Martin works for Watu na Nuru, a Barefoot Power distributor in Tanzania. This is his story:
I have been working in Tanzania with my wife for two years now, and we have been using our previous experiences to help in the development of education and business. We have left two grown-up children to their own careers in the UK. One of the first things that struck me was the limited use of solar power for a country with such a huge amount of sunshine. This was particularly noticeable coming from the UK! When we saw that people were using homemade kerosene lamps at night we felt there had to be an opportunity to make solar lights more widely available. A large part of my work for the Anglican Church was starting a wholesale business to import and distribute solar lights to micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses who want to sell them in villages. Over 80% of Tanzanians have no access to mains electricity and they use dangerous, unhealthy and costly kerosene lamps as their main source of lighting, so there is a huge market for affordable, quality micro-solar kits. Watu na Nuru, which means “Light for the People” in Swahili, is the name of a growing collection of businesses established with the support of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, with the aim of making high-quality, affordable solar lighting kits available to rural communities.
Watu na Nuru needs to have sufficient quantities of the right products at the best time of year (when farmers bring in their harvest). We need funds to ensure product is available when people are ready to buy it. When we are not selling product we provide training and technical support to retailers. We have developed a partnership with Barefoot Power Australia, who make what we believe are the best micro-solar systems on the market. My greatest challenge in this role is to get the right quantity of stock and spares to support the growing business. Your loan will support our stock so that more village entrepreneurs can sell these lighting solutions. My favourite part of this job is seeing a first order of product heading off for a distant part of the country to one of our small retailers just starting a new business.
Because Barefoot Power’s core business is not microfinance, there is some level of additional risk for lenders. Kiva’s partnership with the company is unique and unprecedented. For this reason, Kiva has not assigned the organization a risk rating.
Barefoot Power is a for-profit social enterprise dedicated to bringing solar lighting solutions to remote, low-income regions. The company offers Kiva-funded loans to its distributors and retailers to buy supplies, open stores, and sell high-quality, affordable lighting products to consumers in underserved communities. Access to renewable lighting reduces use of pricey, dangerous kerosene, and significantly improves household productivity and income potential.