Published previously as a Solar Sister journey
Last we spoke in June, Hilaria traveled to New York to accept ENERGIA’s Women Entrepreneur of the Year Award, sharing her wisdom and experience as a clean energy entrepreneur and receiving a EUR 1,000 prize.
Since then, Hilaria has been going about business – both solar and her long-time basket-weaving enterprise. She tells us business has been good.
“The benefits are still there – I have an income and this makes my husband happy too. I have three children in school now thanks to my businesses. The basket-weaving benefits from the solar business, and I’ve also been able to invest in my farm.”
“And, to be honest, being a Solar Sister entrepreneur gives me respect in the community.”
Hilaria deliberated how best to use her ENERGIA prize money – she wanted to make sure she put it to the most sustainable use. In the end, she decided to invest a little in her businesses and put the bulk of her cash award towards her daughters’ education.
Her 18 year-old daughter Theresia is studying accounting in Singida and 15 year-old Gladness is a secondary school student. For Hilaria, a good education is paramount.
“If I had studied I would have had so many opportunities. I went to primary school only. I don’t want my children to be like me.”
Hilaria lives and works in Madukani, a village at the junction of two roads, a few miles from the border of Tarangire, one of Tanzania’s popular national parks. Reaching communities in need and customers is not easy here in rural Tanzania. Villages are far apart, roads are poor and public transport is often not reliable.
Despite this, Solar Sister entrepreneurs go the last mile, often providing a household’s only access to clean energy. Hilaria walks or uses her bicycle to reach nearby customers. To get to more remote communities, she must pay for transport.
“My main challenge really is transport. I have a bicycle that I use for short distances but to get to surrounding communities it’s too far for a bicycle. For these longer distances we use motorbike taxis.”
Despite these difficulties, Hilaria continues to go the distance. She knows the impact that her solar sales can have on households and other small businesses.
“The women who weave baskets are so happy with the solar lights. They go to the fields during the day and then weave baskets at night for extra income. I see that as a huge benefit.”
Hilaria is also creatively approaching the challenge of Tanzania’s slowing economy and the lack of cash in many remote, last mile communities.
“In these times of poor economy when people do not have extra money in the village to buy solar, I do exchange solar light for woven baskets. These are things they can make in the village and use as [collateral]. I then sell the baskets for income.”
Doing business and bringing clean energy to those who need it in rural Tanzania is no easy feat. It takes the determination, creativity and resilience that Hilaria brings to her business. Supporting women entrepreneurs like Hilaria who go the extra mile to reach rural and off-grid communities is why Solar Sister exists.
Thank you Hilaria! You inspire us to do better!