two rechargeable, transportable lamps. This design expands alternatives for households to generate further earnings and even proceed actions that had been beforehand restricted because of a scarcity of electrical energy and satisfactory lighting. These actions might embody finding out or practising expertise and crafts that assist earnings era.

The Pay-As-You-Prepare dinner (PAYC) Mannequin

ECOCA models are each retailed and assembled domestically, hiring refugees and members of the host communities as technicians. The PAYC fee mannequin permits households to pay per utilization over a most interval of three years. PAYGo models include two circuit boards within the base which permit for the fee mechanism to operate. The system is ready to monitor utilization information, offering insights into carbon emissions related to every cooking exercise.

The PAYGo system improves how technicians assist contributors because it has GPS monitoring, permitting technicians to establish which models are out of cash in order that they might notify the participant. Typically, contributors moved, additional including to the advantages of the PAYC system as its GPS capabilities allowed for retailers and technicians to take care of communication with contributors. PESITHO continues to work with Airtel, a telecommunications firm, to auto-generate activation codes which might be despatched to contributors’ telephones to self-activate or renew. At present, the technical group continues to be manually producing the codes and going to participant houses to activate and renew.

Praises from Members

Participant Abu Simon advised our program group that earlier than the pilot, it value his household 30,000 UGX (about $7 USD) for a sack of charcoal, lasting for one month. Firewood set them again a further 6,000 UGX ($1.55 USD) per bundle. From early morning till the afternoon, he and his household would collect firewood. The ECOCA cooker tremendously decreased the time spent gathering firewood, which was a possibility value to pursuing actions for private growth.

For an additional participant, Moses, the ECOCA has illuminated his entrepreneurial spirit. In his zone, charging your cell phone for the day prices 500 UGX. Moses has been ready so as to add a further income stream by providing the USB ports on his unit to his neighbors at a lowered worth of 300 UGX. Along with being one other supply of earnings, these entrepreneurial practices enable for the unit to pay for itself.

Enhancing ECOCA for the Future

Our group has recognized how ECOCA will be improved to raised meet the day by day wants of contributors:

  • Overwhelming demand: The demand for ECOCA models far exceeded the 25 models used on this pilot. To resolve this hole in demand, non-public sector approaches must be utilized in order that the models are accessible past the humanitarian context. Mercy Corps is within the ultimate phases of onboarding Fairness Financial institution Uganda Restricted to pilot a rural monetary companies program for the ECOCA models. PESITHO has dedicated to supplying 100 models for the pilot.
  • Weak connectivity. Connectivity at participant houses and the PESITHO Innovation Facilities has not been optimum. Retailers generally have to depart a participant’s dwelling with a view to get sign or satisfactory connectivity to entry technical assist, delaying the method.
  • Problem executing repairs: Many retailers have restricted expertise to deal with repairs. The meeting center-based technicians have extra expertise and can host clinics on the distribution hubs in zones 3 and 4 to construct capability for this talent set and practice and mentor retailers.
  • Availability of shops: Whereas the retailers had been typically responsive, wait instances to obtain assist with an ECOCA unit problem might take as much as every week. This significantly impacted those that reside in zones the place there are not any retailers. The same problem arose with technicians trying to assist these in zones with no technicians or retailers. One participant needed to wait a month to get assist from a technician who was already tasked with addressing assist requests of their respective zone and was providing further help to these exterior of the zone. To alleviate this, WhatsApp teams, managed by retailers, are used for communication ease and technical assist.
A retailer handing out cooking units TeamJiX
A program participant stands with a retailer to obtain his ECOCA unit Photograph credit score Guya Francis an ECOCA retailer from Bidi Bidi Zone 3

Conclusions

Cooking is extra than simply offering sustenance for ourselves and our communities. It’s usually a culturally salient ritual handed down from era to era, which may make the adoption of latest modes of cooking a tough transition. Peer-to-peer coaching and data sharing are important to the transition from conventional cooking to different sources of vitality. Some group members are already adept at utilizing the ECOCA and shall be key ambassadors to scale this innovation in order that clear vitality will be extra accessible and inexpensive. This system group has deliberate for peer-to-peer coaching and studying occasions for correct use the place group members can collect collectively and share data with one another. The keenness for the potential of solar energy is buzzing amongst contributors with some even suggesting the event of solar-powered washing machines, water heaters, or fridges. With the PAYGo system, extra households can have an inexpensive, accessible, and sustainable means to powering their houses and their futures.

The Know-how for Improvement (T4D) group supported the Mercy Corps Uganda Staff within the supply of this pilot via partnership with Cisco, beneath a 5-year program geared toward utilizing know-how to ship help and growth help quicker, higher, and to extra folks.

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