low carbon entrepreneurs
Inspiration from a previous energy access winner, BURN Manufacturing. Source: Ashden Awards

The Ashden Awards, now in their 20th year, is making a final call for applications from Africa’s low carbon innovators. The organisers are particularly keen to receive applications for the categories of energy access skills, regenerative agriculture and humanitarian energy. 

Businesses, charities and public sector bodies can enter. As well as a cash grant of up to £20,000, winning organisations receive development support, networking opportunities, and PR support (including a broadcast-quality film about their work). 

The Ashden Awards highlight outstanding climate innovations, boosting bright ideas that can be scaled up or replicated around the world.

Awards relevant to Africa with the imminent deadline for applications of 3 March 2021 include:

  • Ashden Award for humanitarian energy
  • Ashden Award for cooling in informal settlements
  • Ashden award for energy access innovation
  • Ashden Award for natural climate solutions (Congo basin, Amazon and South East Asian rainforest specifically

Two new awards with a deadline for applications of 17 March 2021 are:

  • Ashden Award for energy access skills
  • Ashden Award for regenerative agriculture

Low carbon entrepreneurs: Previous winners

[Pictured in featured image] BURN Manufacturing is helping improve the lives of women and girls in East Africa with its efficient Jikokoa stove as well as providing employment opportunities. It cuts down on smoke and soot by more than 60% compared to the widely used Kenya ceramic jiko, and significantly reduces the time spent cooking and collecting wood. 

Among the frontrunners is the Togolese Rural Electrification Agency (AT2ER), winner of the Ashden Award for system innovation in energy access in 2020. AT2ER aims to achieve universal energy access in the country by 2030 – an ambitious target, given that in 2017 access was just 8% in rural areas. The agency’s systemic approach takes in subsidies, clever integration with mobile banking, public-private partnerships – and a clear focus on building skills.

CEO Harriet Lamb said of the new Award for skills in energy access: “While too many young people face unemployment or underemployment, new opportunities are opening for jobs in building the low carbon economy of the future. We know that renewable energy generates more jobs than fossil fuels. But we don’t have people being trained up with those skills to power the future economy. That’s why this Ashden Award is looking for exciting initiatives training people in green skills.”

Slash and burn agriculture is destroying large parts of Cameroon’s rainforest. Cameroon Gender and Environment Watch (CAMGEW) has responded by helping people in the country’s Western Highlands region, particularly women, become beekeepers – a more sustainable way of earning a living. CAMGEW provides training and equipment and helps local people form co-operatives and to sell their honey and beeswax products at a fair price.

Referring to the new Award for regenerative agriculture, Lamb said: “Small scale farmers are the heart of the low carbon revolution. They grow our food and they often practice traditional techniques that help store carbon and protect the soil – in fact, the techniques of the future. We are looking for those examples that can inspire others to follow their footsteps.”

Regenerative agriculture is sustainable farming that nourishes soil, boosts biodiversity and improves water management – it could bring enormous benefits to our climate, and to 500 million smallholder farmers around the world.

Winners will be announced at the international climate summit COP26 being held in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021.