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Women energy entrepreneurs in Kenya (WEEK)

The problem

Few rural households in Kenya have access to grid electricity. Most still use dangerous kerosene for lighting, and wood or charcoal for cooking. This lack of modern energy harms the health of women and children and the daily drudgery of fuel collection takes time that could be spent more productively.

We are empowering women in Kenya to enable them to benefit from sustainable energy opportunities, both as entrepreneurs earning an income and as consumers with access to safe, sustainable energy solutions for their homes.

What we’re doing to help

Objective: Supporting women's economic empowerment through enterprise development in clean energy access markets

Women energy entrepreneurs in Kenya (WEEK)

Location: Central, Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza regions of Kenya and Nairobi County 
Number of beneficiaries: 730 women entrepreneurs reaching out to 364,000 consumers
Project date: September 2014 - August 2017
Partners: Sustainable Community Development Services (SCODE)
Principal funders: Energia
Funding: £531,000

This project is using a markets approach to build a self-sustaining industry in cookstove, briquettes and solar products working with 730 small-scale women entrepreneurs with training on business skills and planning, market information and access to networks and finance. 

Access to sustainable energy can transform women’s lives.  When women are involved as entrepreneurs in the energy business, the benefits are multiple. Consumers gain access to vital energy services, women are empowered by running their own business and their families benefit from the increased income.

In Kenya, traditional sources of fuel are dwindling and there is strict restriction of wood harvesting in government forests. This affects women who are mainly responsible for fuel collection.  When wood is scarce it takes longer for women and girls to collect, which restricts their educational and economic opportunities. Women’s lack of property ownership directly affects their ability to secure bank loans and they have fewer opportunities to learn business skills.

Improved cookstoves use a third of the fuel of traditional stoves, saving money and reducing deforestation. They also reduce indoor air pollution, improving health. Briquettes use waste materials like charcoal dust, sawdust and other household biomass waste like coconut husks, which are compacted and can then be used in stoves, providing an affordable technology that is a safe and a cleaner energy source than firewood. The solar products range from household lighting to USB battery chargers, offering a range of safe, clean and affordable energy options. 

When women demonstrate and sell products to other women, the uptake is often significantly higher. So, in a business sector currently dominated by men, there is huge potential for women entrepreneurs to make a difference and to increase the use of clean and safe energy fuel and products. There is also clear evidence that improving income of women translates into an increased investment in family and their wellbeing, creating stronger, happier and more independent family units.  

The experience gained in the project will be used as a model to demonstrate the role that women can play in delivering modern energy access to government and the private sector.

Reaping the benefit of a briquette business

Empowering women with energy

Few rural households in Kenya have access to grid electricity. Most rely on dangerous kerosene for lighting and wood or charcoal for cooking. This lack of modern energy harms the health of women and children and the daily drudgery of fuel collection takes time that could be...

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Agnes Mahero

Agnes Mahero runs a solar business in Kwisero Market, in Kakamega County, Western Kenya and happily displays her wares in the market centre of Ekero. Before she started in business with solar products, Agnes bought and sold cereals from farmers, bulked them and delivered them for large buy...

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Building energy access markets

A framework to analyse and assess energy market systems, focusing on decentralised energy service markets

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Fuel briquettes technology fact sheet

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"On 11th of May I was up in the wee-hours to catch the 6am flight to Kisumu… My very first time to Western Kenya so I was quite excited to not only meet the women that I heard so much about but to explore a place that I’ve looked forward to visiting for quite some time now..."
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