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Progress in Mali
With a poverty rate of 42.7 percent, Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its arid climate also makes Mali one of the hottest countries and armed conflict, famine, weak infrastructure and food insecurity are widespread. Mercy Corps, a non-governmental organization (NGO), has provided humanitarian aid in Mali since 2012. Their efforts have reduced food insecurity, built resilience to armed conflict and natural disasters and assisted in infrastructure development.

Goals of Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps believes conflict prevention and long-term food security programs are important to the livelihoods of Malians. Supporting agriculture, pastoralism and other professions leads to reduced conflict over sparse water and land. Since 2012, more than 250,000 women, children and men have benefited from approximately 20 programs created by Mercy Corps.

According to the U.N., more than 3.2 million Malians need humanitarian assistance, 70 percent of whom live in the Mopti and Segou regions. About 2.7 million are food insecure and malnutrition affects more than 600,000 children. Mercy Corps’ goals are wide-reaching, yet its focus is on long-term stability. The conflict over land and water and overpopulation are two major issues that Mercy Corps and other NGOs are combating by providing humanitarian aid in Mali.

Progress in Mali

Since 2012, Mercy Corps has assisted 98,000 Malians affected by food insecurity. Agricultural support, entrepreneurship and apprentice programs and business development support are three major focus areas. In 2018 alone, the NGO helped 41,000 people through agricultural programs. More than 80 percent of Malians are farmers and fishers, which is one reason Mercy Corps prioritizes agricultural productivity. Seed distribution, technical training and infrastructure rehabilitation were all emphasized during 2018. Improving agricultural productivity and resilience to droughts is essential to helping those affected by food shortages.

Mercy Corps also made progress in Mali by assisting more than 1,112 pastoralists in 2018 with the provision of livestock feed, distribution of goats and animal care from local veterinarians. Livestock and agriculture comprise 80 percent of Mali’s exports, and the assistance from Mercy Corps and other NGOs helps to not only increase food security but also increase income. Mercy Corps provided financial assistance to 25,600 people for basic needs and in support of economic recovery.

Individual Success Stories

Mercy Corps is a major supporter of youth entrepreneurship in Mali, as 60 percent of Malians are less than 25 years old. The NGO assists young entrepreneurs by providing financial assistance and teaching better business practices.

Bibata is a 25-year-old Malian who sells paddy rice and grilled potatoes from her home. Most of her income comes from her business. With her grant money, she was able to buy more paddy rice, spices and vegetables, doubling her profit within months. She stated that the grant money helped her expand and she hopes to grow further into raising cattle.

Hassan is another Malian that benefitted from Mercy Corps’ support. He barely made enough money to care for his nine children, but after a Mercy Corps’ professional training course he understood how to get reimbursed by clients and access services from microfinance institutions. He received a grant, opened up his own shop and now earns twice the income he had earned before.

The Future of Mali

In response to violence in Mali, the United Nations launched a Humanitarian Response Plan in 2019 to assist with food, shelter, nutrition, protection, education and hygiene. Alongside continued efforts by the United Nations, United States government and NGOs, Mercy Corps is set to advance its mission of providing humanitarian aid in Mali. Conflict and high population growth are ongoing in 2019, yet progress is currently being made.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: USAID

The Role and Scope of Microenterprise in Developing Countries
Microenterprises — businesses with fewer than ten employees and often a sole proprietor — might not ordinarily come to mind when thinking of what drives an economy. However, in places where opportunity is most lacking, innovation abounds. In her course syllabus for a class entitled “Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries”, Stockholm University associate professor Birgitta Schwartz calls entrepreneurship fundamental to the organization of societies. She asserts that microenterprise in developing countries mobilizes people, resources and innovation. “It is about generating ideas, organizing and hands-on action that can have many different effects,” says Schwartz.

How Is Microenterprise in Developing Countries Unique?

The answer to this lies partly in motivation. For many Western societies, entrepreneurship eyes opportunity, while in developing countries, it is borne out of necessity. According to a 2017 report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), 76.2 percent of Africans see entrepreneurship as a good career choice, as opposed to around 65 percent for developed nations like the United States.

What is the reason for this? Well, with factors like extreme population growth and an increasing life expectancy, keeping the working age constant means having to create many additional jobs. As a result, microenterprise in developing countries represents a large percentage of employment. In Ghana, for example, household or micro-businesses tally 57 percent of the country’s total workforce.

Added Challenges

While entrepreneurship presents challenges enough, the added factors associated with living in poverty create a special dynamic all its own. These challenges may include:

  • Adequate access to financing
  • The risk involved with political and economic imbalance, and
  • A lack of the skill set necessary to create a successful market

Lacking alternative sources of financing, the successful entrepreneur living in poverty may use internally generated cash flow from one business to fund his or her other businesses. Perhaps surprisingly though, research suggests that countries that have experienced economic instability are more likely to have higher rates of private saving. In a manner of speaking, crisis provokes a necessity to save.

Microenterprise may play more of a role in poverty alleviation than was previously thought. Entrepreneurs in developing countries look at risk differently. Whereas Western business strategy sees a competitive threat from the well-established incumbent businesses, such a threat doesn’t exist in developing countries. And while urbanization threatens this advantage, entrepreneurs look to the more rural areas of their country to start and grow their businesses.

Microenterprise in developing countries can be made even more difficult without the added benefits of mentorship and apprenticeship. Many of these emerging markets have few people with the necessary skills to effect the kind of change that can be the impetus for large-scale economic strides. With a lack of accountability, trust becomes even more important. Micro-businesses in these countries are often family-owned and much more attuned to the local market environment, which results in higher returns to capital and a larger potential for growth.

Success in Spite of Circumstances

An example of microenterprise at its finest is Hanan Odah, a Palestinian refugee whose husband died in the civil war in Syria. She rebuilt her micro-business, selling stationery and perfume and now helps her new community and her family of three to survive. Despite conflict and economic collapse, Odah continues to build her brand, thanks in part to a steely will and in part to microfinance programs that loan small amounts of money at low interest rates.

This is the kind of presence that microenterprises can have in developing countries. Whereas external forces may cause economic instabilities, small startups with low overhead and little opposition, like Odah’s, continue to thrive and grow.

Entrepreneurship in developing markets depends not necessarily on the traditional tenets of opportunity and vision, but rather on necessity and provision. For every stereotype of countless roadside stands selling nearly-identical wares, there is a provocative truth lurking beneath the surface of this dormant economic volcano.

– Daniel Staesser
Photo: Flickr

Increasing Employment Opportunities in SerbiaUnemployment remains a growing concern for many Serbians. The country’s statistical office reports that Serbia’s unemployment rate rose to 19 percent in June 2016. The Belgrade region had the highest unemployment rate of 20.5 percent, and southern and eastern Serbia had an unemployment rate of 20.2 percent. However, work is being done to increase employment opportunities in Serbia.

New Jobs Opening in Serbia

In March 2017, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic attended the signing of an agreement with the U.S. company NCR that plans to create 1,500 new jobs in Serbia. NCR will have more than 3,600 permanent employees in Serbia once the new jobs are created. This will be a significant increase from the 300 employees that NCR hired when the company arrived in Serbia in 2011.

In September 2017, Turkish investors expressed interest in opening 3,500 jobs in southern Serbia within the next three years. Zoran Djordjevic, Serbia’s labor minister, says talks will be held with the investors to explore all potential opportunities for cooperation. Djordjevic also presented the investors with Serbia’s new laws that will have an impact on their business activities.

Investing in Serbia’s Youth

The Center for Advanced Economic Studies presented a study entitled “Mapping Barriers to Youth Entrepreneurship in Serbia” to the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (SCC) at a panel discussion on April 25, 2017. Marko Čadež, the SCC president, mentioned that entrepreneurship is a key solution for increasing employment opportunities in Serbia. Čadež added that the SCC is continuously working to encourage and support business start-ups.

Axel Dittmann, Serbia’s German ambassador, noted that youth unemployment is an important segment to be addressed. Dittmann also said that Serbia’s youth have the greatest potential to boost the country’s economic growth. Snežana Klašnja, Serbia’s assistant minister of youth, says that while only 817 young Serbians have been employed through her ministry’s initiatives, there is still much work to be done.

Serbia’s Increasing Employment Rate

In October 2017, there were 622,000 unemployed people in Serbia, a slight decrease from the 55,000 additional Serbians unemployed in 2016. “We expect for the annual unemployment rate to further drop,” says Zoran Martinovic, the director of the National Employment Office. Martinovic also revealed that 206,000 Serbians found employment in the first nine months of 2017.

Martinovic added that IT professionals, engineers and financial experts are most in demand for Serbia. A few unemployed Serbians expressed interest to participate in retraining programs as well. Serbia’s government is implementing a retraining program for 900 IT professionals who are preparing for more complex IT jobs.

ICT Hub’s Success in Serbia

Decreasing job opportunities have also caused many Serbians to leave their country. However, a program known as ICT Hub is working to increase employment opportunities in Serbia. Launched as part of a partnership with USAID in 2014, ICT Hub mentors Serbia’s entrepreneurs, helping them avoid the risks and costs of pursuing innovative ideas.

“Many of my friends left Serbia, but I believe one can succeed here just as anywhere else,” says Uroš Mijalković, a Serbian entrepreneur who managed to create a mobile gaming application with ICT Hub’s help. Mijalković’s gaming application Karate DO is now played by 12,000 people in 162 countries. “So far, 25 businesses with market potential have gotten off the ground at the ITC Hub,” says Kosta Andri, the ICT Hub’s director.

While these efforts are helping Serbian citizens find more job opportunities, there is still much work to be done. The growing rate of Serbians leaving their country can still decrease based on the help of Serbia’s government, ITC Hub and other entities. For now, the main goal of these projects and efforts is to increase employment opportunities in Serbia.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

AfricaRural Africa is one of the most poverty-stricken regions of the world. Half of the global poor live in Sub-Saharan Africa and 389 million in this region live on less than $1.90. While other regions in the world have seen drastic reductions in poverty, progress in Sub-Saharan Africa has been slow. Even though the persistence of rural poverty in Africa is a multi-faceted problem, certain primary factors can be addressed. The extreme poor lack access to resources to achieve economic empowerment. Thankfully, organizations like Village Enterprise have stepped up to the plate to introduce new opportunities.

Village Enterprise provides a graduation program on entrepreneurship and innovation for those living in extreme poverty in Uganda and Kenya. The organization hopes that its simple and cost-effective model can help bring an end to extreme rural poverty in Africa. Village Enterprise stands out from other organizations by using a group-based approach. Each business is started by a group of three people and usually provides support for 20 people in the community. When individuals join the program, they can’t pay for their family’s needs and have no business experience. The program includes training, a $150 grant and mentorship for the aspiring entrepreneurs.

81 percent of the businesses started through Village Enterprise were founded by female entrepreneurs. This is especially important, since women reinvest 90 percent of their income on average to their families and communities, while men only reinvest 30 to 40 percent.

Lucy Wurtz, Development and Communications Director for Village Enterprise, told The Borgen Project that the employees on the ground have tools, including Grameen’s Progress Out of Poverty Index, to determine the level of poverty in a community and who could use their services. Then, every household in the community is invited to join the program. While only 30 entrepreneurs can be working and training in a group at a time, Village Enterprise can reach 90 to 100 households in a community a year.

“The idea is everyone who wants to has a chance to participate,” says Wurtz, “so you are lifting up the whole area.”

When the program is finished, Village Enterprise is able to move on. Once the entrepreneurs learn the skills, they are empowered and able to continue improving their economic standing. The business owners are also able to work together as a group, as each member can pick up different skills. Some become especially adept at finance and can help their fellow entrepreneurs with book-keeping. Others may specialize in marketing or leadership.

“Once you give a number of skills to a group of people,” says Wurtz, “that group starts acting as a support body to disperse the skills within the group members and take on the attributes of what you’re teaching.”

Village Enterprise measures the impact of the program by the increase in the standard of living. The organization recently conducted a randomized trial involving 6,000 households and 138 villages in Uganda. Researchers returned to the communities a year after the program was finished to see if there were still significant improvements. The study will soon be available to view on the Village Enterprise website.

The organization is expanding in several ways. It continues to grow in the countries in which it already works, Kenya and Uganda, and is also looking into expanding into other African countries, with the Democratic Republic of Congo being one potential target. One of the factors driving expansion is a new opportunity for donors. Village Enterprise is now participating in an innovative way to finance development: development impact bonds. These bonds get investors to pay up front for the costs of an intervention that can be measured by predetermined metrics. If the goals are met, then an outcome payor, usually a donor agency or foundation, will pay back the investor based on this performance.

Village Enterprise has started over 39,000 businesses and trained over 156,000 entrepreneurs. With hope, this approach can go on to empower and lift up the over 40 percent of Sub-Saharan Africans living in extreme poverty.

Brock Hall

Photo: Flickr

Virtual Microfinance
Founded in 2009 by Julia Kurnia, Zidisha is a virtual microfinance platform that seeks to combat poverty in developing countries by directly connecting lenders to entrepreneurs. To date, Zidisha has raised more than $10 million in microloans.

Zidisha, which means “grow” or “expand” in Swahili, is the first virtual microfinance service to eliminate the use of local intermediaries to disburse loans to companies in need. The Virginia-based nonprofit follows a platform similar to that of eBay, in which entrepreneurs post public loan requests for lenders across the world to access. This streamlined process is both cost-effective and convenient for emerging entrepreneurs who seek capital to accelerate their businesses.

Zidisha is not the pioneer of virtual microfinance. However, its distinctive feature is its commitment to lower fees and rates for entrepreneurs. Similar organizations such as Kiva make use of “field partners” who often distribute loans at interest rates of more than 35 percent to pay for administrative costs. Zidisha’s flat interest rate of five percent means that borrowers can retain more money to reinvest in their ventures.

The nonprofit has been a highly successful means of growing businesses in 11 developing nations. According to its website, lenders on Zidisha have fully funded more than 70,000 unique projects.

Developing countries are quickly adopting recent technological advances and joining an increasingly interdependent world. According to a Pew Research study, 54 percent of adults in emerging and developing nations described themselves as “Internet users” in 2015, a rise from 45 percent in 2013. However, in the same countries, formal job markets are inadequate and local banks are seldom financially helpful.

Thus, the use of cheap and effective microfinance is critical to spurring economic growth in emerging countries. Developing economies inevitably benefit from microfinance because entrepreneurs can use loans to pay for expansions, renovations, inventory and, most importantly, new employees.

Other virtual microfinance platforms could follow Zidisha’s cost-effective system of lending. If these platforms truly value charity and philanthropy through the form of financial support, they should recognize that the use of third parties to disburse loans poses a financial burden on emerging companies that cannot afford to accumulate thousands of dollars in unpaid interest.

People in developed nations should embrace the unique power of virtual microfinance. It is a viable, even profitable, form of philanthropy that has tangible effects on the crisis of world poverty. Using microfinance as a means of alleviating global economic distress will directly result in more jobs, profit and prosperity for those in need.

Henry Emanuel

Photo: Flickr

Female Entrepreneurship
In emerging markets, women reinvest 90 percent of their income back into their local economy. The money they earn pays for their children’s education and their family’s food and medical needs. When women are working, not only is their family lifted up but their community and their country also feel the economic impact. That is why supporting female entrepreneurship helps alleviate poverty.

Female entrepreneurs employ one or more people, and in a survey of 112 million entrepreneurs by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), 12 million entrepreneurs expect to employ up to six people over the next five years. This translates to 72 million jobs. In 2012, 126 million women were starting or running new businesses in 67 economies globally. In sub-Saharan Africa, female entrepreneurship engaged 27 percent of women. In Zambia, 40 percent of the women are entrepreneurs.

The World Bank announced The Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative in July 2017. It is a program that will support loans, mentoring programs and gender equality advocacy for women in emerging countries. Individuals, companies and foreign governments supply the funding for the program. The United States, Saudi Arabia and Germany among other countries pledged an initial $325 million. The goal is to raise $1 billion.

The World Bank has a long history of supporting the success of female entrepreneur programs. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private arm of the World Bank, partnered with Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women Program in 2014 and set up a $600 million fund that provided training and access to capital to women starting small and medium sized companies.

The World Bank also partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2011 to create the Women’s Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises (WLSME) trust fund. WLSME supports fostering new enterprises and the growth of businesses in developing countries. The grants offered by WLSME test and rigorously evaluate the programs to understand what works best in the 12 countries involved.

There are approximately 9.34 million small and medium sized businesses globally. The programs developed by the World Bank and other institutions will help women receive money to start and grow their businesses. It will also provide financial education and the mentoring necessary for the female entrepreneurs to be successful.

Women entrepreneurs are instrumental in powering economic growth in developing nations. And as the emerging nations grow, world poverty will become closer to eradication.

Jene Cates

Photo: Google


Waste management is an increasingly daunting problem for the country of Bangladesh, where as much as 50 percent of waste goes uncollected. Uncollected waste goes untreated, resulting in more water contamination, disease and greenhouse gas emissions. Untreated waste generates methane, which is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Between 2005 and 2020, emissions as a result of untreated waste in Bangladesh are expected to rise 22 percent.

The capital city of Dhaka is not only the most densely populated area; it is also home to the worst waste management in the country. In 2010, Dhaka generated 4,700 metric tons of waste daily. Fortunately, 80 percent of the waste Bangladesh produces is organic material. Maqsood Sinha and Iftekhar Enayetullah saw this as an opportunity and decided to turn the organic waste in Bangladesh into something both profitable and beneficial to the community: compost.

The two enterprising men started an organization called Waste Concern and set up community-based composting. Several families (three to seven) share chest-high metal barrels into which they deposit their food scraps. The composting barrels hold up to 400 pounds of waste, sit on concrete bases and, through specially drilled holes, encourage aerobic decomposition.

 

Sinha and Enayetullah started Waste Concern in 1995, taking their barrels door-to-door. Since then, the organization has served 30,000 people in Dhaka city and 100,000 people in 14 other cities and towns in Bangladesh, including slums and low and middle-income communities. Composting the organic waste reduces methane emissions by half a ton and eliminates a significant amount of municipal waste. Community-based composting helps control waste in Bangladesh and also opens up job opportunities for low-income sectors, helping to lift people out of poverty.

The project has saved over $1 million in waste management due to the revenue created from the compost itself and the simple, cost-effective system needed to create it. As a result of its success as a small-scale operation in Dhaka, Waste Concern plans to expand into a bigger operation, consume more waste and dump out more compost.

The project’s growth reflects Bangladesh’s push to reduce the country’s waste output and strengthen its economic status. Getting the community involved not only decreases the waste in Bangladesh, but it also establishes an environment of accountability and family.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Flickr

Afghan Refugees in India
Over the last few decades, pockets of Delhi, India, have become microcosms of Kabul. Afghan refugees forced out of their homes by war and extremism have found themselves living in meager conditions in poorer parts of the city. Despite their less than satisfactory living situations, these refugees have brought their entrepreneurial spirit with them, finding ways to share their Afghan culture with Indians.

Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is Ilham, a catering service set up by four Afghan women in 2015 with the help of Access, an NGO working in collaboration with UNHCR. The women create local Afghan delicacies such as Kabuli Pulao (rice with spices, vegetables and meat), Mutton do Piaza (mutton curry) and Firni (rice pudding). Since Afghanistan and India have always shared a particularly friendly relationship, these are dishes that have already been popularized in local Indian culture. However, by providing authentic versions, Ilham has managed to gain a large customer base in just over a year.

The success of this and other ventures set up by Afghan refugees in India, can be measured by the reactions of the women of Ilham when asked about their work. For example, Zameera sees not only the financial independence it has brought her, but also the emotional relief from the despair of losing her home and being separated from her family and country. For Zameera, Ilham is as much a business as it is therapy.

For the nearly 11,000 Afghan refugees in India registered with the UNHCR, as well as that much more living unregistered in the country, initiatives like Ilham have become a way of life. A culture of Afghan cuisine has developed in Delhi, where most of the refugees have settled.

The Green Leaf Restaurant, a popular eatery run by Afghan refugees is another success story. Green Leaf has been beneficial for both the owners as well as the surrounding community. Thus, these refugees contribute to the local economy by providing a niche service driven by high consumer demand.

Anecdotes from Afghan refugees in India offer a valuable insight into how the integration of refugees into local communities can be advantageous to both groups. Rather than detracting from Indian culture, Afghan people have added new aspects to it and strengthened an already strong political partnership. In a time when xenophobia is rampant and fear of job loss is high, it is important to remember that the mingling of cultures can create both enhanced identities as well as new markets for new jobs. The Afghan-Indian experience bears testament to the possibility of a harmonious integration and cultural exchange.

Mallika Khanna

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Russia
Russia continues to build deteriorating relations with the West. On top of that, the economic turmoil following sanctions imposed on Moscow after it meddled in Ukraine’s business has had a serious impact on hunger in Russia and the country’s likelihood of going hungry in general.

Food is just one of the everyday necessities being used by Russia’s government in the international struggle for peace in the Crimea region of Russia and Ukraine. Russia has banned imports of most food from countries party to the European Union’s (EU) economic sanctions against Russia.

The EU’s economic sanctions against Russia are meant to pressure the Russian government to end its violent campaign against Ukrainian nationalists. The sanctions mainly ban activity that profits banks and some blacklisted individuals.

More Russians have been slipping into poverty and hunger since the Western sanctions have been put into place. Along with that, low oil prices that have battered the country’s energy-dependent economy and significantly diminished purchasing power have taken a toll.

However, 2016 poverty indicators are still much lower than those from the start of President Vladimir Putin’s first term in 2000. During that time, 29 percent of the Russian population found itself below the poverty threshold.

Despite the decrease in poverty indicators, a food shortage has begun in Russia, according to The Moscow Times. Hunger in Russia is a very real possibility. This is due mainly to more than a year of extended sanctions against imported food.

Some food producers have increased productions notably over the last 17 months. This includes the meat and dairy producers as well as beef and potato producers. Unfortunately, it has not been enough to make up for the loss of food imports banned due to these government sanctions.

The silver lining in this whole situation is that Russia is known for its self-reliance when it comes to food struggles. Recently, a study done by Natural Homes revealed that 51 percent of Russia’s food is grown by communities in both rural areas and by peasant farmers.

A great example of Russian resilience is a small business owner, Alexander Krupetskov. Alexander started an artisan cheese shop just a month before the embargo was established last year. His business has flourished since that and he has also opened a second shop.

Although times are tough in Russia, these glimmers of hope and forward movement are great signs for the country’s future. It would seem that even in the toughest of circumstances, Russia’s people know how to pull themselves from the depths and create something beautiful and everlasting.

Keaton McCalla

Photo: Flickr

 

B-Energy
Solar and wind energy projects have been praised as potential ways to reduce global poverty. But German start-up organization B-Energy is promoting an efficient use of another form of renewable energy to improve life in the developing world.

B-Energy has supplied households in Africa with biogas balloon backpacks, digester systems and stoves to help them convert organic waste into harnessed biogas. The energy that the bags and digesters produce can serve as cooking fuel and provide people with a source of income.

Developing countries have struggled to supply stable forms of energy to many of their inhabitants. According to the World Energy Outlook, approximately 80 percent of people without electricity live in rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa and developing Asia. With no other alternative for energy, many people rely on biogas and struggle to efficiently transport and store it.

Founded by German entrepreneur Katrin Puetz, B-Energy serves as an innovative and affordable system that offers a reliable source of energy from human and animal waste and agricultural residue. B-Energy’s method revolves around its ‘B-pack’, which is an inflatable balloon backpack that holds methane gas produced from waste in a biogas plant or digester. People without their own plant can refill their B-packs at a nearby digester.

According to the BBC, each bag comes with a metal pipe, which users can attach to a gas-cooking stove. The bags hold 1.2 cubic meters of gas—enough for about five hours of cooking—and spare households from relying on wooden fires to prepare food.

Another key aspect of B-Energy’s system is that it creates entrepreneurial opportunities. As a “social business venture,” Puetz’s start-up encourages individuals with biogas digesters to sell their biogas to households. People with B-packs can also profit from supplying their leftover gas to others. B-Energy even provides aspiring entrepreneurs with a beginner’s kit—which includes a biogas digester, B-backpacks and stoves—and professional training to help them launch their biogas business.

Since its inception in 2014, B-Energy has steadily grown, establishing franchises in Sudan and Ethiopia. Puetz refused to accept grants from global charities in order to prove that her enterprise can be self-sufficient.

Moving forward, a significant obstacle for B-Energy is to determine how to lower the cost of its system. The Inter Press Service has reported that Ethiopians have to pay approximately 12,000 birr—equivalent to $600—for a biogas plant, two backpacks and a cooking stove.

Puetz hopes to make the B-Energy systems more affordable by allowing franchises and households to pay in installments. This change would expand access to his innovative energy solution and assist countless more in need.

Sam Turken

Photo: Geographical