Jul 5, 2021

Fighting Energy Poverty through Entrepreneurship

Our focus on alleviating energy poverty is growing and expanding. 


January’s Development Entrepreneurship Lab (DELab) was focused specifically on agribusiness and energy. Through this, our most recent training program, we have gained a host of new Development Entrepreneurship Studio (DEStudio) members who are focused on energy, and who tie those energy connections with direct agricultural and agribusiness needs. Our DEStudio program is a year long, which gives us time to effectively work with and build on the goals of these entrepreneurs and to help them increase their energy focus, whether that be production of energy, distribution of energy, or productive use of energy. 


Some of these members are energy suppliers, creating energy through solar or mini-hydro energy systems. This energy is often used for irrigation which can greatly aid in crop yields, financial stability, and improving local food security. Another method of energy production is through bio-digesters which take agricultural and farm waste and produce methane for home use. Such systems are often shared among families and communities, forming a sort of mini-grid energy system. While such systems operate on a small scale, their impacts can be meaningful, helping entire communities. 


Many of our DEStudio members are passing on their knowledge to others around them, further expanding information on how to effectively produce and use energy, and magnifying our training impact. This has been especially true with mini-hydro systems of energy production. 


Thanks to a recent grant from the International Foundation, Flame Tree Initiative is beginning work on a Mini-Grid Lab, to further spread knowledge on how to produce and distribute energy to the most energy-deprived communities. This Mini-Grid Lab will be a sustained effort to network and teach Malawians who are interested in creating mini-grids. It will be an on-site, off-grid, “hands-on” effort that will explore all aspects of mini-grid creation, from site selection and engineering options to policy environment, building community support and identifying potential users of electrical energy.  


Together, current DEStudio members and past DEStudio members will form a Working Group to create a deliverable (report, vidoe, graphics, etc.) to help Malawians understand how to proceed and to give confidence to investors, international and domestic, that accelerated mini-grid construction in Malawi CAN BE DONE. 

Mar 3, 2021

Agribusiness DELab was a huge success!

We have just completed another of our signature Development Entrepreneurship Labs! Twenty-five participants, twelve of them women, completed our first four-week long training program to focus specifically on use of renewable energy in agribusiness. Participating entrepreneurs have projects and enterprises focused on energy production, energy distribution, and agricultural uses of energy.

As in all of our DELabs, the entrepreneurs received training and instruction from a variety of Malawian entrepreneurs and experts. Topics included the usual curriculum of business planning, networking with other entrepreneurs for greater business efficiency, becoming investment ready, and quantifying the community impact of one’s enterprise. New to this DELab were topics such as utilization of biowaste for energy and how to incorporate, access, or produce renewable forms of energy within agribusiness

LUANAR University is fundamental to the goals of entrepreneur education and training. Many of their professors and staff assist with facilitation of our trainings and lend their own expertise to the program. 

Unlike most DELab’s of the past which were held in person, usually at a university, and took place during a single week, this DELab was held entirely online over zoom and other internet platforms, and took place over the course of 4 weeks. This longer timeframe (with less required travel for participants and facilitators alike) allowed for a greater level of progression and participation. This DELab’s participants were able to work in groups to recommend specific and localized ag-energy strategies in addition to their other entrepreneurship learning.

This training program is setting up entrepreneurs for success, and also giving them the tools to effectively build businesses which will provide positive societal impacts as well as personal financial gain. Together, these men and women will provide concrete and meaningful improvements to their communities and to Malawi.

Nov 5, 2020

Entrepreneurs are Multiplying our Impact

Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

Teach a woman to start her own business...and she will get to work supporting herself and her family, creating jobs, and solving her community’s problems. She will later pass on the knowledge she has received, training others in business expertise or vocational skills, propelling and perpetuating a cycle of positive change. 

One such inspiring entrepreneur is Selina. The Flame Tree Initiative works directly with entrepreneurs like Selina in two ways. First, our signature Development Entrepreneurship Lab provides training, networking, and basic tools for enterprise success. Secondly, we run the Development Entrepreneurship Studio, a year long mentorship and business incubator program. Selina has completed both programs and is the founder of the Mptamlenje Foundation, Entrepreneurship and Education Institute. She succeeded thanks to her own inspiration and dedication, and the tools and mentorship we provided. 

When they come to us, our entrepreneurs already have ideas for improving the quality of life in their communities. By improving food security, increasing access to education, optimizing agricultural yields, or improving women's access to the jobs and resources men often dominate, these ideas have the potential to create sustainable development. The ideas put forth by Malawian entrepreneurs for solving Malawian problems are home-grown and self-empowering. By providing mentorship, networking, skill training, and business expertise to Malawian entrepreneurs, we empower Malawians to take control of their own lives and futures. Social entrepreneurs are uniquely situated to help not only themselves, but also their wider communities.

The Mptamlenje Foundation exemplifies how our work is changing lives by starting a chain reaction of development. The foundation takes a holistic approach to community building and provides a whole host of functions including education for primary students, vocational training in tailoring, traditional fashion design, soap making, and catering. Mptamlenje foundation is also in the process of setting up a local library and building a much-needed informational hub. Selina is proud and motivated, constantly adding to her enterprise's repertoire of functions. When Selina won a grant for her business, she invested the money in five sewing machines. Those machines are now used in fashion and tailoring training, directly employing some and training others to go start their own businesses. 

Entrepreneurs like Selina make our job incredibly rewarding. Her work is impacting the lives of countless people in Mzimba who can transform their community. By investing in our training systems, our Development Entrepreneurship Lab and our Development Entrepreneurship Studio, you are investing in the lives and ideas of individuals who will go on to spread that wealth of knowledge and capability a thousand times over. 

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