Elephant Energy

Mission: To improve the quality of life in developing communities by pioneering ventures that provide access to appropriate sustainable energy technologies. Vision: Light in every home, clean air in every kitchen, power in every hand...
Sep 3, 2013

Benefits of Equipping Energy Entrepreneurs

Over the past three months Elephant Energy has been able to provide 5 new Energy Entrepreneurs with 10 solar light and cellphone charging products from Barefoot Power and Greenlight Planet, due to the generous donations through GlobalGiving. The funding has also contributed to a radio advertisement campaign targeting rural communities, as well as provided training in solar technology and rural marketing to our Energy Entrepreneurs. By understanding the benefits of solar products such as safety, economic opportunity, and education, the entrepreneurs have been able to pass this information on to their customers and sell many of their products. Several of these entrepreneurs have already exhausted their supply and have managed to save enough to order more stock in an effort to earn a sustainable income through this project.

In addition to the sales agents who are earning an income from selling solar products, we have begun to see the positive impact that these solar products are having on the individuals, families and communities that purchase them. Here are a few stories of how donations through GlobalGiving have improved the livelihoods of rural Namibians.

Magaro Namene is a teacher at a rural school outside of Omuthiya. There is no electricity near the village so students at the school could not study after dark and the teachers at the school had been using the principal’s car to charge two cellphones per day. Magaro bought two Greenlight Planet Sun King Pros, which are solar lights and cellphone chargers, from one of our Energy Entrepreneurs and now the students can study at night and she can charge all of the teachers’ phones.

Mbweko, from Mavanze village, bought a Barefoot Power Firefly Light & Cell Phone Charger for his wife to take care of their newborn baby and she uses it every night. Mbweko is already saving to buy a second light to use around their home and says he is very grateful that this product reached his village.

Meme Sylvia was selling traditional dresses at the Eenhana Trade Fair when the power went out. She used the Greenlight Planet Sun King Pro that she recently purchased from one of our Energy Entrepreneurs to stay open and continue to make sales while other businesses closed. Many of the other business owners and customers at the trade fair saw the benefits of the solar light and are eager to purchase lights of their own.

After witnessing the positive impact that these simple and affordable solar products can have on families, communities, income generating activities and livelihoods, there is no doubt that the donations received through GlobalGiving have already had an enormous impression on many lives, and will continue to improve lives for years to come. Thanks from Elephant Energy on behalf of everyone who has benefited from your donation, through your donations we will continue to work on improving lives by providing access to alternative energy sources.

Aug 28, 2013

Update from Elephant Energy's WE Project!

Rural Sales Agent Training
Rural Sales Agent Training

With your help, Elephant Energy has made exciting process with our Women’s Energy Project in the last three months. Our women sales agents brought light to over 300 people living without electricity using our rent-to-own program, and launched new marketing initiatives, including educational radio programming and village-based demonstrations.

Our rent-to-own program, which allows rural customers the ability to pay in small increments, completed its fourth cycle in August. Providing our customers flexible payment terms has particularly important this year, as Namibia is in the midst of the worst drought the country has seen in 30 years. The drought has caused rural households to face extraordinary strains on already strained cash supply, making the combination of money-saving solar products and a flexible payment scheme, nothing short of life-changing. One of our customers tells us:

“Since I bought it, I have saved money for cell phone charges. It is so helpful and not wasteful. I am not fearful to go walk outside at night any more. If I had to pay the full price up front, I could never have bought this light.”  -Rent-to-own customer Rosemary Malimi

In June, Elephant Energy conducted a Vocal Empowerment Workshop for our women sales agents, during which time women learned tools for approaching potential customers with confidence. The women recorded dramatic skits for use in educational radio advertisements, and learned how to perform shadow puppet plays using solar-powered lights for use in educational and entertaining village demonstrations. With our highest selling months of August-October upon us, Elephant Energy's marketing efforts are in full swing, with radio ads airing weekly and flyers, banners, posters, t-shirts and bags used by Elephant Energy staff and sales agents to promote awareness of Elephant Energy’s products. Our Regional Sales Manager, Elizabeth, says: ‘it is only a matter of time before Elephant Energy is a household name’.

Women are central to Elephant Energy's efforts to deliver affordable energy solutions to off-grid households throughout Namibia. We do this not only because we believe that investing in women is the right thing to do, but also because it is good business; women are traditionally responsible for procuring and managing household energy resources in Namibia, and our women sales agents are best-suited to reach out to the women in their families and communities with access to these life-changing products. 

As Elephant Energy expands into new areas, there is a great opportunity to scale this women-focused sales model to change the lives of thousands of rural Namibians. 2013 has been a year of enormous growth for Elephant Energy, with our rural distribution network expanding from one urban shop and 12 rural sales agents to 8 urban shops and 48 rural sales agents, furthering a sustainable business model that generates income for rural entrepreneurs and delivers energy access to off-grid households.   

With a growing group of supporters as a strong foundation, Elephant Energy will continue to test the limits of what is possible. We would love if you would tell your friends about us. Invite them to learn about our work on our website, “like” us on Facebook, watch one of our videos on Youtube, or follow us on Pinterest. Tell them why you chose to support Elephant Energy, and what it means to you.

On behalf of our sales agents and customers, we at Elephant Energy would like to offer a huge “Ni’itumezi’ (Thank You!) to all of our supporters.  Together, we’ve brought light and economic opportunity to thousands of off-grid households around Namibia. Without your support, none of this would be possible.

May 1, 2013

Earth Hour: Namibian Women Happily Switching the Lights On

Annety - Solar Light Saleswoman
Annety - Solar Light Saleswoman

The power line to the school passes right over Annety's house. After the sun goes down, Sesheke village in the Caprivi Region is plunged into darkness - like most of rural Namibia. It's ironic that just before Earth Hour, when the world is supposed to switch off lights to raise awareness about energy wastage, many Namibians would be happy to switch a light on. And now, Annety Kachitomwa can do just that.

Annety sits in the living room doing the church accounts with the aid of a single bright light that illuminates the table. It's a Sun King, provided by Elephant Energy and powered - as the name suggests - by the sun. During the day the lamp's solar cell soaks up energy, and at night it provides light for reading and preparing food.

The Sun King provides more than light, it is also a source of income for Annety, who works as a representative for Elephant Energy, which a non-profit trust set up to provide solar lighting for rural communities. Annety sells the lights to community members and earns a commission on sales.

She needs the money. The family has a large field to plough, but hiring oxen for two weeks would have cost N$6 000. Luckily her husband is in the Namibia Defense Force, so there is an income. She reckons that an oxen for a small part of the field costs N$600 - that should provide enough maize for most of the year.

The Sun King is a popular lamp because it can charge a cell phone as well. It is known locally as the Divi light. Instead of buying it outright, which costs N$390 – more than many people can afford - customers can buy it by buying credit for light, in the same way you buy credit for a phone.

The lamps have chips inside that hold credit, rather like a SIM card. The agent buys credit from Elephant Energy in Katima Mulilo; Annety buys N$1 000 at a time. Then customers who have Divi lights bring them to Annety for a 'recharge'. The two lights stand next to each other and communicate by Bluetooth. The amount of credit is set and the customer's light is charged.

Of course the sun does the real charging. All the chip in the Divi light does is set a limit to how long the light will work. When the credit is exhausted, the light cannot be switched on, however much sunlight it has soaked up. The customer buys credit until the full cost of the light has been paid. Then the chip is switched off using the agent's light, and the customer's light will continue to work without further payment.

Credit for an hour's light is N$3. That's the cost of a candle, which also only burns for an hour. But candles flicker and are nothing like as bright as a Sun King, and you have to be careful; many houses have caught fire due to careless use of a candle. When you have spent N$350 on candles all you can do is go on buying more, but when you have spent N$350 on a Divi light, from then on it's free lighting from the sun.

Annety buys credit at two dollars and sells for three. She's developing a sense for business and sells flour, sugar, oil and sweets. She also sells candles, but Divi lights are better value, she explains to other village women. So far she has sold 18. The money will go to the ploughing and for the two young children who attend the local school.

One day, perhaps, the power line will be connected to the houses as well as the school. But maybe by then solar power will be lighting up whole houses. So while the world switches off for earth hour - Annety switches on.

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