Retailers to Propagate Awareness on Solar Energy

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Recipients, materials and Mercy Corps staffers

Groups of local enterprises selling renewable energy products in Monrovia have received materials for publicity to help promote their solar energy businesses.

The materials including megaphones, rollup banners, T-shirts, business cards, fliers, signposts and technical tools for product repair were given to the businesses by Mercy Corps, with funding from the European Union.

The benefiting businesses included Alternative Energy, Inc., MEPEC Group, Jerrut Enterprise, Vision Awake Africa for Development, Universal Empowerment Missions, SJEDI Green Energy and Boima Folley Sports Center.

The materials, according to Mercy Corps, will help businesses in their “last mile distribution activities.”

The donation is a part of the activities marking Mercy Corps’ three-year project to “Light UP Liberia.”

One of the businesses, SJEDI Green Energy, owned and operated by Liberian entrepreneur Royston Gbelia, is a retailer of cooking stoves.

“We are involved in the business of improved cooking stoves and solar energy. What Mercy Corps did for us today is great because we, as small businesses, will be able to give information about our businesses to communities through these materials,” Gbelia said.

He said he started his business importing the stoves, and later started assembling the materials here in Liberia. The product, according to Gbelia, has not gained much attention, a situation he said will be addressed using the materials donated by Mercy Corps.

“Mercy Corps’ support will not only center on this donation, but will extend to transporting us to various communities in the counties to provide more information about the usefulness of solar energy and cooking stoves. This support will also help to keep the price of my commodity at a level customers can afford,” Gbelia added.

He said prices of the various kinds of stoves range from US$10 to US$100.

Another beneficiary of the Mercy Corps donated materials, Universal Empowerment Missions, Inc. (UEM), is a non-governmental organization dealing with vulnerable women and girls. UEM became a part of the solar energy program in 2012.

“We train vulnerable women and girls, many of them students and businesspeople, who use the solar lights to study and do their businesses at night,” said UEM’s Executive Director, Irene Konneh George.

Mrs. George said they also explain to women and girls how the light works and how it can be managed to be effective.

UEM is also part of the six original retailers that entered into the solar energy business under the Rural Renewable Energy Agency (RREA).

The organization’s executive director said they import the solar light materials and distribute them to the women for later payment based on confidence established between the women and the organization.

Meanwhile, Mercy Corps’ ‘Light Up Liberia’ (LUL) project is aimed at increasing access to affordable, sustainable and scalable energy services for the rural poor.

The ultimate objective of LUL is to intervene in Business Development Services (BDS) to improve the performance of small renewable energy enterprises in Liberia to achieve higher economic growth and employment, reduce poverty, and meet social objectives.

“We chose to prioritize solar energy because it is much cheaper compared to use of a generator. Besides the everyday purchase of gasoline or fuel, a generator poses health and environmental threats to the human population unlike solar energy,” said Cephas Tetteh, a Mercy Corps energy specialist.

According to him, the use of solar lamps in a home also saves that home from the risk of being gutted by fire, which can sometimes be caused by candlelight and gasoline.

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