By Josephine Osengo, Practical Action
It was an extremely hot month of January back in 2009 when her husband broke the news that he was relocating to a different country in search of a steady income, recalls Roselyne Akello. That day is etched in her mind as it was on the same day that she had been handed her retrenchment letter after working for nine years as a public servant in a government office. That was ten years ago and the 46 year old mother of seven suddenly found herself as the sole breadwinner for her young family.
These types of scenarios are not uncommon for women living in the rural and peri-urban areas of Kisumu County, Kenya, where the effects of climate change affecting Lake Victoria are visible. More and more fishermen are abandoning the age old practice and leaving the County in search of other sources of income. Women in these areas have to find innovative ways to fend for their children and themselves as lack of a steady income affects their livelihood and ability to raise their standard of living.
Despite the harsh life blow dealt to Roselyne, she did not lose hope but looked for ways to provide for her family. They say that rural women are resourceful economic agents who contribute to the income of families and the growth of communities in a multitude of ways and it is with this spirit that Roselyne decided to venture into the off solar business.
Roselyne first heard of a training on how to make cook stoves and briquettes through a friend. The training, provided by Practical Action in conjunction with Solar Cooker International under ENERGIA’s Empowering Women, Engendering Energy (EWEE) Programme, aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs in male-dominated sectors, such as the energy sector, while helping them address the barriers resulting from gender norms and traditions. So far the programme has supported over 530 women entrepreneurs in the fuel briquettes, solar and improved cook stoves value chains.
It’s been 11 years since she started her business using her savings. Roselyne now assembles charcoal and multipurpose cook stoves. She also does home installations for households that use firewood. “This business has brought so much joy in my life and this is because I’ve been putting into practice what I was taught during the trainings. For instance a few months ago, I got an opportunity to attend a seminar facilitated by Practical Action and I was amused as I got customers from different parts of the country and this really boosted my business” she narrates.
Beyond making cook stoves, Roselyne also makes fireless cooker baskets and sells portable and home system installation solar products owned by global and local energy producers, such as Sunking.
Through this business, Roselyne has been able to provide for her seven children whom she has been taking care of since her husband left. She also started livestock and poultry farming. In future, Roselyne aspires to start her own production house of liners and claddings to supply local cook stoves assemblers. She also aims at renting a shop in Rabour town to cut on the daily transport costs she incurs when transporting her products to the market.
*This piece has been realized for the International Women’s Day within the scope of ENERGIA’s Empowering Women, Engendering Energy (EWEE) Programme, co-funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) and in close collaboration with our partners CRT/N, Energy 4 Impact, Practical Action, TANGSEN and Solar Sister.