Making money while protecting the planet
Rural women play a critical role in supporting their households and communities in achieving food security, generating income and improving their overall well-being.
But as caretakers of people and nature they find themselves caught between generating money to support their objectives and to defend the environment.
Women in Siaya town appear to have found away out of this complicated situation after realising that making their businesses environmentally friendly not only benefits the environment but can also earn them
Millicent Andali, an improved jikos entrepreneur, is leading the switch to renewable energy sources, which not only lines her pocket but is equally contributing towards environmental conservation.
Andali found a niche by producing cook stoves that are an alternative to traditional jikos that would conserve the natural resource within her locality.
“On average, I make Sh30,000 in a good month from selling modern jiko,” says the 41-year-old entrepreneur who produces about 100 cook stoves a day, depending on orders placed.
The upesi jiko, which uses three pieces of firewood, is the most popular of all her products.
Other varieties, which retail at between Sh1,000 and Sh1,500, include uhai, jiko sanifu and jiko smart. Every jiko is fixed with ceramic liner to ensure heat is conserved during cooking.
When she started the venture, most people in her community were skeptical.
“I have made progress. My community members are beginning to embrace the concept,” says the former hairdresser.
Periodically, her enterprise sensitises the community on the importance of using the improved jikos to encourage transition from traditional three-stone cooking methods as well as minimise use of charcoal and fuel wood as a way of reducing the community’s carbon footprint.
“The business has become integral in promoting healthy living through reduction of consumption of charcoal and fuel wood as a source of energy especially in Siaya town,” Andayi says.
Apart from being friendly to the environment, she adds, the stoves are more convenient.
“They cut down on cooking time by reducing time used to collect fuelwood, and limit exposure to smoke,” Andayi explains.
Also setting the pace in the switch to sustainable energy is Evelyne Obola who recycles waste materials into usable alternative cook fuel products.
She makes energy saving briquettes, a business which is beginning to thrive locally.
“The community is embracing the use of briquettes which is quite encouraging,” she says.
On average, she is able to produce eight 50-kilo bags of briquettes a day. A kilo retails at Sh25 while a 50kg sack sells for Sh1,000.
Charcoal dusk is the main raw material for the fabricated briquettes.
Obola sources the material majorly from the charcoal vendors at a fee.
After collection, the dust is sieved to eliminate unwanted materials before blending it with other ingredients such as molasses and water in certain proportions to bond the product.
The mixture is then loaded into the briquettes. The finished products is sun-dried for between two and three days depending on the weather before it is ready for use.
“We are able to make about three 50kg bags of briquettes every hour,” says Obola.
As she plays her part in reducing the number of trees felled in her locality, Obola and her workers are also able to eke a living.
Andali and Obola are among women entrepreneurs under the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya programme, championed by Practical Action, a non-governmental organisation, that strives to improve their stake in the energy sector.
The project is being implemented in seven counties: Kakamega, Siaya, Kisumu, Migori, Homa Bay, Nairobi and Makueni and seeks to empower women entrepreneurs in the energy businesses.
Raymond Ombuor, a business development mentor at Practical Action, says the programme targets to empower more than 400 women in energy entrepreneurship.
“Beneficiaries are empowered to take part in the energy businesses through production of briquettes, improved cook stoves as well as promoting solar products,” he says.
The program encompasses four interventions; women economic empowerment, where they are strengthened in terms of skills and resources provision, offering an enabling environment through support of
relevant policies and offering synergies with other stakeholders to promote improved livelihoods.
Practical Action also provides seed capital to its beneficiaries.
“The uptake is good because the solutions are locally-owned. This has helped them relate directly with the products they make,” Ombuor, says, adding, “we are also carrying out market activation and campaigns to create awareness on such products.”