Linking start-ups and community businesses for improved livelihoods

Friday, May 27, 2016

World Vision, through partnership with GoSol, helps rural communities plug into solar energy and improve livelihoods

World Vision, through the Weconomy programme, brings together companies and communities to develop products and services that benefit both. The aim of pairing start-up companies and community businesses is that both learn from each other and together build products and services that are relevant and that the community members can relate to.

Recently, World Vision linked two women’s groups with a solar engineering company to help boost their businesses by using sustainable energy. In turn, the solar company gets to pilot their technology in rural communities using World Vision’s networks.

After losing four sisters and a father-in-law to HIV, Consolata could not sit back and watch as the disease ravaged her community in Siaya County. She decided to speak out to reduce the stigma, get people to learn more about the disease and get tested. The Yier Ngima (Choose Life) Women’s group was born.

Over the years, the group has offered support to community members infected and affected by HIV and cared for orphaned children. They are able to do this through a peanut butter business they started. The women use a charcoal roaster to roast peanuts before grinding and packaging it for sale. There is a lot of demand for peanut butter but after paying for charcoal, rent and electricity, the profits are not enough for them to expand.

A few kilometres away, in Nandi County, the Koptige women’s group started a bakery to support each other. As the business picked up, they started supporting orphaned children in the community by paying school fees, clothing and feeding them. The group received an electric oven from World Vision in 2012 and there has been a lot of demand for their bread and scones but due to the erratic power supply in the area, they cannot meet all orders.

In April 2016, these two groups received a major boost after World Vision Kenya linked them up with a solar engineering company, GoSol, to help build low-cost solar equipment. Lorin Symington, an engineer from GoSol, visited the communities for four weeks and worked with local artisans to build a solar roaster and oven that will reduce the group’s costs.

“The GoSol technology is really simple. We use local products to build the machines which make it easy for as many people as possible to access the technology,” says Lorin. After the machines were built, the groups were trained on use and maintenance of the machines to ensure sustainability.

The Yier Ngima group has benefitted immensely from the solar roaster. They not only save on the money used to buy charcoal but also roast more peanuts increasing their peanut butter supply. “We are very grateful we have found a way to use the abundant sun and reduce costs. The money saved will help us expand our business and we hope to start supplying to the local supermarkets,” says Consolata.

The Koptige bakers were so excited to receive the solar oven that they started setting up the solar panels before training. The demand for their bread is huge and now with the solar oven they can bake for six to eight hours on a sunny day without worrying about power interruptions. “This solar oven will reduce our electricity bill and food wastage due to power shortages,” says Nancy the group secretary. “As a group, we have been able to do so much in the community. We have been able to improve not just our lives, but also the lives of some very vulnerable children. And now that we have a solar oven that will improve our business, we will do great things,” she says.