Biha Eco Venture
What is the name of your solution?
Provide a one-line summary of your solution.
We developed a low cost solar bag for rural children using up cycled polythene textile, incorporated with energy generating technology.
Film your elevator pitch.
What specific problem are you solving?
By 2050, an estimated 1.2 billion children will be out of school in Africa (World Bank 2019). Over 34.3 million people on Uganda’s population currently live in rural areas, with 2.51% increase from 2019. However, 90% of vulnerable children in last mile communities lack access to essentials needs such as quality, affordable school bags and reliable electricity to extend their reading time at night once they return home, which hinders quality education in the rural setting (UBOS, 2019). Children within these off grid families rely on traditional inefficient lighting sources such as candles and kerosene lamps that pollute indoor emissions which causes health problems and rampant fire outbreaks. 1unit of electricity in rural Uganda cost $0.28 and this is expensive for low income earners. It will cost $800 to connect each household to the grid and when the connections do arrive, they are unreliable and doesn't have enough robustness. These systematic and existential challenges, prolongs inequality education as 90 percent of Uganda’s school-age children particularly live in rural areas which could bleak economic future for Uganda whose population is expected to double in the next 15 years.
What is your solution?
Our product is a one-stop solution to inclusive and equitable quality education among vulnerable children in last mile communities in Uganda. This is through our Eco solarbag (Es-bag) that brings together recycling and solar energy provision to children.
Eco solarbag is a multipurpose bag made using transformed textile recycled from polythene waste, incorporated with energy generating technology of inbuilt light bulb and flexible solar panel that charges during school period to provide alternative lighting power, for maximum 6 hours enabling children to adequately study at night. Each school that embrace using our Es-bag has a charging station outside each classroom for efficient power gathering. Eco solar bags plays a big role in helping children feel less vulnerable while walking to school thus boosting rural education.
It comes with an entrenched reflective material that guarantees safety for children as they walk to school due to amplified visibility to motorists. Given the fact that schools are currently locked up, in order to cope up with the pandemic, individualized hand sanitizing holders have been incorporated on the Es-bag for users’ safety. It is made from 95% recyclable material and offer a practical solution to the pollution crisis in Uganda.
Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?
Biha Eco Venture’s solution seek to support primary school children ranging from 5 to 14 years of age in Mayuge district (Eastern Uganda) who come from marginal off grid families. Parents of such learners are unable to afford quality home solar systems for their children to access electricity.
Majority of these learners live in rural areas and have limited options to access scholastic materials. With our Es-bag, children have dignity and make the time spent walking long distances to school a more meaningful experience. The energy stored in the bag can be used as a source of light for children, making study at night possible by extending the time they have to do homework at night encouraging children to attend school regularly. After an exposure of about six hours, it can power an emergency light for 12 hours. This solves a challenge of using unsafe local energy sources such as local lighting lamps currently used which are responsible for respiratory and neurological disorders due unfriendly emitted smokes in the process.
The Es-bag also increase night time visibility of the students as they walk, due to their retro-reflective material, thereby protecting children from busy road traffic. More so, is that the bags are waterproof, so that textbooks are protected from any rain, and they have sanitizing provision.
Our Es-bag is obtained at lower prices, families with no upfront cost access our bag on behalf of their children through pay-as-you go basis with a flexible repayment schedule through schools. We believe, every child irrespective of the financial status of their families will have the opportunity to access quality education and get exposed to new possibilities.
How are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?
Being born in a humble family background access to essentials needs of life such access to electricity and quality education were a daily struggles for my family a community, at home we used to study using local lighting lamps called “tadoba”, this gave me an insight and explains why we developed the solar bag to promote positive change in vulnerable communities.
Through the self-help groups of our solid waste collectors. I have worked with these groups of women and came to understand their challenges. During the group conversation we decided to discuss pressing issues faced by each member. The idea for Es-bags came after looking at some of the societal problems facing learners who we share the same experience with most of us, a lack of dignity, basic school materials and no source of light to study at night whatsoever.
In 2020, together with my team members decided to visit their homes, majority were off grid and children couldn’t read at night. We decided to design a school bag for their children which serve multiple purposes and families agreed to pay using non cash transactions or credit financing through schools, this explains our relationship with schools and parents.
We are a team of passionate renewable energy engineers and environmentally entrepreneurs experienced in solar mini-grid project planning and implementation, installation and commissioning of solar innovations in off grid communities with expertise in cost-effective design of distributed energy systems with no upfront cost to end-users. Our team share the same values and knowledgeable about project management, designing and distribution of solutions to underprivileged groups.
Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?
Enable personalized learning and individualized instruction for learners who are most at risk for disengagement and school drop-out
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Kampala, Uganda
Our solution's stage of development:Pilot
How many people does your solution currently serve?
Why are you applying to Solve?
We lack enough resources especially in finance, we are thinking about system change and to have that change we need to make affordable and sustainable solar bags accessible for all children. We need a financial injection to enable us optimize production and profit maximization, this will be through purchasing of improved and efficient solar batteries and panels for our solar bags. Even if our greatness growth aspirations are realized and we reach 2000 children by 2025, that is still scratching the surface of the available need. We lack strategic stakeholders and partnerships including multilaterals and multinationals to support our sustainable energy bag as boost rural education.
Our team lack expertise in fundraising strategies to support and optimize our operations, sustainable distribution models and last mile marketing strategies. We have a marketing and delivering gap, we currently mitigate it by taking monthly performance gap analysis for team with respect to organization goals and objectives. We have a deficit in team building, we believe great teams do great work.
I would love to be empowered by learning about business and entrepreneurship and how to bring the Silicon Valley Innovation into our work, I feel it's in line with what I do and what I feel adjoining to in life. I strongly feel that my participation Solve challenge will help me to develop critical thinking and analysis skills which are a recipe for the achievement of my goals as a young business leader and live to see my innovation growing for social impact.
I expect to network and share my life experiences and tell my story thus building long lasting friendship with a pool of successfully business leaders, entrepreneurs and global business experts from diverse cultural backgrounds whom I will share ideas with, challenges and pandemic inspired solutions that will reshape our communities hence making them a better place to live. I believe MWF is a space that invests in the world’s greatest resource, which is human potential.
In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?
Business model (e.g. product-market fit, strategy & development)
Who is the Team Lead for your solution?
Hamidu Ssonko is the founder and CEO.
What makes your solution innovative?
The following makes our solar bag a unique solution; affordability, sustainability, durability and it serves multiple purposes in one. Eco solarbag is a school bag made with recycled polythene material embedded with a LED light and an inbuilt solar panel which absorbs sunlight during daytime, After being exposed to the sunlight, the energy is store in a build in battery bank and admits eco-friendly and sustainable light at night. With this approach, last mile children could use this energy to turn on the light to study and do their homework at night. This provides enough light to children living in off grid families enabling them to study safely compared to using unsafe local lighting lamps, they are also not cost effective due to high prices of fuel in the rural setting. Our bags will be accessible to children at lower cost through their schools after an initial deposit where parents would finance using a flexible financing system to fully own the bag.
Our revolutionary bag provides emission free energy that solves a challenge of using unsafe local energy sources such as local lighting lamps that are responsible for respiratory and neurological disorders due unfriendly emitted smokes in the process. 2 hours in the sun would provide 12 hours of light at night.
What are your impact goals for the next year and the next five years, and how will you achieve them?
Project’s Main Goal Our core goal is to improve the lives of 500 children in 2022 and reaching over 2000 children by 2025 who live in off grid families in mayuge (Eastern Uganda), by providing them with an easy access to alternative lighting source through our low cost solar bag backed with flexible financial payment plans through schools, to their learning experience thus boosting rural education.
Our specific measurable objectives are:
Selection and enrolling first 40 school beneficiaries as prospective and reliable solar bag agents, these will make solar bags accessible to children through their parents.
Provision of flexible financing system and plans to schools for parents to obtain solar bags on behalf of their children, 1-day training on financial accounting and financing system.
In the next 2 months, partner with other 5 tailoring women groups and procurement of raw materials to produce 300 solar bags to directly benefit 500 rural children in Mayuge village since each family is considered to be with averagely 3 children.
Provision of a holistic training in 300 children in 5 schools living in off grid families on dangers of using local lighting sources such as candles and two personnel in each school, these will teach parents and children how to handle the bags and energy saving practices.
Improve the children’s learning experience of 300 children through obtaining a solar bag on credit basis. Within 10 months off grid children will have fully owned solar bags and improved on their grades, since learning hours will be extended.
How are you measuring your progress toward your impact goals?
We shall know the success of our project through the following; Extended study time for children at night and revising hours, we probably hope an average of 3 hour extension time at night, which also encourage children to attend school regularly.
- Reduced daily costs on fuels and average incremental household income gain. Every family will receive an additional income between $50-$110/month, providing an additional income flow per family.
- Number of parents and schools who will adapt paying for our solar bags through schools as an alternative and saving source of energy in boosting children’s learning experience.
- Organize open day school and home visits,
- Project documentation and organizing project reports.
- Newly reached schools and households
- Number of solar bags produced and distributed.
- Number of children using of solar bag at least 25 per school.
- Percentage of credit financing by parent to obtain bags from our directly supported schools.
What is your theory of change?
It’s more than just a regular bag, millions of school children in Uganda walk long distances to and from school on a daily basis. Once they return home, many of them are unable to study at night due to the absence of secure light sources. From carrying their books in a plastic bag or having no schoolbag at all, by giving a child a solarbag, it helps to make a change to that child’s life by encouraging that child to commit to staying in school. They contain solar panels which are charged during the day, as millions of children walk to and from school every day. The energy stored in the bag can be used as a source of light for children, making study at night possible. With this revolutionary approach, we believe this is the most effective way of changing lives of children in the education setting.
We interviewed 40 households with no electricity and who use dangerous local lighting lamps in Mayuge district, we learnt that households need to support their children with our solar bag and they Prefer lower cost products, prefer safe lighting energy, prefer pay-as-go model. When then reached 15 schools to linkup households. Schools accepted to invest in our solar bags and resale back to their children at lower costs supported by their parents who accepted to go for a flexible financing system through schools.
We have created relationship with peer organizations, coalition and networks; we have partnered with several organizations and companies to execute this project. Women groups will provide tailoring services at a low cost through Motive Africa.
Non-financial support like technical assistance, information and resources; Innovex and Fundibot will support our operations with technical expertise. We got an offer of 350 solar bulbs from solar now through the US embassy in support of YALI alumni projects. These will be used to succefully execute our solar bag project in mayuge district and it will make our project feasible.
Children will be empowered and their families through schools support while exercising their rights. We are on track to reach 2000 children by 2025 who will able to study safe, enjoy high quality and lifelong education and have equal opportunities.
Describe the core technology that powers your solution.
Backpacks have long been associated with education, carrying books to-and-fro, hanging on the shoulders of children walking through school gates. But with our new design of backpack, called ‘’Eco Solarbag’’ which incorporates renewable energy, sees the school bag take on a wholly new role. Our revolutionary solar bag is incorporated with energy generating technology to make a light-bringing bag that helps children in power deprived areas of Africa do their homework after dark.
The eco solarbag is light-weight, hence making it easier to carry. They carry a green energy source for the environment. Currently, our bags have flexible solar panels as well as waterproof enabling students who do not have access to electricity to safely and cost-effectively study at night. We to hope to improve the quality and make the bag more affordable, we also hope to incorporate a GPS tag for tracking. Our approach is a sustainable means to tackle pollution and boost education by making Es-bags accessible and affordable.
Which of the following categories best describes your solution?
A new business model or process that relies on technology to be successful
Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:
Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?
What type of organization is your solution team?
Hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit
How many people work on your solution team?
9 fully staff, with 4 woman and 3 part time
How long have you been working on your solution?
What is your approach to incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusivity into your work?
We work with people of different gender and from diverse cultural backgrounds. In our entire set-up value chain we had no women. Because of this, I missed an opportunity to become a top finalist in the 2020 Seed Award competitions when a female judge remained us that women and youths are fundamental pillars in transforming communities. I was touched, and this opened up my heart to diversity, equity, inclusion and gender sensitivity that now become our core values. After a month, we had an alteration and implemented our new inclusion business model. In current set-up, women are close to our hearts, we promote women's sense of self-worth, their right to influence social change and play a big part in our operations. We now empower them into women entrepreneurs who collectively work as waste collectors in organized 5 self-help groups, since then everything positively changed exponentially in our workspace. We believe great teams do great work. At Biha Eco venture, it’s not my way but our way. Whenever we have a challenge we brain storm to come up with an inclusive and a people centered solution by engaging different parties.
What is your business model?
We work with a network of 150 schools who work directly with parents to purchase our solar bags on a pay as you basis. This financing system enables children to accessible solar bags on credit from schools enabling them to read at home during night. We partner with professional tailoring women groups who produce bags and then customized solar panels are integrated through our renewable engineers. We make money through selling and delivering finished solar bags to partner schools on lower costs.
Children within these off grid families rely on traditional inefficient lighting sources such as candles and kerosene lamps that pollute indoor emissions rampant to fire outbreaks. At least 350 people die of respiratory diseases annually in rural Uganda associated to use of unsafe local lighting sources
We value our customers, our energy bag product is affordable, long lasting and water proof thus ensuring children’s safety and constant lighting energy supply at night for a better learning experience.
Our 2.1sq ft. eco solar bags are attached with an in built 2 volts battery storage system in a complete circuit to form generate enough lighting energy. Children’s reading hours at night are extended by 3 to 5 hours. Parents finance our products on agreed scheduled period of between 4 to 7 weeks. Eco solar bags plays a big role in helping children feel less vulnerable while walking to school thus boosting rural education.
Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, to other organizations, or to the government?Organizations (B2B)
What is your plan for becoming financially sustainable?
We target over 100 schools and directly working with parents to serve 2000 solar bags by 2025 at affordable costs where parents will enjoy the flexibility of our financing approach to secure bags for their children. I have built Biha Eco Venture from the ground up, and this has been a challenging but fruitful journey. We have gained expertise in fundraising strategies to support and optimize our operations, we therefore focus on raising investment capital through grants and service contract to NGOs. We hope to grow fast, because majority of rural children lack affordable lighting energy. We aim to partner and work with more schools as we can, thus optimizing production and maximizing profits in the long run. Children get solar bags on credit after an initial deposit, parents find it flexible to finance our bags through schools, and this has made our business sustainable making it investable. We shall pilot our solar bag project to other schools, which is a critical step to affect more children positively. This will also allow us to survey hundreds of children in Eastern Uganda to inform a future target product price-point for mass adoption and attract more buying customers.
Mr. Hamidu Ssonko Biha Founder/CEO, Biha Eco Venture