I was in Nicaragua in November of 2007. The women in the village of Sabana Grande have been making solar cookers for a few years. Their design sits on a stand that makes the ovens about the height of a regular stove. The oven opens in the front and can fit up to four pots at one time. They have one reflector, the surface of which is aluminum foil. I believe the ovens get up to around 250 degrees Fahrenheit, certainly hot enough to slow cook many foods. The women are very proud of these ovens that they build themselves. They even won an award recently from a nearby city which had a solar oven competition. However, from what I observed, for the most part they only use the ovens for drying coffee beans, not cooking their daily meals. One problem is that they can't cook tortillas in the solar ovens. Typically the women get up very early in the morning and start a fire in an adobe stove like the one in the picture on the lower left. They cook their corn, then grind it and make tortillas for the whole day, usually all by 7:00 am. They also cook beans and rice over their wood fires. There is no refrigeration and only dried food such as corn, beans or rice is stored in their homes. Using solar ovens would require rearranging their daily schedule and going without tortillas. I was only in the village for a week and only with my "family" for breakfast and dinner so I don't know what their routine was during the day. Anyway, for the moment I have concluded that it is easier for me to incorporate solar cooking into my life than it is for them to incorporate it into theirs. After I experiment with cooking their foods in various solar ovens, and maybe even make tortillas on a modified parabolic dish, I might go back sometime and see if I can help them find ways to incorporate solar cooking into their daily routine, just as I have in mine. (Pull down to see wood stove)
You can see in the picture on the left that even though there is a chimney on the stove, it opens into the kitchen. Many stoves have no chimney at all and the women are daily exposed to smoke as they cook. Smoke inhalation is a significant health problem in the developing world, and deforestation caused by collection of firewood is also a problem.
Photos by Pacyinz Lyfoung