Alliance Spark Grantee SME Funds Creating Jobs, Boosting Clean Fuel Use
SME Funds, a grantee for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves’ Spark Fund, is an innovative international NGO working to end poverty through endorsing sustainable enterprise development in Africa. Through the investment in ethical and green social initiatives, they create platforms that generate jobs and improve women’s livelihoods. Based in Nigeria, SME Funds has become one of the largest and fastest growing clean cooking energy organizations in Africa. It is also the only company in Nigeria that is commercially producing ethanol from waste products such as sawdust, and invasive plant species such as water hyacinth.
Since receiving its Spark Fund grant, which is supported through the Alliance with funding from the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, SME Funds has accelerated the achievement of its ambitious growth plan. A semi-automated gelling facility, including a small laboratory and factor, has been established in Epe, Nigeria. The grant has also enabled the company to improve the way SME Funds trains its “ambassadors” who are responsible for distributing the company’s products. The training materials have been enhanced with instructional videos in local languages to ensure that the thousands of ambassadors operate as an efficient and productive salesforce.
Currently, the demand for ethanol in Nigeria outstrips supply by a factor of ten, and 98% of the ethanol is imported. The market for ethanol cooking fuel in Nigeria is valued at over $2.3 billion, which means SME Funds has the potential to become a first mover in a massive market, and in doing so bring into the mainstream a clean alternative to cooking fuel which is replicable throughout the continent.
Green Energy Biofuels Limited (GEB), a partner company of SME Funds, focuses on the production of second generation bio ethanol gel cooking fuel and the distribution of improved clean cookstoves to try to change the way Africans cook. As a multi-sector focused organization, GEB supports clean and sustainable energy, helps in the fight against climate change, and also seeks to increase youth employment in Nigeria. Over the past two years, GEB’s two plants have produced more than 500,000 liters of “Kike Green Cook Gel” and sold over 1.2 million liters of bio-fuel, which is a tremendous accomplishment. For reference, a Nigerian family relies on less than a liter of gel for a full day’s worth of cooking, so this is equivalent to almost 700 families cooking with ethanol gel exclusively for 2 years[PJG1] .
While liquid ethanol is still a much safer alternative when compared to the extremely unhealthy effects of kerosene, GEB’s pioneering gel product has received a lot of attention due to its innovation. Made from sawdust and grass, the gel is 100% organic, and reduces the risk of explosions as it is non-pressurized. It is also non-toxic, and the gel will not burn the skin.
In addition to providing the fuel, SME Funds also provides the Kike Green Cookstove to its customers. These gel-burning stoves are cleaner and safer alternatives to traditional wood burning stoves which create heavy smoke and ultimately lead to users experiencing respiratory illnesses.
The stove’s gel housing is non-pressurized which eliminates the concern of the stove being turned over or spilled. The burner flame is adjusted and extinguished by a simple regulator, which also reduces potential risks and safety hazards. GEB sells two models: a KD series made of a long-lasing special baked stainless-steel, and the AS series made of cost-saving and durable substitutes of galvanized steel and aluminum. Without modern cooking alternatives, families are often forced to spend much of their income on dirty fuels like charcoal and kerosene, or walk miles every day in search of firewood. These cookstoves have the ability to improve health and reduce expenditure on fuel amongst those living in poverty, allowing them more time for income-generating work or to spend with their families.
SME Funds’ cookstoves and fuel have created more than 15,000 green jobs and reduced 2,000 tons of carbon, displacing the equivalent of 1.2 million liters of harmful kerosene with clean and sustainable ethanol cooking gel. Given its tremendous success thus far, SME Funds has ambitious future plans and looks to scale up across West Africa. The company recently launched in Ghana, and is looking to expand to more western African countries in the next year. In its home country of Nigeria, SME Funds is seeking to invest in a large scale ethanol refining facility.