Zarah Uba Yusuf is one of the women entrepreneurs registered with Solar Sisters organisation. At an advocacy programme held at the Nicon Luxury Abuja, on Tuesday, she narrated how she has made money from retailing solar lamps and clean cooking stoves.
“When the Solar Sisters organisation introduced the business to us in my community in Pankshin, Plateau State some years ago, I was one of the few women that bought into it. I invested the sum of N30,000 and I was given clean cooking stoves and lamps at discounted rates. I began selling this in my community and I have made much money,” Zahra recalled.
Zahra said the money she has made from the business has been helpful in sustaining her family and starting other businesses.
“Though I invested N30,000 as my start-up capital, my turnover is far more than that now. From the profit I have made, I have bought a deep freezer which I am using for pure water business; I support my husband to pay the children’s school fees and I have also invested in livestock business,” Zahra said.
She said the products have been accepted in her community as the lamps are now being used instead of kerosene lamps and the clean cooking stoves are gradually taking the place of the firewood in her community.
Keziah Simon is another woman who is into the sale of the solar lamps and clean cooking stoves in her community in Bwari Area Council of the FCT.
Keziah, a mother of six, could not hide her joy as she spoke on the gains and benefits of the business to her and her community.
“Personally, I have made almost a N100,000 profit from this business since I started last year. From this, we have been able to send one of our sons to a boarding school and we have been feeding from the profit from this business, too.
“In my community, some of the women are opting for the clean cooking stoves instead of using firewood because the stoves do not emit smoke. This is better for our health. We are thankful to Solar Sister for coming up with this initiative,” she said.
The Country Manager of the Solar Sisters organisation, Olasimbo Sojinrin, said the vision is to bring light, hope and opportunity to women in Nigeria and across Africa.
The country manager said: “A lot of the problems associated with energy in the house-hold, especially how we cook and how we light our homes are borne by the women. Solar Sister is turning that around and saying we can build an enterprise around this problem. How can we make money and influence our societies to change from this harmful behaviour and choose behaviour that is beneficial to us and our families.”
Sojinrin said since Solar Sister started six years ago, it has registered 1000 women entrepreneurs in 23 states out of the 36 states selling the products – mainly solar lamps and clean cooking stoves.
She continues: “Like any retail business, the women buy the products at discounted rates and make profit every time they sell a product.
“They can start by buying any two products which can be as low as N5000. They can start turning around that money; when it get to N30,000, we can say they have launched a clean energy business and we count them as our entrepreneurs.
“Then they can have whichever goods they want, from solar lamps to clean cooking stove and more,” she said.
On how this has impacted the women and their communities, she said: “In Nigeria, many people are not connected to the national grid and are in perpetual darkness. What Solar Sister is doing is to give them access to clean solar energy which they can use to light their homes. This way, people don’t have to be in darkness any more.
“With the introduction of these solar lamps, business activities have been able to stay longer at night in some communities. Tailors could work late into the night so the gains go beyond the money the women are able to make selling the products,” the manager also said.
She said the average solar lamps will last for about five years, so there is a lot of money saved compared to using other sources of light like kerosene lamps and candles.
The women entrepreneurs are also taught bookkeeping and other business management skills to make sure they remain in business.
A Business Development Associate of Solar Sister, Maryam Bilal explains this further.
“During our meeting, which we call sisterhood meetings, we teach these women simple bookkeeping and how to manage their businesses. We have a training module; we see them through the business and make sure they remain in business.
“As business development associates, we make sure that we get the goods to them in their communities as well,” she stated.
The Chief Operating Officer of Solar Sister, David O’Connor, said the organisation is a women-driven business and urged that more women should sign up and make themselves available for the opportunity to take clean energy products to their communities.