Date: Tuesday, June 26th, 2018
Location: Nyamasaria, Kisumu, Kenya
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 P.M.
The Collaborating for Impact: Women in Energy Business Peer Learning and Networking Event provided a platform for grassroots women entrepreneurs to engage with stakeholders, through discussions of key issues affecting women entrepreneurs while addressing probable solutions to propel these enterprises to the next level. This event was held at Nyamasaria Women’s Group production site and brought together 48 participants comprising wPOWER mentees and women entrepreneurs drawn from diverse regions in Kenya and Uganda.
Women entrepreneurs especially those living in rural areas rarely get a chance to convene and share on their successes and challenges in clean energy business. Specifically, our mentees and women entrepreneurs have not had a chance to meet and learn from each other. It is for this reason that wPOWER together with Energy 4 Impact organized the Peer Learning and Networking event.
wPOWER women entrepreneurs graduated from community trainings held in 2016 to encourage the adoption of clean energy technologies, preserve environment and improve livelihoods for families and communities. Our mentees are part of the Mentoring Women in Business Programme, which aims to empower women entrepreneurs with the skills, technology, networks, mentoring and access to financial services that they need to build and expand their clean energy enterprises.
wPOWER mentees and entrepreneurs share their successes and challenges in clean energy business.
During the event, wPOWER Mentees and entrepreneurs shared their successes in clean energy entrepreneurship and highlighted some major challenges they experience in their daily operations in the clean energy businesses.
- Sales of solar lamps have improved immensely since the introduction of a smartphone app for sales agents that allows customers to pay for a product in installments. Making payments via smartphone app for sales agents has also helped improve accountability.
- Training in essential business skills like bookkeeping and marketing by Energy 4 Impact has improved business operations.
- Allowances given by organizations during trainings have served as capital to set up clean energy enterprises.
- Through Cherie Blair mentorship program, the mentees have gained important skills in financial management and bookkeeping.
- The women entrepreneurs in clean energy conduct community trainings on tree planting and use of improved cookstoves/solar lamps.
- With profits from product sales, the women have started Merry-go-rounds (table banking) groups. The money from these groups has improved livelihoods e.g. enrolling children in schools and constructing houses.
- The women entrepreneurs are now producing non carbonized briquettes for fuel to reduce tree cutting in the community.
- Through clean energy entrepreneurship, women have been empowered in the community since they are able to make money.
- Education in clean energy matters in the communities has helped change people’s attitudes on use of clean energy cooking and lighting technologies hence improved adoption.
Lack of financing opportunities for capital, limited markets to sell products and unavailability of quality products were listed as major challenges in clean energy business.
Access to finance and markets
- Lack of capital for buying clean energy products.
- Selling and marketing challenges at initial stages of the businesses. People are comfortable using traditional cooking methods making it hard to sell the clean cooking stoves.
Quality of products
- The sales agents are not able to replace solar lamps that are defective.
- High prices of the products make it hard to price during reselling.
- Counterfeit products lead to high return rates from customers who inform others resulting to low sales.
- People delay/ or fail to pay for the products which affects flow of income and puts the business at risk.
- Price fluctuations leads to reduction of sales.
- There are challenges in accessing quality and standard products that can stand competition in the market.
Engaging County Government to Support Clean Energy Enterprises
There was a general call for support from various stakeholders and the government. Women entrepreneurs called upon the county government to increase support of clean energy initiatives
In attendance was Maryline Agwa, Chief Officer of Energy and Mining-Homabay County, who reiterated the importance of empowering women as clean energy entrepreneurs to mitigate climate change. She mentioned that the county government is currently running the ’Operation nyangile out’ to eradicate the use of Kerosene lamps (nyangile) in the county.
Available support and resources available for women entrepreneurs were highlighted. Maurice Onzere, of Energy4impact, explained that the organization conducts training and mentorship programs, which equip women entrepreneurs with business skills, support micro entrepreneurs to access funds; and engage in market development – business to business linkages to help women entrepreneurs in refining their business models.
The entrepreneurs had the opportunity to engage the top leadership from wPOWER, Linda Davis, Ph.D, elaborated on wPOWER’s continued efforts to promote and support women entrepreneurship in clean energy and the need for all stakeholders to understand and promote the role of women in clean energy.
Presenting the Evidence- The Site Visit
One of the greatest strengths in wPOWER’s approach to making a business case for the role of women in clean energy is in presenting evidence and promoting sharing of best practices.
Participants visited a production site operated by the Nyamasaria Widows and Orphans Women Group, where women observed the production process of designing and manufacturing improved cookstoves. Witnessing the production of cookstoves and liners was proof that indeed women can be engaged across the energy value chain.
The Nyamasaria women group is currently engaged in production of liners, cookstoves and have benefited from a training by Okoa Kuni on the use a kiln and improve the quality of their liners. Energy 4 Impact and CARE2 have also trained the group on marketing skills to improve the sales through bulk sales.
Building Strategic Networks and Market Linkages
Most of the participants in the conference anticipated to have an opportunity to network and benefit from business linkages. Participants also expected to gain knowledge on clean energy entrepreneurship, through training to increase business skills. Other expectations included improved market strategies and how to access new markets, empowerment and mentorship and access quality products.
Most of the participants agreed that the sessions were beneficial and had increased their knowledge on how to handle business challenges and felt encouraged that there were successful clean energy women entrepreneurs. Others stated that they had gotten an opportunity to network for future business linkages. Through sharing of success stories and challenges, participants said they had learned new business skills which they could apply in their businesses. Some said they had increased their knowledge of improved cookstoves and other clean energy technologies. In the end women clean energy entrepreneurs from Uganda and Kenya were able to build strategic networks and market linkages hence increasing sustainability of their clean energy enterprises.