A Story of One Woman Advancing Clean Energy in Isingiro District
Susan K. Bowamazima comes across as reserved but deep inside is a budding entrepreneur out to shape, impact and make things happen. A social worker by profession, Susan aims to empower the underserved local community in her residential district of Isingiro, found in western Uganda. Along with this commitment, Susan manifests the bulk of her passion by running a School Milk Feeding Project with Foundation for AIDS Orphaned Children, an Isingiro District based NGO where she works.
Established in 1994, FAOC was founded on the need to scale up interventions for effective child care welfare, protection of orphans and other vulnerable children living with HIV and AIDS. These grassroots efforts aim to effectively mitigate the impact of orphan hood and vulnerability. Since then, the organization now spans operations to two other outer districts; Mbarara and Shema. With tasks at hand, Susan will often find herself on different work excursions from the comfortable dwellings of city life to the last mile rural neighborhoods where basic social services are anything but. You will find her sensitizing parents to pack balanced-diet lunch boxes for their school-going children, convincing school principals into implementing programs and engaging the local government department to implement a school milk program. She will tell you of the many facets to how she uniquely empowers the vulnerable children who are not able to fend for themselves. Handcraft making is one of them.
However, these are not the only problems she and FAOC are trying to address. There is another looming one. In the villages where they spend their time, there is an immense pressure on forest cover for cooking firewood. Market research collected by FAOC and ENVenture reveal that a whopping 70% are still using firewood for cooking, 65% report using kerosene lamps and many households divulge how water treatment is a problem due to unavailability of purification options. And on looking at the bigger picture, these endemic deficiencies will trickle down to the households. Rampant deaths result from inhalation of kerosene toxic fumes and consumption of untreated water. Worse still, it is mothers and young children that fall victim to this global problem. Susan was selected to represent FAOC at the June 2018 ENVenture bootcamp that was grant funded by Women in Leadership. The bootcamp is a workshop that uniquely equips CBOs such as FAOC with the necessary skills through empowered entrepreneur training.
For three days, she spent her time learning and mingling with other like-minded individuals on what it meant to run and operate a successful energy enterprise. Some people in attendance will remember Susan as being sharp witted and engaging during the entirety of the bootcamp, but many of ENVenture’s partner CBOs will also recall her eagerness to get her initial stock financing loan that would come in the form of brand new clean energy product technologies. Prior to this bootcamp, FAOC had not been very active in this dire global concern. In fact one of the aims in their organization profile is geared towards environmental conservation and climate change initiatives for improved livelihoods, but this had not come into full force due to limited funding. She saw the bootcamp as an enterprising foot in the door opportunity to combine her passion for child welfare and the start of something new and challenging. This is how she and FAOC have have started up a new clean energy enterprise known as the FAOC Clean Energy Shop located in Isingiro where she is the Lead Coordinator.
On asking why she agreed to join the ENVenture program, she says her target was to create employment opportunities for youth and for that, it has. The enterprise is also an income generating project for the FAOC and has led to more networking opportunities, the recent one being a visit from the School for International Training (SIT Study Abroad). The global students from the Social Innovation, Design and Development class of 2018 visited the FAOC Clean Energy Shop, and Susan demonstrated the clean energy technologies and their impact in the local community. The students were accompanied by ENVenture’s very own Primus Tushabomwe.
All the above tells the importance of women in accelerating access to clean energy household technologies. A small startup could mean something bigger and recent research shows that early-stage startups co-run by women consistently outperform their male-only counterparts on key barometers such as reporting positive revenues; yet they are significantly less likely to attract equity investors.
For the last three months, the enterprise has now distributed a big chunk of its inventory and is on track to receiving its second tranche disbursement of funding from ENVenture. Susan can finally see that the beneficiaries of the project, including the children and the FAOC, are using the opportunity to reach greater heights.
I still look forward to going ahead with the business and start many more distribution points and generate more money for my community and family at large.
ENVenture is a social enterprise that is building out the ecosystem in the last mile for clean energy access through financing, capacity building and technology.