Jeannette Chiron channelled her energy into helping disadvantaged communities in South America by developing solar cookers.
Jeannette Chiron’s commitment to helping others began when her daughter fell in love with a young man from Bolivia. Her first experience of the country was during a family trip to her son-in-law’s home village, a hamlet perched on the Altiplano at 4,000 metres of altitude above the Bolivian capital of La Paz.
The idea for solar cookers came about following a meal in your son-in-law’s village, is that right?
There was a gas outage. The air was so thick, we couldn’t breathe. We couldn’t stay inside. And in that moment, Robert and I had the idea of making a solar cooker. I said to the villagers: don’t be embarrassed! You think you have nothing, and yet you have so much. This sun is such a rich resource for you all! Papa Inti, the Sun God you worship, can give you so much! Obviously, they didn’t believe me. They didn’t know how passionate we are about solar energy. Our house near Nantes is fully autonomous thanks to our system of solar panels.
Our house near Nantes is fully autonomous thanks to our system of solar panels.
This new way of cooking was an instant hit! So you set up the Bolivia Inti Sud Soleil association.
Yes, our initiative morphed into a development multinational. The organisation now employs 25 people in South America. These employees provide communities with on-site training in making and using solar cookers. The project has already helped nearly 100,000 people, and we plan on widening our reach even further!
Is there any one memory in particular that springs to mind?
The Bolivia Inti Sud Soleil initiative represents my vision of ecology pretty well. Being green is good for the planet. But it’s even better when you can share your outlook with others! I often think back to this small girl I met in Bolivia. She had nothing. She didn’t even have shoes. Most of her day was spent looking for firewood. Now, her mother has a solar cooker, which she uses to cook dishes she then sells at the market. The little girl now has shoes and can finally go to school. That’s what makes me happy. Knowing that my work has helped improve people’s lives.
With her solar cookers, Jeannette has liberated women from the burden of having to fetch firewood and helped safeguard their health, while contributing to environmental protection by reducing smoke-based pollution.
Three billion people have no option but to cook using wood fires. Every year, close to five million people die as a result of the smoke (primarily women and children tasked with domestic chores).