It is estimated that two billion people depend on wood fuel as their energy source for cooking. This contributes to deforestation, particularly where internal displacement or refugee movements increase the pressure on shared natural resources, and to meet the urban demand for charcoal. While in many places cooking with charcoal and other biomass is seen as a necessary evil, inefficient combustion in closed quarters can cause respiratory diseases, leading to millions of deaths globally every year.
Pesitho ECOCA is an e-cooker that uses solar energy to replace wood fuel, helping families improve their health and save money.
Pesitho offers a solar-powered solution to off-grid food preparation needs. The ECOCA is a compact, self-contained, multi-purpose cooking unit, consisting of a battery pack, solar panel and an insulated pot. Aside from cooking, the ECOCA can even be used to charge mobile phones and small appliances, making it appealing for areas with little to no electricity.
Pesitho’s vision is to give the world’s poorest access to renewable energy and clean cooking without the use of firewood or charcoal.
After a successful WFP Innovation Bootcamp in 2019, a pilot was initiated in Burundi, with the aim of give participants the opportunity to replace more than 75% of their current use of charcoal with the ECOCA, testing the user-friendliness and willingness to change their cooking habits.
The main goal of the collaboration is to test the assumption that urban end-users who are paying for charcoal would be willing to purchase the ECOCA and explore a business model that could suit people served by WFP. Key highlights so far include the identification of 50 families that want to participate in the pilot, installation of ECOCAs in 7 households, hiring of a local team that will provide technical assistance to participating families and collecting feedback from the users.
Cooking is cultural, which became clear during the testing of the ECOCA at participating households. While demonstrating how to cook plantains, the ECOCA switched from boiling to simmering to reduce the need for additional energy, while maintaining sufficient heat for cooking. One tester exclaimed, “The ECOCA is not working! There are not enough bubbles in the boiling water!" The perception that bubbles are needed to ensure that the food is properly cooked was quite evident from the first test, and has influenced the adaptations made for the next model.
Pesitho's goal is that 50,000 families change from charcoal to the ECOCA by the end of 2021, improving their health and household economy in the process.
While the pilot with WFP is currently focused in Burundi, the team would be very interested in expanding to other countries in the region where WFP operates, including Uganda, where they are already working with Caritas.
The assembly of the ECOCA has been simplified, and hopefully with enable the creation local jobs for youth and women in rural areas, especially those in and around refugee camps. The team hopes to test this setup in the Bidibidi settlement in northwest Uganda to assemble, sell and install at least 1000 ECOCAs in 2020 creating at least 20 local jobs. If successful, this model could be scaled and replicated in similar settings.