Solar Energy and Food Gardens Are a Natural Fit

Posted Friday 30 October 2015 by Lorin Symington.

Community gardens are dynamic, important spaces that improve food security, increase access to nutritious and sustainably grown foods, and raise awareness about ecological practices.

We spent a great day showing off the Sol4 at Siyakhana starting with hosting a film crew from CCTV Africa doing a piece on renewable energy and entrepreneurialism, followed by a visit from Aaron Langa who runs Forum4Change, a network devoted to improving conditions in South Africa’s informal settlements and finally we baked cookies for and presented the Sol4 to employees and community members of Siyakhana as well as the founder and director of the Wits Siyakhana Initiative Prof. Rudolph.

1kg of spinach or swiss chard for 35 cents!

The Wits Siyakhana Initiative is a 2 hectare garden and eco-center tucked away in a Johannesburg city park. Powered by employees, volunteers, students and sponsors, the garden is one of the foremost permaculture sites in South Africa.

Lorin has baked more in South Africa than in Canada.

Professor Michael Rudolph was eager to witness the Sol4 and discuss the possibilities: "I’m really very excited to see this sustainable solar cooker. It fits in exactly with what we’re trying to do at Siyakhana of promoting innovative and appropriate technology that is suitable for so many people in the wider Johannesburg, in Gauteng, and in South Africa. Very importantly we see this as linking with our approach to training and promoting entrepreneurship, in terms of small scale business, which is absolutely essential in South Africa to create businesses where people can buy in, have the skills in terms of entrepreneurship and small business and really become sustainable and generate their own income rather than waiting for government jobs."

Professor Michael Rudolph addresses Siyakhana

After showing how the machine works, getting participants to wiggle a few mirrors, put their hand (briefly!) in the focal point and eating some delicious chocolate cookies, we opened it up to questions. "How hot does it get?" "Can it cook meat?" "Why are there so many mirrors?" "Can you make it bigger?" "Can you make it smaller?" "Why do you have to bend the mirrors?" "How do we get our hands on one of these?"

At one point, Prof. Rudolph takes over: "It’s not only growing beautiful cabbage or spinach or tomatoes, it’s how to prepare them. And to prepare them here without using electricity or without making a fire. Making bread with spinach inside, to make it more nutritious so it’s not just white bread that’s just filling the tummy, but it’s got nutrition. I’m just throwing out ideas that we can do, when people come to buy spinach or tomatoes we can say ’listen, we’re also making special bread with spinach or with kale. Or kale chips... the queue will be outside the gates! This is what we try to do, we look for new ideas that can help us and then share them with other people. "

After hearing that the Sol4 can power a fruit and vegetable dehydrator, one of the men working at the gardens says "I think we should get one!" And Professor Rudolph quickly replied "Only one?"

More about our demo at Siyakhana with this vblog.

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