New Field Partner: UpEnergy puts clean energy within reach of Uganda's rural poor

When Kiva first decided to branch into loans for clean energy and green technologies, we discovered a wealth of prospective partners offering products designed for the poor. We've been thrilled to partner with a handful already, including EarthSpark International in Haiti, Solar Sister, IluMexico and more. Now we're growing that portfolio even more by launching with UpEnergy, a social enterprise working to make clean energy accessible in Uganda, Rwanda and Central America.

Founded in 2010, UpEnergy is focused on expanding access to clean and energy-efficient cookstoves in rural communities. These stoves dramatically cut down on smoke and harmful gas emissions. It also partners with technology manufacturers and local partners on the ground to deliver water purification equipment, solar lighting at affordable prices. 

Kiva's partnership with UpEnergy will start in Uganda, where 96% of rural households collect or buy expensive firewood for cooking, lighting and heating. Many use traditional three-stone fires, which are not only super inefficient, but also extremely polluting. Imagine a fire inside a tiny indoor space, and the smoke that people must inhale. Respiratory issues are widespread for this reason. And, not surprisingly, women and children bear the brunt of this problem because they are most involved in cooking and household maintenance. 

Wood burning stoves also contribute to Uganda's critical deforestation problem. Between 1990 and 2005, Uganda lost 26.3% of its forest cover, and has a current deforestation rate of 2% a year. Clean cookstoves, which use 50% less firewood, are one major solution that could address these issues and stem the tide of environmental destruction.

UpEnergy is special because it's making this solution affordable through innovative means. By collecting carbon credit revenues, the company is able to subsidize the price of clean energy products, making them reasonably-priced for the poor, even though they can cost up to 3 times as much to make. 

So where does Kiva come in?

Kiva loans will be used to help retailers and other local distributors buy large inventories of cookstoves and other green products upfront. This enables them to sell products at affordable prices in very rural communities that would otherwise not be reached. Getting clean energy technologies to these people is a huge challenge, requiring steep transportation costs and other logistics.

When you lend to an UpEnergy retailer, you lower the barriers between manufacturers and customers, making it easier to get products in the hands of people who need them most. You also provide a way for that retailer to make a better living while doing something good in the world.

This includes retailers like Aaron (pictured above), who just got his $375 loan funded on Kiva to buy a bunch of efficient cookstoves to sell. Orphaned at a young age, Aaron lost six out of seven of his siblings and could only complete seven years of school. Despite all that, he's become a pillar of his community with a family of his own. This family includes both his four children and 10 orphans who he also sends to school. He hopes to better support this large household with income from selling stoves.

Want to lend to someone like Aaron? Check this link for more loans from UpEnergy. If we're all out for now, stay tuned. There will be more soon!

Have questions about UpEnergy or Kiva partnerships? Send them our way at

Images courtesy of UpEnergy.

About the author

Amniya Shahbozova

Amniya was born in Khorog, Tajikistan, a city on the Tajik-Afghan border. After finishing high school, she obtained a scholarship to study Accounting, Analysis and Audit at the Finance Academy under the Government of Russia. After graduating and working for two years as an accountant in Moscow, Russia, she interned with Aga Khan Foundation, USA in Washington DC where she became interested in microfinance. She then completed an MSc. in International Business at University West in Sweden and returned to Tajikistan, where she worked as Social Performance and Product Development Officer and later Product Development Manager for the First MicroFinance Bank (FMFB). While working for FMFB, Amniya facilitated the first loan program for Afghan refugees in Tajikistan with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and led the Bank’s development of Remittance Linked Savings for Tajik migrants in Russia. Amniya is an avid traveler, and loves listening to music both from Tajikistan and North America.