Sun Fire Cooking has been working to introduce solar cooking to communities in northeastern Somalia for a number of years. In 2005, they created the world’s first solar cooker village, at Bender Bayla on Somalia’s northern coast, which was heavily damaged by the Asian tsunami.
They are working in the disputed Sanaag District, which lies between Somaliland and Puntland in the north. Outsiders have been using this area as a base for piracy, as well as for illegal charcoal production.
Sun Fire Cooking’s recent update (October 28, 2008) reports some good news from the region.
“In June 2008 the people of Sanaag decided to do something about the lawlessness. They raised money from Somalis living in Western Europe and the United States, hired a General in the former Somali army who had local roots and paid for a 300-man security force to help maintain order. Subsequently there has been a huge improvement of security in Sanaag.
“Cutting of trees for charcoal production has been banned in Sanaag. Security forces have been ordered to arrest and to destroy illegal charcoal traders’ business. All charcoal products are publicly burned and the traders’ transport vehicles confiscated. Solar cooking is seen more and more as a viable alternative for household cooking.”
Sun Fire’s work is changing attitudes about using charcoal, which contributes heavily to deforestation. “In villages such as Badhan where Sun Fire Cooking has been working for several years there is now a ‘critical mass’ of households, which are using solar cookers. These households tell their neighbours about the advantages of solar cooking and stimulate demand. “
Community groups throughout Sanaag have seen Sun Film’s award-winning short film, Charcoal Traffic, about two brothers trapped in a cycle of environmental and cultural devastation, filmed on location in Somalia near Bosaso, using an all-local Somali cast. The film promotes community discussion about the devastating cultural and environmental effects of charcoal production.