51-year-old Dorothy Awuor heads Nyalore Impact, a social enterprise in Homabay County. The company manufactures brickets, sells clean cookstoves, electric pressure cookers and partners with producers of bioethanol technologies and solar products. I had a chance to catch up with her on her last day of training to hear some of her experiences while at training and how she will use the knowledge gained.
Dorothy, why did you register for the Women in the Forefront Technical Programme?
My company sells solar products, and I began encountering challenges as I had very little information beyond selling them. We began receiving several complaints to which I did not have the basic knowledge to respond, and this began tarnishing our name. I chose to pull back from selling solar products for a while as I strategized. Shortly after, I saw this course online. I did not meet the criteria as I have a diploma in Business, but I needed the knowledge to understand how to empower my team of fifteen staff on solar systems, so I applied.
Did the training on standalone solar systems meet your objectives?
When we sell cooking stoves and brickets, we educate the community on the impact firewood and the three stone cookstoves have on the environment and their health and why clean cooking using brickets or electric pressure cookers for those with access to electricity is important. This ensures clients not only buy the product but use it.
Prior to this training, I did not have the knowledge of how to educate the end-user after selling the stand-alone solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. I did not know that different stand-alone solar PV systems can only use a certain number of electric loads from television sets, fridges, and lights, just to mention a few. I always told clients that they could add loads as they wish without taking into consideration their energy demand versus the solar PV system they can purchase.
Now I have learned the importance of calculating the energy demands, checking the watts, voltage, and peak sunshine hours in the county before deploying a system. Also, I did not know that tilting of panels, cleaning, and shading is important.
What’s next after the training?
As a team lead, I am clearer on what type of skill set I need in the team. I can also supervise more efficiently and ensure I educate and protect my customers. Many people in the rural community assume that solar is only for lighting, but there is much more that they can use solar for and there is demand beyond lighting. This is a niche area and having a certificate of participation from Strathmore University is a milestone. I have my path carved out. I have both the knowledge and the networks.
To young entrepreneurs
No one is limited. It is an individual who limits themselves. If you have an interest, you can learn, read, and understand how to install solar systems. The more you practice, the more you will learn and master. Never be afraid to try something in which you are not educated. We need to be brave, determined and go out and try new things. The rural community is yearning for people who can help them with solar solutions.
Secondly, dreams can also come true in the county. The knowledge of young people in the city is needed in the rural areas. Also, if you are a budding entrepreneur, ensure you mix up the team. You need the youthful talent and knowledge, but also the wisdom, direction, and mentoring from your seniors to show you the ropes so that you manoeuvre faster than they did.
As I end the interview, I leave Dorothy feeling not only refreshed but open to what opportunities might lie beyond my Nairobi boundaries. But for you my readers… Tafakari!
This project is funded by Sustainable Energy for All and is led by Ms. Anne Wacera Wambugu. The article was written by Ms. Anne Njeri, Communications Officer at Strathmore Energy Research Centre. You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
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