Like all change there would be considerable socio-cultural challenges. Where electricity becomes available and affordable, the switch to electric hobs for cooking is rarely constrained by core cultural cooking preferences. The experience of heating a pan on an electric stove is fairly comparable to heating it with (a pre hot) solid fuel stove, (without the indoor air pollution). Within any population there will be some who prefer to ‘see a flame’ and ‘have greater control’ but in general there are no overarching cultural cooking barriers (as
opposed to say solar cookers which require special processes and/or a special time for cooking).
However there may be other socio-cultural challenges among resource poor communities:-
- Theft. Early adopters in particular are likely to be ‘announcing’ their equipment by the solar panel on the roof. In slums this may prove a long term problem. (By definition the panel needs to be outside and visible)
- Preventative maintenance. As a system it will likely require a very low level of technical literacy to operate. However maintenance of the battery might be a key issue. This needs to be considered in the design both of the system (prioritise safety by moving away from lead acid batteries) and the distribution network (include jobs for agents to maintain batteries monthly).
- Gender concerns. It is women who get most of the bad from solid fuels – the time taken for collection and the indoor air pollution. It is often the man of the household who makes decisions about major capital outlay or microfinance. We anticipate that there will need to be awareness raising – since it is likely that the men who control the purse strings will not see the reason why the household should make such a major outlay in order to save the woman a ‘bit of time’ and ‘clear
away some smokiness’.
- Expectations. We have noted that the proposed system is undersized for the usual larger families found in developing countries. While suitable for smaller households (urban dwellers and refugees), it may not be appropriate for extended families cooking from a single pot. This is only a matter of sizing the system and the accompanying cost – but some research would be needed to ensure that expectations of the consumers matched the product design.
There is also a considerable environmental problem to be anticipated with the disposal of the
batteries at the end of their life.