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Community solar innovation recognised during 2018 SEED SA Symposium

The winners of the Hogan Lovells Community Solar Innovation Awards 2017 were announced on Thursday, 15 March, during the 2018 SEED South Africa Symposium in Pretoria.

The awards, implemented by Adelphi and managed by SEED and Barefoot College, seek to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in September 2015 by 193 countries, which call for collaboration to end extreme poverty, tackle inequality and injustice, and safeguard the planet. Judges awarded entries which significantly improve the lives of women and girls, particularly those which focus on gender equality or female empowerment.

The 2017 winners are:

Frontier Markets, India – a last-mile sales, marketing and after-sales service distribution company bringing clean energy solutions to rural India. A growing network of rural women are empowered with clean, safe energy access and training to become micro-entrepreneurs promoting solar energy systems.

Grupo Fenix, Nicaragua – runs courses that target students and professionals to facilitate information exchange on building and solar-technology. Clients participate in hands-on activities such as building solar cell phone chargers and installing photovoltaic systems in rural homes that lack access to electricity.

Kalpavriksha Greater Goods, Nepal – alleviates energy poverty in rural Nepal by empowering women entrepreneurs to sell clean energy products, stimulating economic growth. Women entrepreneurs are given extensive business training and mentorship support.

Kumudzi Kuwale, Malawi – supplies charging stations in villages where locals can rent solar lamps, batteries and charge mobile phones, ensuring basic electricity is supplied at affordable costs in financially sustainable ways.

Masole Ammele, Malawi – promotes the use of solar water pumps in organic fish farming and production, and provides market linkages to fresh fish, dry fish and fish fingerlings through working with organised local household farmers.

Oolu Mali, Mali – the first pay-as-you-go distributor of off-grid solar energy in Mali. The unique payment infrastructure is complemented by entrepreneurial thinking which is geared towards promoting employment and gender equality in rural Mali.

Samwaki, Democratic Republic of Congo – this rural women’s organisation runs a solar-powered radio station Radio Bubusa and provides its listeners with portable solar radios and solar charging stations, and runs an agro-ecological cooperative Coopaeki that focuses on coffee agriculture.

Solar Freeze, Kenya – provides smallholder farmers in Kenya access to portable solar cooling units to prevent post-harvest loss, thus providing farmers and traders the leverage to move and store smaller quantities of fresh produce more frequently.

South Asian Forum for Environment, India – uses solar energy to ensure a supply of safe drinking water for the urban poor, creating a women centric end-to-end solution for climate adaptive basic amenities and sanitation with minimal emissions.

Village Energy, Uganda – designs and installs customised solar installations for businesses, agriculture and community institutions that lead to improved livelihoods, job creation, and access to services. With its traveling academy, it trains rural youth and women as solar technicians to find opportunities within the solar industry.

These 10 winning enterprises and financial award winners were selected by an independent international judging panel from over 280 applications across 53 countries, 54% of which were youth (under age 35) and 42% of which were female led.

Commenting, judge and global head of Hogan Lovells Energy and Natural Resources Group, Scot Anderson said: “These awards demonstrate the incredible innovation in capturing and using solar energy to make a real difference to the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest areas.”

As overall winner, Village Energy will receive a $10,000 financial award. All winners will receive a tailor-made business support package including: up to $30,000 pro bono legal advice; peer networking; one-on-one support and mentorship to develop business and financial plans; and support from SEED to replicate their business model in other regions around the world.

“This is a validation that our hard work over the years is finally being recognised globally. This prize will really help us to increase the vocational training we are providing to rural youth and women,” said Abu Musuuza from Village Energy.

“We want to develop rural businesses which continue to be neglected – we want to train them, finance them and really get them to be more productive.”

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