Volunteering for Clean Energy Access
Updated: Jan 21, 2019
By Carla Diaz, Business Development Fellow, ENVenture.
My name is Carla Diaz and I’m from Costa Rica. I enjoy traveling, photography and nature. I live in Spain where I’m undertaking a master’s degree in engineering in renewable energies. I’m passionate about sustainable development and climate change. As I hold both an industrial and environmental engineering degrees as a background, I chose to explore this field further through my master’s degree.
I’ve lived and traveled both in developed and developing countries. During these times, I have witnessed the stark contrast in access to a basic, reliable supply of electricity. Nearly one billion people in developing Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have no access to electricity despite high levels of year-long sunshine duration and intensity. During my studies, I’ve focused my course projects on the energy situation in sub-Saharan and my master’s final project will be focused on that as well. For that, I decided to come to Uganda to get a better understanding of the challenges the country is facing to supply electricity to its rural citizens. Uganda is a welcoming country and I have lived here for three months. I stay in a small village called Kyamukama in Lwengo district where I have quickly discovered I am the only foreigner. Even though most people in the village understand little English, they are always willing to help me in whatever way they can, and we try to communicate as much as possible. My neighbors have tried to teach me some basic Luganda and they get excited whenever I use it with them.
There are plenty of kids in my neighborhood and in my free time I enjoy playing games or solving some math homework. I will miss them the most when I go back to Spain. I will also miss the beautiful country of Uganda, which I think should be on anyone’s wish list to visit. I found out about ENVenture’s Business Development Fellowship program through the internet. I believe its work is helpful as they work with the lowest income people all over Uganda. It provides low-credit clean energy loans to small rural community-based organizations (CBOs) to launch sustainable energy businesses. The products that CBOs acquire are better for the environment and better in quality. The ENVenture partner-organization I’m working with is called The Women Support Initiative (TWOSI). It is made up of a hard-working group of women who are doing their best to empower other women and girls by providing different tools such as the development of new skills, information about living with HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it, and literacy programs for adults. The women from TWOSI are enthusiastic about this new project and hopeful the income they make will allow them to fund other projects in the organization. As their Business Development Fellow, I advise and work closely with the organization on different fronts such as: product pricing, sales targets, market goal, and much more. We chose to exclusively procure solar lanterns through the partnership with ENVenture as it seemed the biggest challenge in the community. We were able to obtain data on how much families in the village spend on kerosene and with any of the lanterns they acquired, families would save money.
The experience has made me humbler and grateful for all the amenities I used to take for granted. In the village, we need to walk almost 2km to get to the well to fetch water, which makes you quite aware on much water you have for your daily activities. Even though I was lucky to have electricity at my place, there would be power cuts several times during the week that could last for hours. I am hopeful to be able to find a job that allows me to play a part in international development that is accomplished in a sustainable way. As I’m currently part of the Climate Reality Project and Earth Charter program, finding a career that focuses on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals is important to me.
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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.