The DOEN Foundation supports pioneers who use an entrepreneurial approach to come up with solutions for a better world. Read the story of Alex Beru and Geoffrey Nyambariga. Creating livelyhoods is about more than just providing access to a stable income. There are several different forms of capital (human, social, financial) that compose a livelyhood. The LivelyHoods model is a training program that allows young people and women to build their financial capital by earning a stable income, build human capital by learning new sales skills, and to increase their social capital as they communicate and create relationships with members of their community. A majority of the sales agents will go on to productive jobs, further studies, or to create their own businesses when they leave LivelyHoods. Their aim is to prepare themselves for a lifetime of gainful and productive activities, that sustain them and their families, and give hope for a continuous, bright future.
Geoffrey Nyambariga leads the expansion programme for LivelyHoods and is currently looking closely at the market in Uganda and Tanzania. ‘I love helping people because I was brought up in a background where you didn’t have everything. So when you are in a position where you can influence someone to be able to earn a decent living, that has been my greatest motivation to work here at LivelyHoods.’
Alex Beru is a trainer for LivelyHoods and has worked there ever since the project began in 2011. ‘I was a street kid and I lived in the slums for many years because my parents died when I was young. So I didn’t have many opportunities. Then I met Tania Laden and Maria Springer (Cofounders of LivelyHoods) and we started this project together. We wanted to sell clean energy products like cook stoves, water filters and solar lamps, to people of the slums who normally don’t have easy access to affordable, reliable and clean energy. These people don’t trust the big companies, but they do trust me because I’m from their neighbourhood and I speak their language. After a while I started recruiting, bringing more friends that wanted to learn how to become a sales agent on board. Now I’m a trainer and I train the people who want to become trainers themselves.’
Geoffrey: ‘LivelyHoods targets slum households with monthly incomes of between €80 and €280, in urban and peri-urban slums, who use traditional cooking stoves, kerosene lamps, torches, and other polluting methods for lighting their homes and cooking for their families, or who have unreliable power supplies. Given that Kenyan women are most often in charge of cooking and collecting fuel, and therefore have the most to gain from our clean-burning cooking stoves, in health improvements as well as time and monetary savings, women represent LivelyHoods' key target market.’
Alex recalls when he had to collect scraps of metal to sell, and was sleeping on the streets, and gradually going from collecting scrap metal to stealing. ‘I was arrested and went to prison. But after that I got this opportunity to earn ‘clean’ money, compared to what I used to do before. For me it’s very important to train people so they can change and get the same opportunity I had. I can now pay for my rent and have a decent life. That’s a huge difference. I really enjoy what I’m doing now and it’s the best place for me to be.’
Geoffrey says he’s also very happy to be on the LivelyHoods team. ‘Before this, I also worked as a trainer, but we didn’t do any follow-up on the guys we were giving the training to. So, the impact was more to do with the number of trainees, and this really does not reflect how they apply that training in their everyday lives. But now we are able to see what has changed in the lives of the people we have trained, and what kind of output they produce.’
LivelyHoods is receiving support from the DOEN Foundation. Geoffrey: ‘LivelyHoods has provided a solution for thousands of ambitious men and women in Kenya since 2011, but with such a low penetration of clean energy products, and high unemployment rates in the region, we need to rapidly scale up our successful model to new locations. This will expand our reach with both our jobs and products, and we will adapt our product range to meet the needs of the different countries and populations in the East Africa region. The support of the DOEN Foundation gives us the opportunity to explore East Africa. We are so excited to have this chance to make a huge difference.’
Alex: ‘I just hope we can invite more people to come on board and support what LivelyHoods is doing so that we can reach the young people living on the streets today. There are still too many young kids collecting scraps like I used to do, still too many young girls forced into prostitution, and that makes me really sad. Most of them don’t have parents, and I want to make it my goal to change their lives.’