Update from Mali: Ice Making Source of Income for Women’s Groups
Ice making and lots of it is the result of a recent introduction of freezer units at SharedSolar sites in Mali. The ice making is a very promising activity for women and youth groups that normally have difficulties directly engaging in income-generating activities. The SharedSolar project pre-financed two freezers (around 500 USD each) using the initial connection fees paid by the costumers. The community health workers (CHW) association in the village of Dioro Titin manage the freezer associated with that SharedSolar site. The women’s association manages the freezer in Tiby 2 SharedSolar site. Both groups are participating in a trial period where they are testing the business model while the project leaders are studying the profitability and energy use. This trial period is also necessary to develop the market demand and the supply chain required.
Ice is not new to Dioro. Previously, a shop owner in the nearby town of Dioro (7km away) would buy ice from Segou (60km away). The CHW group, mainly composed of young males, have arranged for this shop owner to now buy all the ice production that the CHW group can support. Each 1kg ice bar is being sold at 100FCFA (around 20 USD cents). The CHW group will use the income generated to top up their fund and buy tools and medicine for the village.
The women at Tiby 2 have taken an innovative business approach to profit off their leased freezer. Their business model centers around making small sweet drinks (around 250ml) that they freeze and then sell in neighboring villages via other women. Packages of three such frozen drinks are sold at wholesale for 50 FCFA (around 10 USD cents). The women group can make more than 8,000 FCFA (16 USD) per batch produced in this way. Therefore, this activity benefits many women in very remote and poor villages.
Not all of this has gone perfectly though. Some of the early problems found center around the quality of the plastic bags used as they easily break and tear. To address this concern, the group will try both better quality plastic bags and implementing the use of some racks and trays to avoid breakages due to weight. A second problem faced by the women’s group is the lack of basic accounting skills to consistently and accurately track expenses and income. In collaboration with the MVP business development and education units the project will seek to reinforce the capacity of this women group to do so. SharedSolar technicians will train the treasurer so she can consult the group’s electricity balance with their mobile phone for more accurate account keeping.
The next steps for the project include exploring the feasibility of installing freezer units in other SharedSolar sites and how to repeat the success of the women’s group and . Training for health and safety will also be provided by the MVP site. More updates on these and other income generating activities with SharedSolar power to follow.