Written in partnership with Mariama Kamara, Founder and Director, Smiling Through Light
The energy sector is traditionally male-dominated with men’s access to better education, skills training, and finance enabling them to develop businesses and access markets that women have often been excluded from as a result of gendered social norms and women’s unpaid care work. In the energy world, the role of women has often been limited to that of consumers; particularly in relation to the household sphere and cooking practices. The benefits of clean cooking fuels and technologies on women and girls is championed on global platforms; and women are being increasingly recognised as important to energy access planning processes. What benefits arise, though, when we embrace and empower women as agents of change who are actively striving for, and driving us towards, Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7)?
CSW61: Women as Agents of Change
Last month, at the UN’s 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), Practical Action hosted a parallel session exploring just that: Women as Agents of Change in Sustainable Energy Access Value Chains. The session, which heard from Practical Action’s Sudan and East Africa offices, Smiling through Light, Energy Research Institute Sudan, and Solar Sister, demonstrated that investing in women’s potential as entrepreneurs, technicians, policy-makers and thought-leaders is vital for achieving gender-transformative outcomes and more effective energy access approaches.
Gender Equality + Sustainable Energy Access = Opportunity for All
Across the panellists’ different experiences, from the grassroots initiative of Smiling Through Light to the global campaign of Solar Sister, a clear message could be heard: at the intersection of gender equality and sustainable energy access lies vast potential – for women’s economic empowerment, certainly, and also for sustainable development and improved wellbeing for their communities and beyond.
The keynote speech, delivered by Lydia Muchiri, Senior Gender and Energy Advisor for Practical Action East Africa, explored the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya project (WEEK). Delivered in partnership with Energia, this project empowers women as providers of energy across three value chains – improved cookstoves, solar products, and biomass briquettes – in the roles of producers, suppliers and ‘brand activators’. WEEK project activities support women to build their social capital, develop fundamental business skills, and improve their confidence as entrepreneurs; these women now drive behaviour change, convincing others to adopt clean energy options. Five WEEK project entrepreneurs appeared at the recent SEforAll Forum to share their experiences, demonstrating a growing appetite to hear rural women’s grassroots knowledge on global stages.
Smiling Through Light: be the change that you want to see
Smiling Through Light’s Founder and Director Mariama Kamara highlighted the centrality of women’s knowledge, empowerment and collective action to building environmentally sustainable pathways to sustainable energy access; emphasising in particular the diverse roles women play across the energy value chain from production and transportation, to distribution and end use. At the age of nine Mariama left Sierra Leone during the civil war; after later learning that energy use in Sierra Leone was still mostly limited to kerosene for lighting, with no access to clean energy services, she started Smiling Through Light in 2014. By doing so, Mariama became the change she wanted to see. Smiling Through Light now advocates for women, as primary consumers and users of clean energy products, to be integrated into the process of designing appropriate solutions and engaged throughout the value chain to improve their livelihoods.
The path to SDG7
There remain many clear opportunities to advance women’s positions across the energy access value chain, including:
Policy – Advocate for policy that goes beyond perceiving women as victims of energy poverty or mere consumers, but as potential drivers of the sector. Embrace and lobby for the critical role of smaller, distributed energy solutions in addressing rural energy poverty, and women’s unique contribution to this sector.
Finance – Recognise that women’s access to finance is often constrained by social, political and economic constraints; i.e. collateral requirements based on land or asset ownership. Dedicate specific financing, credit facilities, grants and concessional loans to women’s sustainable energy activities.
Skills – Address the significant skills and local workforce development gaps in energy access in a way that empowers more skilled women to participate across the value chain, and educates others on the value of their contributions.
Evidence – Continue to build evidence to help inform policy on why women in clean energy value chains are uniquely positioned to make a lasting impact; bringing local women entrepreneurs and decision-makers’ voices and experiences to the fore.
As energy access advocates and champions of gender equality we must continue to find opportunities, like at CSW61, to demonstrate the positive impacts that women’s economic empowerment in energy access initiatives has for themselves and their families, as well as their extended communities and international development practice more broadly. We need to continue challenging damaging gendered social norms which disempower women as change-makers; and simultaneously strengthen policy coordination, knowledge sharing, financial inclusion, programmatic partnerships and research to advance women’s participation in sustainable energy development for all.
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This week saw key players from the energy world gather in Brooklyn, New York, at the SEforAll Forum to talk all things SDG7: that is, access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. Overarching the vibrant panel discussions, a clear call has emerged: greater and more dynamic action is needed, and fast, if we are to achieve universal energy access on this tight timeline.
Energy access is vital to achieving nearly every sustainable development goal and progress on energy access acts as a barometer for development progress more broadly. Monday’s launch of the latest Global Tracking Framework, which looks at the state-of-play on energy efficiency, access and renewable energy, gives us food for thought…
The Global Tracking Framework update
The report, led by the World Bank Group and the International Energy Agency, confirms that global electricity poverty has declined only minimally from 1.1 billion (GTF 2015) to 1.06 billion (GTF 2017); while the number of people using traditional, solid fuels to cook has actually risen slightly to 3.04 billion, “indicating that efforts are lagging population growth”. For progress to move at the speed and scale required, the report asserts that we need to at least double our investment in modern renewables. But, is increased investment alone the answer?
Financing national energy access: a bottom up approach
The PPEO 2017 explores this question, using case study evidence gathered from 12 energy-poor communities across Bangladesh, Kenya and Togo. This brand new research, showcased by Practical Action for the first time at the SEforAll Forum this week, demonstrates that while the volume of finance does indeed need to be scaled up, we must delve deeper into understanding the types of finance and directions of financial flows that are key to planning for universal energy access at the national and global levels. Our analysis is unique in that it builds on poor people’s own preferences, and takes a holistic view across households, productive uses and community services.
Decentralised energy as the way forward
This is particularly pertinent to the vast majority of those living in energy poverty today; poor rural populations who would best be served by the sorts of distributed energy (mini-grids and stand-alone systems) that receive a disproportionately small amount of the energy access financing pot – in comparison to the grid and in relation to their potential service provision. While World Bank funded power sector projects have an average timeline of nine years from conception to service delivery, research by Power for All demonstrates the vast benefits of decentralised systems; with mini-grids taking on average just four months to get up and running, while for solar-home-systems this is less than one month. According to our own modelling in the PPEO 2017, the distributed energy sector should account for a significant portion of future electricity access financing nationally; up to 80% in Bangladesh and 100% in Togo. At present just 25% of planned investments in Bangladesh, and 5% in Togo, will go towards distributed energy.
The PPEO 2017 also finds that:
- Increasing national energy access financing for clean cooking to similar levels as for electricity will be key to empower energy-poor communities to use the very clean fuels (gas and electricity) they show a keen interest in.
- Particularly in pre-commercial markets such as Togo, there is a real opportunity for the public sector to improve the policy and regulatory environment to better embrace distributed solutions, and encourage financial institutions to support consumer and enterprise loans more flexibly, so as to enable rapid market activation.
- Concessional finance will play a vital role; and consideration of how best to deploy this will be important to help companies move up the ladder to scale and profitability, in order to bring energy access to more people.
- To make further progress in already mature markets such as Kenya and Bangladesh, addressing barriers to accessing finance that are related to specific policies could help reduce the cost of distributed electricity and clean cooking solutions (including tax exemptions and streamlining of licensing requirements).
- Inclusive energy access financing can actively promote gender equality. To enable women to participate meaningfully as consumers and entrepreneurs gendered norms around accessing small loans should be addressed, as should the impact of women’s caring responsibilities on their mobility and ability to participate in various markets and training.
Beyond Brooklyn: what next for SDG7?
The PPEO 2017 and Global Tracking Framework agree that utilising the right tools and approaches takes us a step closer to bringing energy access to people more quickly, sustainably and affordably. By listening to the voices and preferences of energy poor communities, as the PPEO series has done, and by framing national planning processes and global financing mechanisms around the sorts of bottom-up approaches which put these priorities front and centre, SDG7 can be achieved. It has been immensely encouraging to see the voices of the rural energy-poor being elevated across the SEforAll forum this week; which has been undeniably multi-stakeholder, with actors from national governments and global institutions, civil society and the private sector rubbing shoulders and engaging in lively debate on the best way forward. One thing is for sure – to achieve the goal we are all aiming for, the elusive SDG7, this cross-sectoral dialogue must be continued well beyond Brooklyn, because no actor working alone will reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
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Margaret Kariuku is a Kenyan woman who has not had the easiest path to success. As a mother of four, she has struggled to find a stable income to provide for herself and her children.
“Three times, I have had to start again. Three times, I have had to rebuild my livelihood. It all begun in 2005, when I stopped working as a secretary in Nakuru town. I thought that I would get my life sorted, but as fate would have it, this would not be.”
After she finished working as a secretary, she moved to her father’s farm, hoping to re-establish herself as a farmer. At first, her maize crops yielded well. However, as the days passed, her crops went down. By the third year, there was nothing left to harvest, and Margaret needed to decide what to do next.
“I picked up the pieces and decided to set up a milk collection centre. I bought milk from the farmers and sold it to the residents. I also decided to buy a motorcycle. When it was not used to collect milk, it would be a taxi. That way, I had two income streams.”
In the beginning, Margaret’s new business did well. Two income streams guaranteed a stable income. Sadly, after couple months, she realised that her employees were embezzling money from her. She needed to close the business. “I almost got disoriented when I lost my second business. But I collected myself again and set up once more.”
This time, she decided to establish a business on her own. She opened a grocery store which provided just enough income to keep her going. One day, she overheard her neighbour talking about a new source of energy called briquetting. This sparked her interest. She participated in a conference, organised by Practical Action Eastern Africa and SCODE (Sustainable Community Development Services), where she saw a demo of the production process. After the conference, her neighbour suggested a visit to the briquetting production site in the neighbourhood.
Although reluctant at first, she accompanied her neighbour to the site – pretending to be an entrepreneur. At the site, she quickly learned, that she could earn better income as a briquetting entrepreneur than owner of a grocery store. Meanwhile, the costs and availability of the raw materials made it easy to enter the market. She went back home feeling energised and thoughtful.
“My hope was that even if my grocery store was not performing well, I had briquettes. I knew that if I’d start producing them, I would be able to make a better income. So I started to produce them manually. I thought to myself, this is really hard! However, Practical Action and SCODE helped me. They rented me a machine to aide production. I had found my salvation.”
Margaret launched her briquettes business in 2015 and has increased her sales ever since. She has also participated in Practical Action’s training programmes, aimed to enhance women’s energy enterprise opportunities in Kenya. In 2017, she won the Energia Women Entrepreneurship Award – A prize that recognizes individuals that have done outstanding work in the sector.
In the future, Margaret wants to further expand her business and create jobs in the community. “Many young people are jobless, and many women are frustrated because they have no way of getting income. So I can use the prize money to give them a chance, to teach them, and to give them skills so that they can benefit the way I have.”
Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site and meet other inspiring women just like Margaret!
Want to help women like Margaret this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.6 Comments » | Add your comment
Globally, 1.3 billion people have no access to energy and it’s this lack of access that is keeping people living in poverty. Energy has the power to transform lives, it enables clinics to offer 24 hour care, for school children to study at night and it enables farmers to irrigate their land with reliable water pumps.
Practical Action has been working with people across Malawi and Zimbabwe to bring clean and sustainable solar energy to their communities. This project is called Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities and I recently travelled to Zimbabwe to see how energy is changing lives.
I met Miss Mumpande, who works at the Mashaba Primary School in the Gwanda District. She has taught at the school for eight years and teaches 12-13 year olds. The school now has access to solar power, which means they have electricity for lighting.
Sadly, it hasn’t always been this way. For years, the school had no access to electricity and they struggled to attract teachers because of it. Teachers would also have to prepare lessons by candle light and the students couldn’t stay late to study because the school was in darkness.
“Before solar, it was difficult, I wouldn’t prepare the school work well. I had to light candles and prepare. It took two hours, now it only takes one. My eyes would hurt. I wouldn’t prepare my work well, sometimes I made mistakes and had to buy candles myself.”
Having no electricity also affected her student’s education, she explained how they couldn’t study outside of school, but now they are able to stay late and study in the light. Their grades have improved and they’re now excited to come to class. The school has even started offering night classes for older members of the community.
Having electricity has had a huge impact on Miss Mumpande, her students and the rest of the school. She said, “Some teachers left because of the problems but now many want to come here because of the electricity.”
Mashaba Primary school is proof that electricity really can change lives.
To find out more about the project, click here.No Comments » | Add your comment
To increase access to clean fuels and spread the benefits to health and environment, Practical Action is scaling up by using the Participatory Market System Development Approach (PMSD).
This approaches involves all actors and stake holders in a dialogue with communities to discuss barriers and ways to overcome these barriers to further develop market systems for LPG as a clean fuel.
Workshops were held at state and federal levels with government agencies and ministries, the private sector, LPG companies, LPG distribution agents, the Ministry of Finance, energy research and financial institutions. They joined community representatives to map the market chain and discuss LPG markets, their constraints and how these could be solved.
The LPG project team leads an influencing process to address barriers. An environment protection forum including all stakeholders at state level and a sustainable energy network at national level, have been established by Practical Action to advocate for alleviation of barriers to the access of poor people to environment friendly technologies. These cover aspects such as tax and duty charges.
Other activities include:
- Linking Women’s Development Associations to LPG companies and financial institutions
- Forming saving and loan groups to access loans where the initial cost is a major barrier to poor people’s access to clean fuel technologies
- Awareness raising through local and international media, sharing knowledge and experience with all stakeholders and linking private sector social investment departments to carbon finance experience
This article is informed by research conducted at Practical Action’s Southern Africa offices in Harare, Zimbabwe as part of a work-based placement at the University of Edinburgh.
Distributed renewables for access
The ongoing energy poverty that leaves 1.2 billion people in the world without access to electricity, and 2.7 billion people relying on traditional biomass for cooking is one of the great injustices of our time. Innovation systems need to shift in order to ensure the goal of enabling universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 is achieved. Technologies and business models have emerged that have the potential to live up to the challenge. In particular, Distributed Renewable Energy System (DRES) have tremendous potential to respond rapidly and efficiently to energy poverty, especially in rural areas.
Still, the development of pro-poor innovation systems for sustainable energy access based on DRES faces challenges at multiple levels, as large energy projects continue to be promoted by governments in developing countries and attract support from major development financiers, as go-to solutions for electrification. When small-scale renewable energies are financed, the sum of the smaller projects usually does not even come close to matching the large-scale project both in terms of total capacity of sustainable energy generation and of funding. However, considering the urgent demands of energy poverty, the speed by which small-scale renewables can become operational and the ever-decreasing cost for their installation should favour rural electrification policies based on DRES. The habitual preference for large and mega-projects is also inadequate to effectively address energy poverty as well as provide a sustainable and reliable source for energy in the light of climate change.
Opportunities for pro-poor innovations
Technology justice demands stronger efforts by all actors in the innovation systems to address the needs of the poor. Innovation is needed across the board to promote a more holistic understanding of the long-term impacts of energy projects taking account of:
- Their resilience to climate change and the vulnerability of highly centralised national/regional energy systems to extreme weather events and disasters
- Their water footprint (cooling of coal power plants) and water requirements (in particular run-of-the river hydro-power plants) in the light of climate change-related decreases in water security and more frequent droughts
- The relatively low energy return on investment associated with high-input, large fossil-fuel based infrastructure (e.g. the energy it takes to extract, transport coal and build a power plant, etc.), the greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental impact of the entire lifecycle of the project.
The benefits of DRES as opposed to big power projects need to be made more explicit in economic terms for decision-makers who are concerned with growing the aggregate national economy. Currently, the economic calculations do not take sufficiently into consideration the impacts listed about or the impacts of fossil fuel plants on public health, or the potential for DRES to be an engine for sustainable growth in rural areas.
Whereas prioritising access to energy enables education and promotes entrepreneurship, the creation of local businesses and sustainable energy services, e.g. via refrigeration, irrigation, powering machinery and recharging batteries for electronics; large projects tend to benefit energy-intensive industries rather than aim at the alleviation of energy poverty. Given the appropriate incentives via transitioning towards a cost-reflective tariff for electricity and by including models of climate risk and ecosystem services in economic calculations, the private sector can be galvanised to innovate for the benefit of people in rural areas where there are large levels of energy poverty. After all, the rural poor do not merely have the willingness but also the ability to pay if provided with suitable financial instruments.
However, access to finance is arguably the core barrier for the alleviation of energy poverty at the moment. Innovation accompanied by capacity building needs to occur in the financial sector, where there is a need for financial instruments that are accessible and affordable to the energy poor. Innovative initiatives are being rolled out by development organisations that de-risk rural, small-scale renewable energy investments in the developing world. Still, the challenge for the development sector remains to ensure that financial institutions give out loans for sustainable energy access as well as invest in local entrepreneurs offering energy services and building businesses on the back of the productive uses of energy.
Finally, in terms of technological solutions, there is a large demand for affordable and effective solutions to energy storage. Likewise, the full potential of both solar PV and especially concentrated solar power remains to be unleashed. Whereas some solutions require high-input R&D, national and local innovation systems in the developing world should build on the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the youth to find accessible, affordable and sustainable solutions responding to local needs.1 Comment » | Add your comment
With a number of challenges on the field and off the field, the team in India has managed to deliver some good sustainable practical solutions in last couple of years. Moving ahead for an eventful 2017 and with added challenges and milestones, I thought of ending the year with looking back at the sustainable practical solutions we have served so far.
Development is a process as we all know and in Practical Action the biggest learning so far I have got is how to make this process a sustainable one. Here I have documented 10 different projects and interventions which have been sustainable or aiming at sustainability delivering practical solutions.
- ACCESS cook stoves
Access Grameen Mahila Udyog, in Koraput which is nurtured by Practical Action has been instrumental in manufacturing and marketing of improved cook stoves. The cook stoves generate less smoke, save fuel and time.
It has contributed to less carbon emission and has resulted in healthier living environment in rural tribal houses.
2. SOURA RATH (Solar Power Cart)
Practical Action India developed a portable solar-powered cart (Mobile Solar Energy System) that provides energy for 72 hours to power mobile phones, laptops, lights and water pumps. The cart can serve up to a capacity of 5KW and can be used during the post-disaster emergency and is easy to be relocated from one place to another.
This model is applauded by Government of Odisha and is now being showcased at the Solar Park for public. We strongly feel this can add value to the cyclone shelter houses if used appropriately
Young girls and women in 60 slums of Bhubaneswar have formed Sakhi Clubs and spreading the knowledge on menstrual hygiene among other girls and peers. Our innovative radio Programme ‘Sunolo Sakhi’ has broken the taboo and enabled a conducive environment for discussion on menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls. The first ever radio show on menstrual hygiene Sunolo Sakhi is instrumental in bringing about change in the menstrual hygiene practices and behaviour of these young girls resulting in better health.
The comprehensive programme Sunolo Sakhi is also providing Audio book for visually challenged and video book for hearing and speech impaired girls in the State.
Community led water management has helped this tribal village Sundertaila in Nayagarh district to be self-sufficient in getting clean drinking water. Not only practical solutions but introducing user friendly and sustainable technology options at the last mile and serving them with basic needs is something what Practical Action tries to invest in its program efforts.
18 years old Sunil Tadingi of Badamanjari is now a successful entrepreneur and continues education in Semiliguda College. Despite all odds he is able to mark this achievement as his village is now electrified with the help of a self-sustained micro hydro power generation unit.
Badamanjari has set an example in Koraput district by generating around 40KW electricity to provide light to all the households of the village and people are able to watch TV and use fans as well. Rice hauler and turmeric processing units are also running with additional energy generated, as a result creating entrepreneurs like Sunil.
60 poor families in Kalahandi district of Odisha once deprived of access to electricity are electrified now. The wind and solar hybrid system by Practical Action has solved the basic energy need of the villagers with street lights, home lighting and fans.
Kamalaguda and Tijmali, these two villages are on the top of the hills where it was a day dream for getting electricity to fight with the night. Now, the villagers are capacitated to manage the systems by themselves without any external support.
At the backdrop of poor sanitation facilities in small and medium cities of Odisha, ‘Project Nirmal’ supports two fast growing urban hubs like Dhenkanal and Angul municipalities with a pilot intervention for appropriate & sustainable city wide sanitation service.
Project Nirmal aims at benefitting both the municipalities to set up Faecal Sludge Management systems by establishing treatment plants to treat the faecal sludge
“I felt very happy the moment I received the Identity Card from the Dept. of Labour and Employment, Govt. of Odisha” Says Salima Bibi a 25 year old informal waste worker from a Slum near Dumduma under Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Many informal waste workers in the state are being formalised and now accessing and availing their legitimate citizen rights.
9. LITRE OF LIGHT
Light comes from water bottles. Litre of Light is an open source technology which has been successfully experimented in 120 households in the slums of Bhubaneswar. It has now lessened the use of electric light during day time.
Small children can even study and men and women can do delicate cloth weaving and other productive activities during day time with the light provided by these solar water bulbs.
117 children of informal waste workers have been enrolled in schools in one day and are continuing their schooling; they were engaged in rag picking or related works previously.
While working with alternative energy, Practical Action focuses on advocating and influencing the society for a step ahead towards meaningful development3 Comments » | Add your comment
Cooking is a daily necessity – for some a chore, for others a pleasure. I’m happy to count myself in the latter category. Luckily for me, cooking is made easier by the availability of clean, reliable energy. But this sadly is not the case for a third of the world population.
In many developing countries, and especially in rural areas, the only cooking fuels available and affordable are wood, crop waste or dung. And the most common cooking appliance is a three stone fire. Not only is this energy inefficient, it’s also dangerous. Diseases caused by smoke from cooking fires kill 4 million people each year. That’s more than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids combined.
Sadly, there’s no single silver bullet to solve this problem. All cultures have their own cooking practices, so local choice has to play a big role in any technology designed to reduce smoke in the kitchen. Here are some stories of Practical Action’s locally designed solutions that have succeeded in cutting deadly household air pollution.
As you cook your Christmas dinner this year, spare a thought for the three billion people worldwide who don’t have clean energy.
You can help by donating to our appeal to stop the killer in the kitchen.
In North Darfur, 90% of households depend on firewood and charcoal for cooking. In this region LPG fuel is available and offers a clean, efficient substitute for wood or charcoal in household cooking.
This innovative project is financed with carbon credits, through Carbon Clear. And a community managed revolving microfinance scheme enables poor families to obtain both the stove and the fuel. No only does the reduction in household air pollution improve the health of women and children but it also reduces the pressure on dwindling forest resources in the region
Asha Mohamed Abdelkareem Sabeel, a mother of six, now has an LPG stove. She used to spend 20 SDG ($2) a day to buy wood for cooking. But with the new fuel she has put away her daily savings of 10 SDG per day ($1) in a box and has saved an unbelievable 2,800 SDG ($280). The family have used this to build a new building and kitchen for their house.
Asha used to have to visit the doctor every other month but this has stopped completely. She is now saving to support her daughter at university. In addition there is a huge time saving. Instead of spending four hours a day cooking, it can all be done in an hour.
Just imagine what you could achieve with an extra three hours a day!
This Johnson Matthey funded project in Odisha has trained local women entrepreneurs to produce and market a locally designed low smoke stove.
It is providing employment and stimulating the local economy as well as improving health by reducing harmful smoke.
26 year old K Madhabi led a women’s group and is now a successful entrepreneur. The energy efficient cook stove they produce reduced smoke to almost zero and cooking time up to 50%. It also consumes less firewood than traditional stoves. She is delighted with their success.
“Life is not the same as before. We have been treated with much respect in our community,” says Madhabi.
The group has been getting regular orders and are working hard to meet the demand.
In rural areas across Nepal, traditional stoves are common. But smoke from these fires fill the lungs of the whole family, causing them to cough and their eyes to stream.
Here the winter cold means that stoves are needed for heating as well as cooking. Practical Action has worked with local families to develop a smoke hood design that can be manufactured locally and installed along with an improved stove. The project is enabling 36,000 households in the Gorkha, Dhading, Makwanpur, Rasuwa and Nuwakot districts of Nepal to install this technology.
Saraswoti explains how this has changed her life.
“Before, we had a traditional stove. And the stove was really smoky; my eyes were watery and I couldn’t see properly. It used to hurt a lot. When the children were small, they suffered from pneumonia.”
Their new stove and smoke hood not only protect Saraswoti’s family from deadly smoke but also uses less wood, saving time and effort, and the house is no longer black with soot.
Working in partnership with coffee co-operative CENFROCAFE, we’ve developed an improved stove for 700 coffee and rice farmers in the provinces of Jaen and San Ignacio in Peru.No Comments » | Add your comment
As one of the activities of the low smoke stove project we established twenty saving and loan committees in El Fasher town to spread the concept of saving among women’s groups. The hope is to empower women and also to contribute to improving women’s lives.
Most of our beneficiaries are poor women, the majority did not complete their education and have little or no income. Most of women are small traders in vegetables or handcrafts. However for those making local perfume, and food processing, their capital is too small to expand their trade to increase their profit.
We introduced the idea of savings and loans to help women to overcome these economic barriers. These committees are not new but we are trying to introduce a model of savings and loans that help the women to be more organized, to have a good understanding of the concept and the ability to take on and manage the loan.
Many women now are very happy following their involvement in savings and loan committees, Some started income generating activities that help to pay school fees for their children. In addition they are making social relationships among women’s groups which will help them exchange ideas and share knowledge.
Furthermore women groups have been able to provide equipment based on women’s needs. They pay in advance to acquire LPG stoves and thereafter in monthly installments. In some cases some women cannot afford to pay the advance, so the saving committee lend them money to pay this.
We found among the saving and loan committees’ women headed the household and took all home responsibilities. This group of women needs support to build their capacity in managing a revolving fund and to build managerial skills. This will help encourage the women to start investing and to take a loan from the committees and as well as giving them access to financial institutions. As the saving model has been successful, other women have been persuaded to copy the idea.
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People living in poverty in the conflict-stricken area of North Darfur face a severe shortage of money for household needs. They either endure the hardships or try to find someone to borrow money from. When it comes to women smallholders, they lack money for inputs and other cash needs in their household’s.
To address this problem, saving is a way forward. Those who can save then have funds for unexpected needs in the household and for timely investment in groups.
Practical Action Sudan, in partnership with the Women’s Development Association (WDAN) initiated training of horticulture smallholders using the Savings and Loan Association (SLA) approach.
SLA members save through the purchase of shares with a maximum purchase of five shares allowed per saving meeting. This allows for flexible saving depending on the surplus money members have. They meet weekly or monthly and continue saving for a period of nine to twelve months.
The project officer for the Community Initiative Sustained Development project within Practical Action Sudan, explained:
“The aim of SLA is to enable resource-poor households to access financial services in order to finance income generating activities that would increase their income and lift them permanently above the poverty line. It enables money to be available at the right time for purchase of inputs and other energy costs.”
SLA groups are providing smallholder women with the opportunity to save and borrow flexibly without having to go to the bank. With this savings methodology there are no problems of high minimum deposit requirements, hidden charges, complicated procedures, or difficulty in accessing loans.
The funds assist in building resilient communities and provide social safety nets, as they are used for inputs purchase, diversifying into other income generating activities, immediate household needs and provide room for assistance to members in case of death, disease or natural disasters. Such diverse services are not provided by local moneylenders, as they are not willing to provide for the poorest.
The process is very transparent as it involves each and every member within the sharing and lending processes. The fund is shared out at the end of each cycle which is normally nine months to a year.
This SLA methodology has proved to be a success. This year 20 SLA groups have been established in Elfashir in North Darfur. Shares accrued range from a minimum of 500SDG (£62) to 700SDG from monthly savings. In addition, the groups also pay towards a social fund, which can be used, when a member is having acute problems, such as unexpected medical expenses.
Villages using this method have been successful in helping women to learn about saving, to enhance social links within their communities and to make their first investments.
The project team conducted monthly field visits to monitor the progress of loans saving committees. Committee members contributed an average amount of 25-30 SDG (£8) each month. 345 women have benefited and saved a total amount of 74,101 SDG. At the end of a cycle the money is distributed back to the group members. It is very important that every member’s money is placed in their hand.
In total 879 households have accessed LPG through this savings program in Elfashir in different districts and 76 women have access to loans to establish income generation activities.
Women were thankful to Practical Action and the Women Development Association Network for empowering them and enabling them to finance themselves and their family in the face of extreme economic hardship.
“Now I can confidently grow for the market because I have access to finance for inputs from my savings group. I was about to give up due to lack of money.”
Access to clean sources of energy, livelihood and finance has led to the building of self-respect and self-reliance in the community.1 Comment » | Add your comment