Solar cooker improves Tajik mountain family’s well-being


Story by Timur Idrisov, originally published on The Little Earth’s website

The village of Roshorv, where 43-year-old Gulisandzhid lives, is located at an altitude of more than 3 000 metres above sea level in the upper part of the Bartang Valley of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan. The nearest main road is about 200 kilometres (km) away.

Families here depend on wood, shrubbery or dried dung for cooking food and heating their houses. For light, residents often use candles or kerosene lamps, which can be dangerous. Women give birth to children in the dark, cook in smoky kitchens and collect brushwood in the mountains.

According to Gulisandzhid, over the past few decades, the vegetation around Roshorv has been overused. Today, villagers are forced to gather shrubs far from their homes. They must walk up to 10 km to get to places where it can still be found in sufficient quantities. Due to the harsh climate, trees hardly grow here.

Walking many kilometres every day carrying heavy bundles is a difficult job that can be hazardous. There have been cases where people fell carrying brushwood and their fingers froze when the capricious weather suddenly changed.

Gulisanjid married early. Together with her husband, Odil Bekov, she is raising three sons and one daughter. Odil Bekov works as a teacher in a rural school, and Gulisanjid is engaged in maintaining the household and caring for the children. Her day usually begins with household chores before dawn and ends after dark.

However, four years ago, the family's life changed when they received a set of equipment from the environmental organization The Little Earth, a member of the Mountain Partnership since 2016, which included a solar parabolic cooker and a portable lantern with a small, detachable solar panel to charge its battery.

The family now has more time, and Gulisanjid was able to enroll in correspondence courses at the university in Khorog.

“After we got the equipment, our lives changed for the better. We have more time to spend with our children and to complete other household chores. Earlier in the summer, we constantly collected and prepared firewood. There was not enough time to do anything. Now we can garden or spend more time with the kids,” said Odil Bekov.

“I liked the solar cooker right away. No smoke, no firewood and no soot to be scraped off. It was hard to believe that you can only cook with the energy of the sun! In the first month of using the device, we used half as much firewood as usual,” recalled Gulisanjid.

For the full story and photos, continue reading here

Photo by The Little Earth

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