A Renewable Energy Path to Financial Sustainability for Community-Based Organizations
Shadrach Kakooza is the Founder of Action for Youth Empowerment and Sustainable Community Development Organization (AYESCOD) which is a Community Based Organization. In this blog, he explains his founding journey and his venture into clean energy entrepreneurship through ENVenture.
Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in Uganda today share a common mission to enhance the quality of life for their local low income communities. As a non-profit group, they aim to expand opportunities for young men and women to achieve lifelong success through formal or informal education, healthcare and sustainable socio-economic development to mention but a few.
The Action for Youth Empowerment and Sustainable Community Development (AYESCOD) in Uganda is one of such CBOs dedicated to addressing diverse development issues aimed at improving youth rights and well-being in Hoima District. It was founded in 2016, by seven volunteers who discovered it was necessary to form an organization that unites youth to promote exchange of ideas and experiences that relate to social-economic development. To do this, AYESCOD creates Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) which are self-managed and self-capitalized community savings groups that aim to enhance cohesion and financial inclusion among participants through savings and loans.
Bottlenecks that CBOs face during outreach
The biggest challenge for CBOs to run and maintain their initiatives is lack of funding and the resulting cash flow. This bottleneck limits the impact that would otherwise empower people to strive for independence and sustainability. Such costs are typically operational ones like transportation needed to monitor VSLA field activities. Newer CBOs particularly face difficulty in establishing a rapport with communities. A viable solution to address such challenges is for CBOs to adopt an income-generating activity that not only provides a source of business income but also achieves a mission-aligned social change.
A Clean Energy Solution for CBOs
A clean energy business created through the New Energy Nexus ENVenture program has become a game changer in pushing forward AYESCOD’s environmental conservation goal. ENVenture mitigates energy poverty by creating sustainable clean energy enterprises in the last mile. It runs an incubation and accelerator program for CBOs to launch energy enterprises selling household clean energy technologies like improved cookstoves, solar, non-electric water filters and briquettes. Our beneficiaries have the opportunity to use these technologies instead of firewood and kerosene which emit hazardous smoke. The margins made on the sale of one unit have helped in the running of other organizational activities. We have the ability to continue capacity building for our VSLAs as we up-skill them on financial management. At the same time, we are carrying out a WASH project where we work with communities in; building drying racks for utensils; situating pits for composite waste; and building improved Kiln commonly referred to as lorena. We now operate a loan scheme where we provide small low-cost loans not exceeding UGX 300,000 (USD 80) for recipients who want to start up ventures that self-improve their living standards.
Our staff have gained a marketing and business management skill set by participating in ENVenture’s workshops. The skills gained are pivotal in the innovative sale of renewable energy products to low-income communities. We have gained social recognition in the areas we operate in and this has become a stepping stone for our community engagement. Our clients are most appreciative of the clean energy products they buy because of the quality and their opportune timing. We create rapport with the locals who become commission-agents in marketing and selling products.
Social impact road ahead
Our immediate goal is to graduate to the ENVenture Growth Accelerator to procure more stock to increase the sales. Margins will be channeled back into our micro-loan scheme and diversify into more projects like poultry farming. The profits gained from the loan will also be vital in providing operating capital for AYESCOD. It is Entrepreneur Support Organizations that can provide support rendered to organizations to propel them to greater heights. The sky is now the limit for us at AYESCOD!
For more information and a look at AYESCOD's work, check out their website https://ayescod-uganda.webs.com/
ENVenture (www.enventureenterprises.org) operating as New Energy Nexus Uganda, is a Ugandan registered company that empowers rural organizations to launch sustainable clean energy enterprises. ENVenture is a program of New Energy Nexus. We are building out the ecosystem in the last mile for clean energy access through Financing, Capacity building and Technology.
New Energy Nexus (www.newenergynexus.com) is a non-profit international organization that strives towards an abundant world with a 100% clean energy economy for 100% of the population in the shortest time possible. To achieve this goal, it supports diverse clean energy entrepreneurs with funds, accelerators and networks. It started in California and now operates programs in New York, China, India, Southeast Asia and East Africa.