A bright solar entrepreneur in Somalia

Farhiya Hersi Ahmed lives alone with seven children in Somalia. She has been part of the “Education 4 Sustainability” project which has enabled her to pay for her children’s education.

Bright Prosjekt Somalia

Farhiya Hersi Ahmed is 33 years old and lives alone with seven children in Somalia. She has been part of the “Education 4 Sustainability” project by Norwegian Church Aid and BRIGHT, which has enabled her to pay for her children’s education.

In the disputed area between Somaliland and the Puntland region, Farhiya Hersi Ahmed lives with her seven children in the settlement of Jilab for internally displaced persons (IDP). Surrounded by endless desert and mountains, Farhiya inhabits a small one-room house she has divided into two with a fragile wall.

Farhiya is one of more than 2,6 million people who have become internally displaced in Somalia. Since November 2016, over 1,5 million have had to flee from drought, conflicts, and flooding.

When Farhiya’s first husband died 10 years ago she had no other choice but to move to an IDP camp with her five children. Today her second husband and father of two kids has recently divorced her, and she is alone with seven children from 3 to 17 years of age. They have lived in the Jilab settlement for the last seven years.

Self-reliant Solar Entrepreneur

Despite the exceptionally difficult circumstances, Farhiya has managed to be proactive. She started her own little shop selling groceries and food supplies for cooking, but the money she earned was not enough for her children’s school fees. One of her neighbors had a BRIGHT solar lamp, Farhiya borrowed it to keep her shop open in the evenings and became very fond of the product. She approached Norwegian Church Aid to be enrolled in the “Education 4 Sustainability” project and quickly became one of the 400 people who have been educated in entrepreneurship and the use of solar energy products.

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“I knew the product already, used it myself, and wanted to get deeper involved in both using and selling the product,” Farhiya explains.

Farhiya received training from Norwegian Church Aid by using a newly developed BRIGHT e-learning tool. It showed her educational videos about sales, basic finance and solar energy, while she solved multiple-choice questions on a tablet.

“The training was more practical than theory, which was good. We learnt how to handle customers and markets through videos,” Farhiya says. She especially enjoyed how she learned to calculate profit and expenses.

The aim of the training is to improve financial literacy and knowledge of solar energy in very remote areas. With increased awareness and improved access to solar more people have replaced unclean energy sources with solar energy. Others see further potential, like Farhiya, and start their own solar energy business.

Somalia is one of the poorest countries in the world. There is extremely limited access to electricity, low enrolment in the educational system and high unemployment rate.

Multiple natural disasters combined with long-term political and economic instability cause famine, outbreaks of diseases, refugees and internally displaces persons. Lengthy conflicts cause large-scale displacements in many parts of Somalia and the security situation has been deteriorating as the military confrontation between armed groups intensifies.

Source: BBC

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Light in Darkness

In August 2018 Farhiya bought a BRIGHT Home 29 solar system for her own house. Since then, she has become a top seller of BRIGHT solar products. She has sold 18 solar home systems on pay-as-you-go mobile payments to families like her own.

“I bought one Solar Home System myself and people saw the light in my house and bought lamps from me at my home or in my shop. I use the lamp to light my home at night and charge phones, and my kids can study at night,” says Farhiya.

Today Farhiya continues to sell products from BRIGHT. She has been trained in pay-as-you-go mobile payment technology, which enables her to offer the products on a digital installment plan. Besides saving on her own use of unclean energy, she earns a commission for every product sold.

Farhiya describes how the light has impacted her life in two ways:

“Living in a dark place is bad. With light I can see everything at night, and it improves our security. The sales I make gives commission and that has increased my income so I can pay for school fees. It has improved my economy and life.”

Especially being able to pay for school fees is important to Farhiya:

“My kids also went to school before I became an agent, but it was difficult to pay. Sometimes I could not pay, and one of them was expelled and could not attend exams. Now is better than before. Life has improved. Life is better than before, and I have more money to pay for school fees.”

The “Education 4 Sustainability” project was nominated for a sustainability award, “Årets Håndtrykk” in 2018 by Storebrand in Norway.