Our experience taking our locally made solar-cooker to a community of one of the young women in the Busika community. It was a Thursday sunny afternoon when we embarked on our journey to Jjali a village in Busika to meet Lydia (not her real name) who had been identified by one of the youth clean-energy Community Distributors. She lived in a semi-permanent house with 4 of her biological children. She’s a substance farmer and she tends her family’s plot of land where she grows nearly everything they consume. The purpose of our visit was to see to it that she adopts at least a solar cooker as a start given the extent of her energy poverty which included dependency on unclean forms of both cooking and lighting as electricity was yet in her home. We excitedly explained how our solar cooker worked (she was sceptical of course) but kept listening and asking deep questions. We asked her to bring out her planned meal for the day. Sweet-potatoes were placed in the wooden blackened box and plastic covered on top. We were ready to go. We explained to her what we thought was going to happen and waited for the magic. She kept pacing back and forth, and suddenly potatoes started boiling. She couldn’t believe it!!. All she could afford to say was that we were “baloggo” the local word for witches. She took a lot of explaining and observation to believe that the sun which she has always complained about can be put to good use, saving her from the burden of fetching firewood to cook. Most times she couldn’t firewood, which meant her family couldn’t eat a balanced diet of her harvested dried beans and matoke (plantain). The other alternative was to burn plastics which again could give so much dirty smoke. She has endured eye-burning smoke and coughing as she struggled to fan the smouldering “ekyoto” with her mouth. The technology worked miracles but the challenge was that it was expensive. At US$150 for a person with a weekly income of US$ 4 it is way above. But luckily for her, she belongs to a saving group and seven of her neighbours. We suggested to them that they could buy the technology together while paying in instalment and use it together in turns when each family is ready to cook. This they agreed and are now paying their instalments on schedule to fully own the solar cooker. From one household of Lydia, we’ve now been able to nudge 246 households in Busika to adopt at least one type of clean energy solution to improve indoor air quality and lessen the risk to NCDs.
Seeing this drastic transformation amongst the most vulnerable in our communities, believing and trusting our technologies that are made us the young people, gives me full confidence and hope that we can address our problems as young people. We can equally be change-makers and determinants of destinies of our future and contributors to the elimination of future non communicable disease. We continue to be grateful to the Young Health Program (YHP) Step Up Grant for believing in our ideas and investing in them to facilitate our desired transformation.