Impact case: ENVenture

News overview

Energy for everyone

ENVenture makes sustainable energy solutions accessible to people in remote areas of Uganda. Through a special incubator programme, ENVenture trains local non-profit cooperatives and community-based organisations (CBOs) to develop sustainable energy businesses. Once trained, they serve their own communities. Thus, large groups of people who were formerly dependent on costly, polluting kerosene gain access to affordable, sustainable energy.

Access to technologies

Every household needs energy to prepare food and provide lighting – in short, to live. But because energy is expensive and many parts of Uganda have no local electricity grid, people are forced to rely on polluting energy sources that are also often dangerous. These include kerosene lamps, which can fall over and start fires.

The problem in Uganda is not a lack of sustainable energy technologies but a lack of access to them. Of the people who cannot get modern, clean fuel for cooking or sustainable electricity to light their homes and neighbourhoods, 85% live in remote rural places, also known as last-mile-problem areas. They do not have access to resources that may, for example, be available in Kampala.

Local solutions

ENVenture’s mission is to increase the accessibility of sustainable energy solutions for people in remote areas of Uganda. ENVenture not only sells products such as non-electric water filters and cookstoves but works with local organisations to create a network of businesses that are financially healthy, operate independently and serve their communities. ENVenture provides small loans to these local CBOs, which are organised centrally but respond to the needs of local people. Broad-based support is garnered by not forcing choices on communities but allowing village leaders to make them.

Training programme

Through an incubator programme, ENVenture helps the CBOs develop into sustainable energy businesses. To participate, they must have existed for at least five years, maintain administrative records, be officially registered and want to work with a mentor from ENVenture. They also take part in group training sessions and network meetings.

A better quality of life

ENVenture directly helps to improve the lives of users of its products. DOEN partner 60 Decibels surveyed 133 customers of affiliated CBOs and found that 93% were enjoying an enhanced quality of life after obtaining sustainable energy products. They were paying less for energy, had more money left over, and felt safer with their surroundings better lit at night.

When [the CBO] AgriLight first approached our community to tell us about solar lights, we decided to test them. We discovered the lights could stay on all night, didn’t smoke, and were fireproof. This is much better for my children’s health and my own.” – Rose, AgriLight customer

Higher marks at school

Many Ugandan households keep their homes dark at night to save on kerosene. This has a negative impact on children’s school marks – after all, it’s impossible to do homework in the dark. Homeschooling during the coronavirus crisis only exacerbated the problem. Thanks to the CBOs, many families now have solar-powered lamps. During the day they charge them, and in the evening the children dive into their schoolbooks. The lamps are brightening their prospects for the future.

Job creation

Many of the people living in last-mile-problem areas are women. They often earn less than US$3 a day. 60 Decibels’ study found that in 2020 the CBOs created 575 new jobs, 70% of them for women. Of those CBOs, 83% followed ENVenture’s incubator programme. The programme achieves measurable results on multiple fronts, including sustainability, inclusiveness and overall quality of life.

Effecting true change

ENVenture entered into a partnership with the DOEN Foundation in 2018. It has been using its grant to strengthen the organisation overall and to train 50 to 110 new CBOs. With DOEN’s support, ENVenture has succeeded in effecting real change. It is helping to build a society in which everyone can participate while also making an important contribution to the energy transition.

“ENVenture shows that there’s huge potential in existing CBOs. Very often they’re micro-enterprises. Making use of the CBO structure and giving loans to these organisations may be unusual, but it helps them to break through existing patterns. They make an impact by working with women on an equal footing and showing them that they can strengthen themselves and their environment.” – Marije Schasfoort, DOEN Foundation programme manager

Looking to the future

ENVenture has jumped several hurdles, including coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. Though times have been difficult, ENVenture has shown its resilience, acting open-mindedly, communicating clearly and continually searching for solutions. ENVenture will continue its work in Uganda while looking for opportunities to apply this model in other countries in the region. After all, everyone should be able to access sustainable technologies that make their lives better.

This profile was written in cooperation with Avance Impact.