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The New Cooking Bag

 First we experimented

Before we got to the stage we are now, we experimented with various models to see what would work best here in Ghana. Initially we even tried using second-hand curtains as fabric –because we are mad about recycling- but you’re never quite sure about the influx of curtain fabrics from abroad and, in time, that could get tricky…


Kapok trees grow in abundance around here, though unfortunately they are being cut down more and more for all sorts of reasons. The seed pods containing seeds and fibre (kapok) look like bananas, and they are harvested at the end of the dry season.

The seeds are ground here in Tamale and used in soups that seem to be very good for your health. The kapok is used as filling in pillows and even to fill entire mattresses. However, it is not available all year round, so you have to make sure to stock up enough after the harvest to last you an entire year. We are certainly going to try that!


The New Cooking Bags are produced in several colour schemes. The plain coloured bags are called Premium, the multicoloured NCB's in African prints are called Economic.

The New Cooking Bag

The outside
Our current New Cooking Bag is made of colourful cotton. A fabric used mostly here in Ghana for making school uniforms. It is strong, relatively cheap and quite suitable for the New Cooking Bag. Per New Cooking Bag we need about 1.60 metres of fabric. We eventually opted for a round, compact model that fits perfectly in the kind of large bowl that almost every household here has several of. They use it to do laundry, to wash and do the washing up. The New Cooking Bag can be put into it because it is safer, it stays clean longer and is easy to move this way.

The model
The New Cooking Bag consists of a bottom and ten compartments, each filled with kapok, so the filling is always divided properly. For the inside we used material in a matching colour, because you can use the New Cooking Bag on both sides if you like! By pulling the cord around the top the compartments of the New Cooking Bag are drawn tightly against the pot. A round pillow, also filled with kapok, covers the top. An ingenious bag and –also very important- easy to use.

The filling
We use kapok as filling. Obviously, the big advantage of kapok is that it is 100% natural. It has enormous insulating properties. And the kapok farmers around Tamale will benefit if we can buy it from them!

Economic NCB’s.

 Polystyrene and kapok

Of course we also experimented with the filling. In the old days in the Netherlands they would put hay in the hay box for insulation in a similar way of cooking, but soft, green grass is not readily available in and around Tamale. Cows, goats and sheep have enough trouble as it is hustling up their next meal, so we thought it was a good idea -fond as we are of reusing things- to recycle polystyrene. For weeks we collected all the polystyrene we saw lying around in Tamale, went to stores to collect it and then spent days rasping and cutting it into tiny pieces.

It was a great idea, the children of our fellow workers had fun doing it, but it was so much work! We hardly made any headway. In the end we tried kapok and it worked like a charm!