Mukhobeh Moses Khaukha is the Executive Director of Hands of Action Uganda, a not-for-profit organisation working to improve the lives of people living in Bududa district in Eastern Uganda. This region is regularly affected by tragic mud slides, which have plagued the economic development of his community. Through Hands of Action, Moses decided to first improve his community, by building a school, in which thousands of children are enrolled.
Hands of Action even invented an innovative educational practice for teachers to shout, “gender balance!” when girls were not participating as much as boys in the classroom. However, although Moses was able to tackle child education, he also knew of the systemic problem of a lack of electricity, modern fuels for cooking, and clean water in his community; problems that he did not know how to fix.
I started ENVenture – a social enterprise that coach rural, community-based organisations to start clean energy businesses – after meeting so many community leaders, like Moses, who are passionate about solving problems in their communities. I visited Hands of Action with Jane Muganga who runs Friends of Family Organisation (FOFO), another organisation who has benefitted from ENVenture’s program. Jane and I decided FOFO would use the ENVenture’s loan to pay forward to Hands of Action for them to start their own clean energy business.
Although the funding piece was solved, there was still the question of starting a clean energy business. After all, Moses was not familiar with clean energy technologies and he did not know where to start. This is where ENVenture’s Business Development Fellow Bettina Bergoo, stepped in to help – Bettina is a young professional from the US with a degree in Environmental Studies from Georgetown University. Upon arriving in Bududa, the first thing Bettina noticed was that her own house did not have electricity or running water. Bettina therefore worked with a provider that brought solar to her roof and she installed a rain water harvesting system – her home quickly became a mobile charging station for the community!
Next, Bettina worked with the provider to install solar on top of the school. Now the schoolchildren have access to electricity while learning. Embedded in the community, she was able to perform market research, understand financial behaviours of potential customers, and develop a business plan with Moses’ team. They decided to call their venture Mt. Elgon Clean Energy.
Currently Mt. Elgon Clean Energy has sold thousands of dollars’ worth of clean energy products, is profitable, and is on track to expand with further outside investment. For a community where people earn less than $2 a day, this is an impressive amount of growth. ENVenture has eight local partners – like Hands of Action – across Uganda with plans to scale to 200, thereby creating a community of practice to share lessons, supplier contacts, and other useful information between each other. ENVenture firmly believes in the power of local communities to be able to solve their own problems in the communities; these communities simply need a hand-up, not a hand-out.
This blog is part of a series of stories that highlights the serious efforts people are making to improve lives through energy access. Read the other blogs in the series by:
- Peju Adeosun from Virgin Earth Challenge on the latest solutions to energy access.
- Sameer Hajee from NuruEnergy on developing a sustainable, scalable solution to dirty kerosene.
ENVenture is a 501(c)(3) US non-profit with operations in Uganda. If you are interested in applying for their Business Development Fellowship, please visit www.enventureenterprises.org.
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