Scott Tudman - Vinu Felix
January 20, 2012
We feel it's important to get feedback from our lenders from time to time. We recently received and email from Vinu Felix with some questions regarding the lending process. We asked him to provide some thoughts on EIC and this is what he had to say:
"The main reason why I chose to be a lender in EIC is because its not just helping someone by financing their enterprise or mission but it also helps in educating the need for a cleaner environment, and changing the way one lives or runs their business is the best way to do it. A huge nationwide change is difficult or impossible until each citizen becomes aware of the need and advantage of a clean nation. Its more of a responsibility & obligation that we have to honor the earth we live in and keep it clean & healthy for all the inhabitants(not only humans).
One of the biggest problems in underdeveloped/developing nations is that the funding is scarce and so if there is extra investment required for a product that does not pollute the environment, people would go for a cheaper polluting option. The government checks on Go-Green norms could be minimal in such countries or worse, might not be there at all!
Therefore, I believe that starting from the lowest sections of the society is the best way of building a strong foundation for this effort. I came across several cases among the loan applicants where they have applied for a loan for discarding the highly polluting(or even dangerous) devices that they are currently using (and being aware of its dangers) for their livelihood. As a lender in EIC and promoting their effort I feel responsible and happy in helping the community not only in their financial necessity but also joining hands together for a clean and safe earth for all of us.
In this effort everyone is important. I congratulate EIC, its associates, other lenders and our entrepreneurs (for choosing the green option) in this praiseworthy effort and am glad to be a part of it. I will continue to be a part of this great mission in every way possible and would urge everyone reading this to do the same. Thank you very much for the chance ... and for reading my views on EIC and its effort."
Notes from the Field - By the Numbers
August 31, 2011
Maakye! (Good morning!) As you may have read in my previous post, I'm a master's student from Yale, spending the summer here in Ghana speaking with EIC's beneficiaries to understand what happens when someone receives an energy loan. During June and July I spoke with 65 individuals in the Nkwanta area, of which 44 live in rural villages with no electricity in the home. These individuals have been beyond generous with their time and attention, willing, even eager, to spend fifteen minutes with someone they've never met answering questions about their lives. What I've learned has illuminated what it's like to be a resident of the rural villages here. In the following few paragraphs, we'll discuss who those 44 rural residents are, and what has happened since they received their solar systems.
First, some basic demographics:
- Family: Their average household size is just over nine people
- Housing: 97% live in houses constructed of mud bricks, and 88% have earth floors
- Water: 52% fetch their water from public pump wells, 31% from rivers, and 13% from public standpipes
- Education: 82% of children aged six to fifteen attend school
When these families wake up, at dawn or earlier, the women prepare the children for school, while the men head to the farm. These men are joined later by the women, who bring with them water for the day. When the children finish with school, they return home to sweep, fetch water and prepare the cooking fire that the women will use to prepare the evening meal. At night, women cook and children study or play by solar lamplight.
And now for the energy benefits:
Since beneficiaries received their solar lamps, there has been a seventy percent drop in the number of households using kerosene for light (84% before, down to 25% now). You might ask why not 100 percent?, but remember that in a nine-person household, a single light can't meet the lighting needs of the entire family. Perceptive of this unmet need, users frequently ask about larger systems that can pick up the extra slack. (They're available though EIC, thankfully!)
EIC's solar products have also cut down on travel time and expense. Before their solar systems arrived, 64% of interviewees reported traveling an average of every four days to charge their mobile phones, either to a village with electricity or to someone with a generator. Thanks to the systems' phone charging capability, these individuals are no longer forced to do so.
It's apparent that rural borrowers are seeing the benefits of lender generosity, but there's still ground to be gained: replacing those additional kerosene lamps, and helping more individuals in the rural communities surrounding Nkwanta gain access to clean energy.
84% used kerosene for light before, for an average of 6.5 hours per night, some as many as 12.
Now 25% use kerosene for lighting, $3.18 per week on average (keep in mind that in a household of 8 people, not everyone can use the lamp at once, so still need kerosene for some of the household).
Charge their phones every 4 days, and the 64% that used to travel to charge their phones no longer must do so.
Ainsley is a masterï¿½s student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, spending the summer in Ghana researching the impacts of microcredit for green energy technology, with the generous collaboration of Energy in Common and financial support from Yale's Tropical Resources Institute, the Coca-Cola World Fund, and the Lindsay Fellowship for Research in Africa.
Notes from the Field - Unexpected Benefits
July 13, 2011
I slide sideways off the motorbike, stretch my cramped legs and take off my sunglasses. The driver chuckles at me. Familiar with the results of daily motorbike excursions by now, I know his amusement is at the peculiar raccoon eyes made by the thick layer of dust coating my face, made uneven by my sporadic, thoughtless efforts to clear the sweat with an even dirtier hand.
I've just spent the day with Kennedy visiting Danladi, Kanjo and Nyamemoa, villages in the far northern reaches of the Volta region of Ghana, more than an hour by motorbike from Nkwanta, where I've been lodging. The people in these villages speak Konkomba and Twi, farm for a living and are years from grid electricity. Times are tough in the region, as cyclical crop income is just beginning to flow in, but they smile brightly at me while we discuss their solar lamps (with the ever-patient assistance of Kennedy, who translates from Twi to English for me). When I arrived, I expected to hear individuals talk of solar's benefits through health, education, and income impacts, but an unexpected benefit has emerged from my conversations with beneficiaries: freedom.
Specifically, solar frees individuals from the hassle of planning life around energy scarcity. They suddenly have the freedom to do reading on their own time, not as subject to daylight hours or the cost of kerosene. They no longer must travel two to three times per week to charge mobile phones in order to maintain their connections with friends, family, and business opportunities. And they can keep in touch through more frequent phone calls that no longer must be budgeted in terms of battery life. Even for electrified individuals, solar provides freedom from frequent power outages, so that children can study every night free from the eye-irritating smoke of kerosene. They can do dishes after dinner rather than in the morning, start sweeping earlier, and arrive to school on time.
As a person who's done a great deal of tinkering with daily habits and productivity, this is a benefit that resonates deeply with me. The ability to exercise better control over your daily activities is life expanding, in terms of both revealing new opportunities and providing greater well being. It puts to rest the frustration of having the will to do something but being stopped by mere circumstance. This may sound like grandiose talk for a small change in lifestyle, but for individuals who have few choices, what seem like small freedoms mean a great deal.
Ainsley is a master's student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, spending the summer in Ghana researching the impacts of microcredit for green energy technology, with the generous collaboration of Energy in Common and financial support from Yale's Tropical Resources Institute, the Coca-Cola World Fund, and the Lindsay Fellowship for Research in Africa.
Notes From the Field - Solar Lanterns for a Health Clinic in Ghana
March 7, 2011
On January 31st I met Nana Qwadade, CEO of Kraban Support Foundation (KSF). I spent a day with him visiting Energy In Common clients who had received loans for Phillips solar powered lanterns. I was particularly impressed with two loan recipients who had obviously benefited from involvement in the program. Dorcas Frempong, a longtime client of KSF, lives in Accra and runs a convenience store with her Husband (pictured). The Frempong's are connected to the grid, but explain that frequent power outages make secondary energy sources a necessity. During blackouts their store is able to continue operating. The lantern, which serves as a beacon, attracts even more customers. When I asked whether repayments had been a burden, Dorcas replied that it had been easy for them, and that the added convenience made it a worthwhile investment.
Another memorable recipient I visited was Linda Appiah, a nurse who runs a clinic in a small town in Ghana's Eastern region. The clinic is not connected to the grid, so the solar lantern is vital to its operation. Linda said that many problems have to be dealt with after dark; she regularly treats snake bites and sick babies. Before receiving the loan, the clinic was lit by kerosene which produced harmful indoor air pollution. The solar lantern provides quality, clean light which has had a real benefit to the community. The photo below is of me with Linda and a group of her patients. Linda is sitting directly above me, dressed in white.
These stories highlight the value that energy loans add to the lives of individuals and the communities in which they live. While the Ghanaians I have had the pleasure to meet on my trip all have different stories to tell, there are two common themes which appear. First, people are impatient with the progress of development in their country. Whether it is to increase their store's business hours or to allow their children to study at night, people everywhere want and need cheap, reliable electricity. Second, the people for whom these issues are most pressing are the same people who do not have the opportunities many of us take for granted. The poor are forced to use inefficient, expensive technologies which create harmful indoor air pollution: charcoal, firewood, kerosene. The entrepreneurs I met welcomed the opportunity to improve their quality of life by accepting energy loans. Meeting these loan recipients first hand has given me the incredible opportunity to realize the truth behind the rhetoric.
Notes From the Field - Boyd Whalan's Experience in Ghana
January 26, 2011
It is well known that access to clean energy is vital to development. Sitting at home in my western, air conditioned, home where most rooms are lit even during daylight, it seemed obvious that any initiative that grants the poor clean, efficient energy is commendable. Having arrived in Ghana and seeing how subsistence farmers live, however, I asked myself: do the people of rural Ghana see the need for electricity? If they have never known life with any light other than that of the fire, it seems very possible that they would balk at the idea of paying good money for a solar powered light. With this question in mind, I set out with Solomon, a loan officer in Nkwanta, Ghana, to visit some remote villages. I was expecting to see some expert salesmanship from Solomon as he convinced people to buy something they did not think they needed.
After an hour of riding on a motorcycle along a dirt path so riddled with potholes that the bike's 25 mph seemed a death defying pace, we arrived at our first stop. As Solomon introduced me to the village chief, men appeared with plastic chairs for us. We sat down, Solomon beginning to explain why we were here, and were soon surrounded by every man in the village who wasn't out on the farms that day. The villagers were obviously very happy to see us. Groups of children gathered in corners looking at their strange visitors, laughing at the "obron" (white man).
The problem when he had visited the villages before, Solomon explains, was that the locals believed he was simply deceiving them. They are used to the government promising and failing to deliver sealed road and connection to the electricity grid, and so the solar products were seen as political leverage and met by great skepticism. My presence was proof to them that the products were not a lie; Solomon told the chief that I had come from Australia to talk to sell solar powered lights. As business men, he repeated, we had no political motives.
Any doubts I had were quickly dashed. The villagers were incredibly enthusiastic about getting lights; the chief said he had around 100 potential customers in his village. I offered to take a photo of the group, and they happily accepted. I showed them the photo on my camera and they all laughed and pointed at themselves. They were very grateful and I left feeling a lot better about the project.
A Trip Filled With Energy
September 14, 2010
Hugh and I recently had the absolute pleasure of making a trip to Ghana. The main purpose of the trip was simply to meet with some of our MFI partners and interview a number of our initial loan recipients after they were up and running with their various energy technologies. The trip we ended up with met our main criteria, but also exposed us to a lot more than we expected.
The concept of a clean burning stove sounds really good in and of itself, but you get a whole new appreciation for the difference it can make in someone's life when you stand in an enclosed hut with an open fire burning. The heat and smoke were nearly unbearable, and we were only in there for a matter of minutes on one single day. The women who were there living and cooking are exposed to those conditions for hours on a daily basis.
We had the pleasure of meeting with Patience Ampong, she prepares a local dish called fufu and sells it from her stand at a local market in the greater Takoradi area. Patience used to prepare her food over an open fire that put out a lot of excess heat and smoke. Her new double burner cookstove (funded 6/3/10) is fueled with clean burning natural gas. She saves a lot of time and money by using natural gas as a fuel source - she no longer has to travel to the market on a regular basis to purchase firewood, and the gas stove heats up immediately - saving a lot of time in food preparation. According to Patience, she couldn't be happier with her new cookstove.
While traveling further to the north in Ghana, we were able to stay in the guesthouse run by a loan recipient. Philomena Afriyie received a loan for a solar home system to light her guesthouse in the town of Nkwanta (funded 6/18/10). The system has a solar panel that charges a small battery and operates four separate LED lights that were placed in different rooms throughout the house. I had the privilege of reading a book under one of the EIC funded lights one evening.
The people of Ghana were warm and welcoming to say the least, and there is a strong desire for clean and renewable energy sources. We met with three different microfinance partners while there, and every single one said that they had people lining up for energy loans. The people are filled with the energy to step up and improve their lives - our hope is to provide them with the hardware to see that through. You can see more photos of our trip posted on the EIC facebook page.