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Thursday 23 February 2012 | Costa Rica News. News on Costa Rica continually updated.

Guanacaste Women Use Sun to Cook

The Guanacaste provincial sun provides free fuel so that hundreds of Nicoya Peninsula farm women may cook their meals -- as they have for the past 22 years.

Cooking with a slower energy source is a small price to pay, these women found, for the extra flavor and health benefits of using the sun -- and it's much cheaper. How cheap?

By using one of the two Costa Rican Sol de Vida (Sun of Life) Foundation-approved stove designs, these women save 1,100 kilowatts of electricity per year, or 725 kilos of ever-scarcer firewood, or 240 liters of propane gas.

And, if they think of it, they are adding not one cubic liter of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. In exchange, they must allow more time -- about three hours, to cook a typical meal. But Guanacastecos are patient.

The foundation is pretty much a home-grown thing, begun 22 years ago and largely financed by the women themselves, after having learned the art of constructing and using the stoves. They are very much their own enthusiastic promoters of the technique.

The showcase of the operation is Casa Sol, a model home on the Guatatil road just 100 meters from a high school near Santa Cruz. This environmentally friendly, light and airy place is made even friendlier by the delicious smells of cooking coming from the solar stove.

There, visitors can get a course in how to prepare delicious meals using natural ingredients and cooked in the sun. The two stoves used -- one a Casa Sol type and the other parabolic -- are slower than fossil fueled types but this allows the flavors to intermingle.

These stoves both run about 225,000 colones, a cost that will be recouped rapidly in fuel cost savings. As with all new things, there are techniques for best results.

One other benefit of the stoves is that they are virtually fireproof and one does not have to worry about volatile gas, worn electrical wiring or constantly feeding firewood under the cooking food.

One can fry things using the stove, instructor Dora Jaen notes, but that destroys the whole idea which is to prepare food in another way, using less grease and salt -- more heart-friendly. Plus, there is another benefit for the busy housewife, Jaen told the newspaper La Nacvion.

Once set cooking, Jaen saysm the woman of the house can set off doing other needed chores without worrying that the food will burn.

Casa Sol de Vida is open to the public Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. There one may learn about making natural fertilizers, solid waste management and other earth-friendly practices.

One of the often overlooked factors in world deforestation has been the cutting of forests for firewood for cooking among poor rural folk. The solar stoves make this an evil of the past.

By Rod Hughes,




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