29 May 2013 – While global leaders and chief executives work on incorporating sustainability into policy-making and business models smaller enterprises are delivering at grassroots level. In Ghana, Toyola Energy, founded by Suraj Wahab Ologburo, is one such enterprise. Toyola makes energy-efficient cooking stoves for ordinary Ghanaian consumers, who spend a large chunk of their incomes on fuel.

Ologburo’s coal pot stove uses one-third less charcoal than most existing stoves and sells for as little as US$8. Ologburo also offers credit, so consumers can pay US$2 up front and the remaining US$6 over two months using money saved on charcoal.

His company has produced 200,000 stoves and more than one million Ghanaians eat food cooked using Ologburo’s products every day. His business has reduced charcoal consumption in Ghana by 30,000 tonnes each year and carbon dioxide emissions by 150,000 tonnes a year.

Gina Garbon was one of Ologburo’s first customers. She liked the stove so much she ordered five for her market stall in Accra. Five became 100 and she sold every one, using the profits to buy land and build a new house. “Stoves changed my life,” she says.
Elsewhere, across sub-Saharan Africa social enterprise Solar Sister is enabling rural women to start their own clean-tech cottage industries. The solar energy business-in-a-bag model provides funding, and inventory – including solar lamps and solar mobile phone chargers – that the women sell locally.

The scheme provides participants with an income and brings clean solar power to their communities. “My children need light to study so they can do well in school. If I have the opportunity to earn some money, I can give them a better future,” says one Solar Sister entrepreneur.

Solar Sister and Toyola Energy demonstrate how grassroots initiatives can effect change in ways that bring not just sustainability benefits but economic opportunities too.