Solar Kitchens

Renewable Empowerment
Provision of solar powered stoves in community kitchens for women so they no longer have to spend time searching for firewood or burn charcoal and instead rely on completely renewable energy, fostering a sense of community to come together and cook together


As Uganda’s population grows rapidly, its resources are stretched. Levels of socioeconomic inequality and corruption are high, exacerbating the scarcity of resources. Water and firewood, for example, are in high demand, particularly as massive refugee inflows due to regional instability have brought new populations to the area. Since 2017, for instance, many refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo have moved to temporary settlements in Uganda where they depend on food distributed by international aid agencies.1For more on this context, see: CARE Climate Change, ‘Solar Kitchens: A Safe, Sustainable Solution for Refugee Women’, 17 August 2021 <> and ‘Camp + in Uganda – PESITHO’ <> [accessed 5 November 2023].

In this context of regional instability and conflict over resources, collecting firewood becomes a dangerous mission undertaken traditionally by women. Walking up to 10km to collect wood from forest reserves to make fires for cooking, women not only spend long hours foraging that could be spent in other activities such as education, they also face dangers by being on their own in high-crime areas. Buying charcoal, meanwhile, is prohibitively expensive and produces toxic smoke.


Facing this context of social injustice, CARE, an international humanitarian organisation tackling global poverty and climate vulnerability by working alongside women and girls, built communal kitchens with solar powered stoves in collaboration with CARE’s local office in Uganda.

The buildings are simple structures made of clay and bamboo. The solar stoves housed inside them run entirely from solar panels that also charge mobile phones. When used for cooking, the stoves are cleaner than fuelled ones because they do not emit harmful smoke. Not having to walk to collect firewood means that women feel safer, have more time, and are reporting an increased sense of community cohesion and solidarity, centring in the new kitchens. New collectivities are being formed now that there is no competition to collect scarce firewood. Relying completely on the sun means these kitchens are more ecologically stable and sustainable in the long term too, compared with those powered by fossil fuels.

Solar Kitchens challenge notions of private ownership by fostering convivial gathering and solidarity. The initiative resonates with other projects that use solar power to empower communities and resist socioeconomic inequality, including Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun project for producing solar-powered LED lamps in Ethiopia, and Solar Cinema’s project for taking solar-powered film screenings to regions of Europe, Africa, and South America that lack access to film screening infrastructures. Whether providing cooking facilities to live with, lighting to meet by, or screenings to learn from, these examples all combine renewable technology with a focus on shared space and conviviality.


External links

Little Sun—a project initiated by the artist Olafur Eliasson to produce solar-powered LED lamps in Ethiopia 

Solar Cinema—a project taking solar-powered film screenings to regions of Europe, Africa, and South America