A new Ashden briefing highlights lessons from groundbreaking clean energy innovation in rural communities in the Global South. Its insights and case studies will guide funders and investors to support inclusive, effective solutions that boost incomes and food security.
Worldwide, 733 million people go without access to electricity – 80% of them in rural areas. Many of those affected are smallholder farmers living in, or on the edges of, poverty. For these communities, access to electricity can be a lifeline, securing a more nutritious diet and in some cases dramatically raising incomes and productivity.
The briefing – Energising Agriculture – shows how pioneering enterprises are deploying new technologies, addressing gender inequality and tailoring finance and market linkage opportunities for marginalised communities.
The featured organisations are winners or finalists in the annual Ashden Awards, a yearly search for outstanding climate innovation in the UK and Global South. Some of have also been backed by Ashden’s Fair Cooling Fund, which gave grants and other support to cooling innovators from 2020 to 2022.
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Promethean Power Systems
Promethean bring sustainable milk chilling to small-scale farmers in Maharashtra. They deposit milk in village chilling hubs, which allow them to sell collectively to large-scale buyers for the first time. Working with a local NGO focused on empowering women, Promethean aims to service 10,000 farmers by the end of 2023.
Collectives for Integrated Livelihood Initiatives (CInI)
CInI is a non-profit, supporting women to raise their incomes – and become leaders in their communities. In the Central Indian Tribal Belt it helps farmers use clean energy technology to boost production of vegetablea such as tomato, chilli and aubergine. Average household incomes have risen by 250% as a result.
S4S Technologies’ patented solar conduction dryer extends the life of harvested crops including fruit, vegetables, grains, and spices. The company’s holistic support for farmers – including a buy-back mechanism, and training run with local NGOs – have helped small-scale farmers earn up to 100GBP a month.
Kenya’s Sokofresh brings mobile solar-powered cold rooms to the country’s smallholder farmers, supporting them to get a better, more reliable, income. Sokofresh helps farmers harvest, sell collectively to major buyers, and access pay-per-kg storage – with more data and clarity for everyone involved in the supply chain.
India’s Ecozen offers portable solar-powered cold storage rooms, with thermal energy storage back-up – powered by cutting-edge digital technology – that keep produce fresh, boosting sales and prices. Its smallest unit has been designed specifically to meet the needs of marginalised farmers, and the company also supports customers with access to markets, training and more.
How can funders maximise impact?
Ashden Head of Policy and Impact Fiona Duggan said: “Our own Fair Cooling Fund has shown how grants and philanthropic capital can be used to de-risk commercial investment, as well as to encourage support from development agencies and impact investors.
“This briefing shows how grants can deliver maximum impact. This includes investing in research and innovation about new pro-poor business and delivery models, and pursuing outcomes that solidify the business case for further investment by other parties.
“Currently, the diverse impact of innovators across multiple Sustainable Development Goals – boosting incomes, health, gender equality and more, as well as lowering emissions – is not reflected in the siloed approach taken by many funders. We also recommend that funders invest in the building of partnerships across different parts of the agriculture ecosystem.”
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