Solar oven can drive community upliftment projects

The Vukusenzele Bakery in the Zandspruit informal settlement in Johannesburg, South Africa, is a self-sustaining micro-enterprise powered mainly by a solar oven, which has been designed for large-scale feeding situations that require cooking great volumes of food quickly.

Even though it is called an oven, enormous quantities of food can be boiled, steamed or baked at cooking temperatures of 500°F/260°C with no fuel costs.
Roelita Cloete, director and founder of the nongovernmental organisation Bread Companions, explains that it partnered with Sesego Cares and the Northcliff Rotary Club in late 2011 to sponsor the building, the Villager Sun Oven® – imported from the US – and some of the other necessary equipment for launching the bakery project.
“In early 2012 ABSA Enterprise Development and Absa CSI came on board and sponsored all the additional equipment and bakery training that was needed at that stage. We then involved and educated the community in building techniques – using recycled materials to make bricks – to construct an environmentally-friendly building for the
Vukusenzele Bakery.”
“Vukusenzele means ‘Wake up and do it for yourselves’ and was chosen by the eight entrepreneurs who received basic business management skills training at the Emthonjeni Community Centre and as well as two weeks of bakery training from Siyabonga Africa,” comments Cloete.
The bakery – which opened its doors in August 2012 – utilises a Villager Sun Oven®, industrial gas oven and proofer and electric mixer and fryer to bake mainly bread, scones, biscuits, mosbolletjies, vetkoeks and doughnuts, which are sold to the local community.
The gas oven and proofer is mainly used for baking bread and can bake 20 loaves of bread in 35 minutes. The Villager Sun Oven® is used to bake scones, biscuits and mosbolletjies. It can bake up to 90 scones and biscuits in 25 minutes and 15 loaves of mosbolletjies in 40 minutes. The doughnuts and vetkoeks are fried in the electric fryer.
Villager Sun Ovens® were developed to help feed large groups of people without destabilising the environment or contributing to deforestation. Each oven when utilised as a ‘Sun Bakery’, can save over 150 tons of wood annually, resulting in the reduction of 277 tons of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions annually.
The oven is the only manufactured commercial solar oven in the world. Over 1,200 meals a day can be cooked or hundreds of loaves of bread can be baked powered by the sun. The ovens are growing in popularity and are currently used in more than 40 deforested counties in a variety of applications:
– School feeding programmes
– Sun bakeries
– Community feeding
– Retreat centres
– Refugee programmes
– Emergency relief
– Missions compounds
– Orphanages
– Hospitals (cooks food for staff and patients and sterilises medical instruments).
Cloete concludes: “All products are sold in the community itself at a very competitive price and are of good quality. This project therefore uplifts the broader community, and not only the entrepreneurs employed at the bakery. The only support currently given to the bakery is mentoring for them to reach a place where they will be running the business entirely on their own. No further financial support apart from the set-up costs has been given. Therefore this is a truly self-sustainable project.”
Contact Roelita Cloete, director of Bread Companions: Mobile +27 82 044 7615; roelita.cloete@gmail.com