GoSol’s full vision starting in Uganda
with Plan International

Posted 4 September 2018 by Eva Wissenz, Lorin Symington.

Since the very beginning, the way we see it at GoSol is that we must deliver an efficient and powerful solar concentrator, and a training to users, and… more. Over the past years, we have refined the SOL5 to the point where local entrepreneurs can actually use it daily to save money, increase their incomes, and develop their businesses. And this is happening when it’s sunny, and even on cloudy days depending on the cloud-cover. When it’s not possible to use solar heat in the rainy season, then users can go back to their old system for a couple of weeks. But the impact of polluting industries and climate change’s horrible side effects being what they are (deforestation, drought, people migrating away from the countryside in search for a better life…), something more than a device and training was needed to accelerate the adoption of SOL5: education.

So I’m here in Kisumu, Kenya since about 2 weeks to start a new cooperation with Plan International Finland and Plan Uganda’s SmartUp Factory project. With years of experience building in about 10 different developing countries, after monitoring about 5 baker groups in Kenya and Tanzania over the last two years, with support from Autodesk Foundation to create a construction manual, with a CTO that is also a baker, all our team has build a great educational training course that I’m so happy to share.

It’s good to be back in Kisumu, the team is now autonomous when it comes to producing these solar concentrators and baking equipment. Truly it’s an exciting development and it’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time. So far I’ve been on quality control, checking in with them at their workshop, ordering materials and documenting the progress.

Completion of welding of a SOL5 Oven.

I’ve also been reconnecting with our partners, visiting our newest pilot project and preparing for the upcoming educational and business incubation program with Plan International. I’ll be spending a few weeks at Plan’s SmartUp Factories in two hubs in Uganda. At each location I’ll be working with about 12 young people who are energetic and motivated to have an impact in their communities through innovation and entrepreneurship. Part of the idea with the SmartUp Factories is that Plan recognizes that people from poor communities are uniquely positioned to identify challenges facing their communities and, properly empowered, are the best people to address those challenges.

SmartUp Factory participants. © Plan International.

Given the success of our pilot projects in Kenya and Tanzania, 5 of which are bakeries, we’re going to be teaching a well rounded course combining hands-on training and theoretical knowledge where the students will learn to install, use and maintain our SOL5 concentrators, as well as learn about the science of energy, the impact of our solar thermal tech on environmental and health issues, as well as the baking and business skills needed to run a bakery, or another business of their choice.

A Kenyan solar baker preparing a SOL5 for baking.

In the past we’ve worked with already established bakers, but this time we’ll be training from the ground up. You might remember that I got the chance to bake all sorts of treats in South Africa a few years ago, and I remember the super enthusiastic kids from Greenside Primary School!

In Johannesburg, 300 kids from Greenside Primary School loved the solar baked treats!

I remember also all the creativity of students! Like for example Rorisa, a young entrepreneur. Between that trip and these first feedbacks and today, we are thrilled to see that our vision is becoming true!

On top of this, our CTO Arnaud, has been baking traditional French bread for a couple of years now, developing a deep understanding of the art of baking and the science behind it. He has been coaching me, I’ve baked with our pilot projects, and I’ve started a sourdough culture from scratch that we hope will be pleasing to the people in Uganda because real sourdough bread stays fresh much longer than bread leavened with chemical starters, and so is especially appropriate for a solar powered business.

Preparing sourdough.

We have our ideas about business, but we’re really committed to supporting the students of Plan’s SmartUp Factories to create businesses according to their own ideas of what their communities need. This upcoming educational course is just the first step on a beautiful journey of co-creation.

In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing stories and examples of success stories from the SmartUp Factories as well as footage and ideas of motivated students who are going to help establish the Direct Solar Economy in Uganda!

 

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