Ex-Fish Hoek resident, Elma Hunter is very involved in the Vuka Energy Energy Savings Project which started in Stanford and has expanded to surrounding areas. The Vuka project, which can be and should be replicated all over South Africa is explained here.


“The Vuka Energy Savings Project is relevant to every household in times of electricity outages, is practical and ‘do’-able and can be started immediately.”


Trained presenters give demonstrations in homes/localities in low income areas, on cooking a meal, using the Brick Rocket Stove (or gas if not possible) as original fuel source, then, after 10 to 30 minutes cooking time, depending on the meal, transferring the pot to a Blanket-style DIY Heat Retention ‘Wonderbox’.


Items are DIY where possible, using easily available recycled components or bought or found in a home eg newspaper, blankets, cushions, cardboard box, bricks. The latter components of the Vuka Kit are for low income households.


Elma Hunter of Vuka and the wood fired rocket stove. Photo supplied

Elma Hunter of Vuka and the wood fired rocket stove. Photo supplied

To minimise risk of fire in low income dwellings Vuka also offers for sale a Safety Candleholder made from recycled wire and metal from cans to an award-winning design by a Stellenbosch University student  which may be copied by enterprising entrepreneurs.


Other households would have an alternative fuel source for times of power outage and use a purchased Wonderbag (www.nl-wonderbag.co.za). Use of a Solarstove (www.sunstove.com/solar.stoves/) and other designs of Rocket Stoves are also shown where appropriate.


Follow-up discussions are vital and requests are made to show family and friends – ‘each one teach one’ to spread the information and know-how as widely as possible.


Information Hubs and Cooking Clubs set up in neighbourhoods demonstrate products, show new recipes and encourage new cooking methods, choice of healthy food alternatives and awareness of dietary needs.”

  Commentary sent in to the 2013 ETA Awards, at which a special award was given:






To show, practically, how people can save on energy and monetary costs in cooking, initially. For low income households especially, to benefit by cooking nutritious meals which have become too expensive to serve eg. Samp & beans, casseroles using tough cuts of meat; steam bread cooking time cut by 2/3, soup.

Trained presenters take a mobile demonstration unit (mentor’s car) into urban or rural areas where they tailor the presentation to the audience’s needs. Demonstrations can be in people’s homes, yards, church halls, etc.  Low cost products or do-it-yourself alternative energy saving ideas are shown Liaison with clinics, Red Cross, Child Welfare, etc. ensures that topical items are discussed.


Information Hubs and Cooking Clubs are set up in neighbourhoods where the products are demonstrated,  new recipes are shared, new cooking methods encouraged and information about  healthy food alternatives and dietary needs is provided.


Presenters show how to make Energy/Fire Balls, use the recycled tins to accommodate the Energy Balls, or a 16 Brick Rocket Stove, Blanket style Wonderbox, DIY Solar stove and a purchased Solar Light bulb. New products such as Khaya Power’s rechargeable battery are included in the repertoire.  For more information see www.vukaenergysavings.co.za



Training is given by Supervisor.  A Training Manual and Field Guide are available for ongoing on-the-job practical training. Recently 10 women on the RDP Job Creation program in Hermanus were trained by Vuka to go into the community – library and clinic demonstrations created great interest.



Feedback from demonstrations is very positive, with people returning and giving a verbal testimony as to the success of their efforts. The fact that the electricity meter shows only 20 minutes of usage for cooking samp and beans(pot transferred to wonderbox to finish cooking) is a very tangible way to see the effect of the technology which Vuka is showing. Normal cooking of samp and beans is 3 hours if prior soaking occurs. Another saving in fossil fuels occurs when a 16 Brick Rocket Stove is used for outdoor cooking when 75% less fuel (twigs) is used.



The method of communication by demonstrating the energy saving technologies which Vuka shows is replicable anywhere and this is one of the main objectives of this NPO. From Stanford the project has had a ripple effect (slow due to financial constraints) to Hermanus, Gansbaai, Hawston, Kleinmond with a recent enquiry from the West Coast to start such a project. Soup kitchens in Stanford, Hermanus – Ubuntu Bethu, RDP Zwelihle, Vincent d’Paul Zwelihle, Mthimkhulu Centre Kleinmond – are all very keen to know how to save energy costs. Soup at present takes up to 5 hours to cook a 50l pot – our demonstrator took 1 ½ hours before putting the pot into a blanket style wonderbox.

The items are very low cost  and DIY, practical and geared to the needs of the audience.




Unique in South Africa is the use of Information Centres and Cooking Clubs and on-going follow ups in order to transfer knowledge. The research done in other parts of Africa show that the pattern of uptake and acceptance rate is slow.


Alternative energy is a new concept that requires habit changes. At the point when people decide to try alternative technologies they need affordable supplies and clear instruction. After that the shift from old habits to new ones still takes several months. In cooking for instance, frequency of alternative energy cooking tends to increase gradually over a year or more. Important long-term community-wide benefits of using alternative energy technologies include cleaner air, fewer illnesses (smoke inhalation related), less demand for fuels, cost saving, and the minimising of the risk of shack fires.


REFERENCE:  www.solarcooking.org/Field Guide  Excellent information and permission to use it. Substitute wording ‘alternative energy technologies’ for ‘solar cooking’.


To get involved or for more information contact Elma Hunter at elmahunter@gmail.com

Vuka newsletter March 2014