Three social businesses join forces in Senegal – for clean energy and water for all

Funded by Tauw Foundation, Little Sun Senegal now works with Access to Water and Diam’O to empower female entrepreneurs and to strengthen their distribution network.

Launched in 2019, the project “Access to water and solar energy for all!”, funded by Tauw Foundation, aims at training women entrepreneurs in Senegal to become sales agents for both solar lamps and filtered water amongst their communities in Fatick, Kaolack, Thiès, Dourbel, and Mbour. 

Little Sun Senegal joined forces with Swiss NGO Access to Water and Senegalese NGO Diam’O. While Little Sun Senegal’s mission is to provide clean and affordable light where it isn’t accessible, the other two organizations are providing another important need in the region – clean drinking water. While our missions are different, our approaches are very much aligned and we share the same vision for the future: a sustainable world, where people no matter where they live, can have a healthy, well-educated and self-sustaining future.  All three of our organisations run local operations in Senegal, where our services and products are delivered to remote villages through a network of official partners, distributors and sales agents.

While working together on this project, we are not only providing joint trainings to female entrepreneurs and spreading awareness, but we are also exchanging and expanding our networks, which maximizes the impact of our organisations’ work. Our local networks were happy to exchange contacts for future collaborations and opportunities. For example, some sales agents now consider undertaking two activities instead of one – not only selling solar lamps, but also distributing filtered water. 

After a few weeks of preparation in June, through Little Sun Senegal’s partners and the top sales agent Alioune Sène (bellow), we were able to mobilize a number of women representing federations of VSLAs* for the joint trainings.

Alioune Sène (above) is one of the most committed sales agents. He did not study beyond primary school and is first and foremost a farmer in his village of Guagé Modi. He volunteers in an agroforestry group and consequently was invited to a Little Sun training a year and a half ago. Since then, Alioune has been an exceptional sales agent: highly organized, strategic, motivated, and passionate about Little Sun. He has sold close to 1000 lamps in and around his village to date. “I spend half of my time selling Little Suns and I’ve never had such a lucrative job”, he says. As Little Sun’s regional representative in Fatick and Kaolack, Alioune toured the region with us to encourage women’s groups to take up this activity.

Undertaking joint trainings, information sessions, and public demonstrations throughout five regions of Senegal was a success for everyone. Public demonstrations in regional markets attracted much attention. In Passi, even the Deputy Mayor requested to become a Little Sun distributor and acquire a Diam’O water kiosk. Some people who bought Little Sun lamps a while ago stopped by and voluntarily testified to the audience about the durability of the lamp they have already had for several years. New customers also shared their excitement:

“These lamps mean evolution for our village. In earlier days, our ancestors used to burn trees for lighting; then kerosene lamps came; then they were replaced with flashlights with batteries. Now we have solar energy. The sun is everywhere. With this, we will save money.” , Imam of the village of Lambaye (bellow) and happy new Little Sun user on 28 June 2019.

In Fatick and Kaolack, 30 existing and potential agents were trained in total, and more than 230 new potential agents were informed about the opportunity to take up a solar product and filtered water distribution. Furthermore, throughout all regions, around 900 people were reached in demonstrations in local markets, informing them about the advantages and importance of high-quality solar products and filtered water. The cooperation among all partners went smoothly and allowed all of us to learn a lot about each other, as well as to reinforce and increase our network of partners. Moreover, we were able to reach more people and double our product and service offers on such important, though unfortunately still highly underdeveloped, matters of clean energy and water.

*In Subsaharan Africa, Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) play the role of village-level banks for those, the majority, who do not have access to a commercial bank account. Traditionally mainly women organize themselves in groups of 10-50 members and are responsible to store money in a local, shared safe. Anyone who saves money in the VSLA can take a loan from it. The system works well, and is entirely based on trust and peer pressure. Little Sun works with VSLAs to distribute solar products on a micro-loan basis.

Watch the video below to see behind the scenes footage of the five communities we visited.

Photo credit: Little Sun