rain water harvesting

The Challenge

Water tanks being delivered to the Neema Women's Group in Maungu, Kenya.

Water tanks being delivered to the Neema Women's Group in Maungu, Kenya.

Women bear the brunt of Africa’s infrastructure deficit. While both men and women are affected by poor infrastructure, the lack of local infrastructure—particularly power and water—creates a significant burden for women. In Kenya, the majority of people—73%—live in rural areas that lack infrastructure. Of the 44 million people living in Kenya, 75% light their homes using kerosene lamps. They are dim, expensive, create poor indoor air quality, and cause fires.

Approximately 80% of households depend on biomass fuels such as wood and charcoal for their cooking, and 39% lack access to safe water.  Women, as the primary caregivers in the home, are the ones responsible for collecting water, finding fuel wood, cooking on sub-par stoves, and working by toxic kerosene lamps. Women spend long hours each day collecting fuel wood, and as they cook with it, extreme health hazards result from premature death to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; more than 15,000 people a year die from Household Air Pollution (HAP), and approximately 81% of the population has health-related issues. Without electricity, household tasks become more laborious.

And finally, collecting water is another heavy burden for women who can spend up to 20 hours per week collecting water; this represents two full months of labor lost.

As a result, women face a double workday—50% longer than men’s—that makes them chronically time-poor. They are forced to make difficult decisions around seeking healthcare, earning an income, or attending to their and their children’s education. Despite the innovations in clean energy and water, the cost is prohibitive for the rural families; nearly 70% of all Africans cannot afford the $12 - $18 price point for a basic solar lamp. Most organizations in the clean energy and water space struggle to include communities within their supply chains, a necessary component for success within this segment.

To compound the issue, only 7.6% have access to financial services, making solar lamps, rain water tanks, and clean cook stoves out of reach for most people. Traditional micro-finance institutions are not equipped to deal with these issues or this population. They struggle in rural areas because of minimal community engagement, low trust, and high fees. Therefore, communities continue to be often left out and marginalized.

Zawadisha addresses these issues by providing in-house credit, direct delivery to villages, after-sales service, and training.

How We Work

Zawadisha is delivering clean energy and water to the doorsteps of rural Kenyan women through a simple pay-as-you-go plan. For the first time in their lives, they can afford solar lamps, clean cook stoves, and rain water tanks. Our in-house credit program eliminates the barriers associated with the high cost of these items, and we follow-up with training that helps them maximize the possibilities of their products.

Our community-based model engages trusted local leaders who spend their days traveling deep into rural areas to work with women’s savings groups. These women have strong relationships with one another; their high levels of social capital act as collateral to not only procure these products, but to make monthly payments, as well.

Our Community Coordinators provide an initial orientation that doubles as financial literacy training—women learn about the terms of loans and they learn how saving and budgeting can help them repay their loans.

We deliver the items they request directly to their doorsteps, train them on how to properly care for them, and provide all after-sales service. Our work is uniquely pro-woman, pro-poor, and pro-environment.

What's the impact of these loans? 

Solar Lamps: Women and their families will have clean energy in multiple rooms in their home, increasing productivity, reducing the costs of paraffin, and eliminating certain health issues. Communication will be increased as they are able to charge their mobile phones at home, another cost saver. Check out our infographic on the impact of solar lamps here. 

Rain Water Tanks: Families will have clean water, increasing levels of hygiene, allowing them to grow their own food, and reducing expenditures previously spent on jerry cans of water. Furthermore, they will gain nearly six hours per day as they no longer need to make the long walk into town to purchase water. Check out our infographic on the impact of rain water tanks here. 

Clean Cook Stoves: Fuel efficient stoves mean that women use less to cook their food and boil water. This saves the family money and reduces the impact on the environment (charcoal production contributes to deforestation). These stoves also produce less smoke than traditional jikos reducing respiratory illnesses in the home. 

How do the women pay back this loan?

We wondered this as well when we first piloted this project. After six months with 100% repayment rate, we went into the field and asked how they were able to do this. We learned that unlike microloans for businesses, these loans were transparent and tangible to family members. Everyone in the home could use the lamp or the tank, and they felt the immediate benefit. (Although we believe that women working and earning income is also beneficial, family members didn't always see it that way.) Because the woman of the house was responsible for bringing this item into the home, her status was elevated and she was more appreciated. We even have had members tell us that these types of loans have brought unity in the home and greater love between husbands and wives. The result is that no one will let her fail. The entire family chips in to repay the loan, and the women had a few tricks up their sleeves to earn a little bit on the side by charging neighbors a small fee to charge their phones and selling water when their tanks were full. 

Read the full story about how we launched this program from Wildlife Works here.