Uganda Posts

Nebbi solar bakery preparing a cake for Uganda’s President’s son birthday

Posted Friday 16 September 2022 by Eva Wissenz.

What a lovely birthday cake! It has been solar baked by Nebbi solar bakery for General Muhoozi for his birthday celebration in May 2022.

Then, on August 26th, 2022, during the International Youth Day Celebration held last month in different cities in Uganda, Nebbi solar bakery has gained national recognition in Gulu. "The team has been recognized for the great work in ending poverty through skilling and environmental conservation through the use of solar oven", says Prudence, team leader.

General Muhoozi Kainerugaba is the son of the actual President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni. The President could taste this delicious cake and have a look the oven while congratulating Prudence, the Head Baker.

Nebbi is one of the most performant groups trained by the team with the support of Plan International Uganda and Plan International Finland.

Congratulations to this super motivated team!


Feeling the Entrepreneurship Spirit in Uganda

Posted Sunday 8 May 2022 by Urs Riggenbach.

I have just returned from an amazing trip to Uganda and Kenya to see firsthand the amazing impacts of Lytefire with some of the 250+ entrepreneurs we have empowered in the last 12 months.

Visiting the training site in Uganda

As you know we have not only developed the Lytefire solar tech but also the entrepreneur-trainings to train women and youths to run their own solar businesses - with no prior experience.

The big mission we have taken on at Solar Fire, has made the last years of business development really hard for us. Awareness of solar concentration is still low vis-à-vis photovoltaics, and little focus is on solving the energy problems of the millions of entrepreneurs in low-income regions. With a truly decentralized energy source we also don’t fit the old centralized models that brought the climate and poverty crisis in the first place. But one beautiful result of our work is that we are sharing our experience with entrepreneurship and are able to provide all the key ingredients to create solar bakeries: From the Lytefire Oven to the baking skills, the entrepreneurship skills and the technical skills to maintain a Lytefire with local materials, something that fundamentally sets us apart.

Just like Solar Fire faces many challenges in scaling up, there are so many barriers our solar entrepreneurs need to overcome on a daily basis. But the basis of doing business is selling your product. To do that, yes you need a product, but you also need to have the courage to go out there and sell it. And if nobody buys, you don’t succeed.

As CEO of Solar Fire since a few months, my work is very demanding, being involved with both the delivery and acquisiton sides, keeping a bird’s eye perspective and going down to the nitty-gritty of day-to-day activities on a constant basis. We had just reached a milestone on the fundraising side and at the same time a major training program was coming to a close: It was time to jump on the opportunity to visit the projects, the entrepreneurs and see old and new team members, with 6 of them whom I would meet for the first time in real life!

So during my trip, I was able to visit one of the last training courses for a project we are delivering to our client Plan International in Tororo, Uganda.

It was a hot, sunny day, and after our bakery trainer Allan finished his first segment on making muffins (known as Queen Cakes in Uganda), the muffins were in the solar oven and our entrepreneurship trainers Callum and Hanna continued on the bookkeeping part of the training.

I’ve taken such workshops before and my body immediately reacted with a wave of tiredness as my mind wandered to the 30 other things demanding my attention at Solar Fire.

The typing noise of calculators that were handed out brought me back just 10 minutes into the session, and I noticed the strong engagement of the group. Callum asked, “Why is there more money in the account than cookies were sold?”. - A participant: “Shouldn’t we have cookies left?”- Another: “No, all cookies were sold by Sunday”. Callum: “So, clearly someone sold cookies between last Friday, brought the money into the account but did not subtract it from the inventory nor add it to the bookkeeping. You see, just now, a day after it happened it is hard to reconstruct what happens. That’s why the bookkeeping needs to be done right way. OK. Let it be a lesson and reminder for us. Let’s go into this”. …and they proceeded to figure out exactly who made the sales, and updated the accounting based on this, if you ask me, very positive problem.

Even what I would consider the most “dry” and theoretical part of the training was made engaging through the entrepreneurial reality we are creating in the short time our trainers are on-site. And it continued: As the muffins came out of the oven, the instructions were very clear: “No snacking”. I had to withstand my urge to just grab a delicious looking muffin: I asked about the rule and it is something they developed through the trainings: If you make it clear that every muffin snacked is a muffin not sold and a direct loss for the bakery, people’s business mindset is honed and put in place from the beginning.

Now we were inside a large compound in a hall where the training was conducted, outside on the main road construction works were happening. I would say a 10 minute walk from the construction site. Yet suddenly a man enters the building and asks if he can buy some Queen Cakes. A sale happened and I was really impressed: The word of mouth is really working, and the solar bakery is quickly worth a visit just because of it’s innovative aspects, and at the end of this day, all queen cakes were sold again, to few additional clients that the participants had called and animated.

The participants all made sales, brought in cash through their work and had a real entrepreneurial success just after one week when I arrived, and at the end of the second week, our trainers left them with a profit in their account and an inventory of starter-ingredients for them to efficiently continue running their bakery. This entrepreneurship-creation process was really impressive to experience firsthand. It was extremely motivating to see how with Lytefire we can create real entrepreneurship opportunities wherever we go.

The experience was confirmed by the various other solar entrepreneurs I got to meet on my trip, and from some of them, you will soon hear more!

Stay tuned.

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Our Solar entrepreneurs in Nebbi after Lytefire training!

Posted Wednesday 20 April 2022 by Hanna Williams.

It has been over 3 months since the training in Nebbi in January and since the trainers left it has been an incredible success! With the Solar Fire team in constant contact with the ‘Smart Up Solar Bakery’ we have witnessed and experienced their passion, motivation and dedication running their very own solar bakery since the 3 week training took place!

They continue to bake every week with the team that were selected for training but they also now train other vulnerable youths in the rural area how to bake with solar so they have access to the knowledge. This has also provided an awareness for the environmental issues. Instead of relying on electricity, charcoal and firewood to bake, the Nebbi team have expanded their education of solar science to train other youths by presenting the power of the Lytefire oven and utilizing a natural resource, the sun!

It is the rainy season now here in Uganda, but the hub utilizes the sun’s energy wherever possible and has baked with the Lytefire oven nearly every day!
As Nebbi is one of the newest Smart Up Hubs, they receive so much support from their local community and the plan offices which are close by. Since January when the first 3 week training took place each week the nebbi smart up hub has been generating over 100,000ugx sales a week!


The future shines bright with the ‘Sun Light Solar Bakery!’ in Alebtong

Posted Friday 8 April 2022 by Hanna Williams.

The journey continues with Plan International’s Smart Up Factory as the team visits Alebtong, the most rural area the trainers have visited so far! In the Northern region of Uganda, a 40 minute drive west from Lira District. The surroundings of Alebtong are vast with long stretches of beautiful green land, dusty terrains and livestock farming.
The climate in Alebtong has very hot dry summers with mother Earth providing the harmony and balance of the wet rainy seasons providing a green abundance of agricultural farming.

The purpose of this project is to provide underprivileged women and youth in this very rural area in Uganda solar baking and entrepreneurship training in order for the Alebtong hub to have a running bakery to offer delicious baked bread and other solar baked goods to their local community! The Alebtong Smart Up hub location is a 15 minute boda ride from the very small town but in the close surrounding areas there is a school, the Town Council Headquarters and a police station! All of which have been very supportive during the first few weeks, visiting the hub, discovering the power of the LyteFire solar oven and buying baked goodies from the bakery!

As one of the smallest hubs the team has visited, the hub and Alebtong town embodies a spirit of a very supportive and communal family. The Smart Up students worked together in teams, advancing their many skills in different areas, always eager and yearning to learn more! The mission for this training is to deliver a unique type of education that hasn’t been provided before in Alebtong to allow the participants to gain a diverse set of training skills and knowledge other than hairdressing and tailoring which are very competitive businesses within Uganda.

We hope with this training that we provide this hub the opportunity to be an independent and running solar bakery in Alebtong as it is a district like Nebbi but on an even smaller scale! They do not have a bakery in this area so one problem we wish to help solve is creating an income for youths that suffer to find employment especially in such rural areas like Alebtong. Their bakery business will also support the local community with delicious freshly baked bread which is a cheaper alternative for Alebtong shopkeepers that will no longer need to pay for the transportation of food products from towns or cities further afield. We hope for them to build an active and loyal relationship with customers to form a trustworthy reputation within the Alebtong community where the Smart Up students can provide locals with delicious goodies baked locally with the power of the sun!

One Lytefire unit has been provided at the Alebtong hub alongside a 3-week intensive training course in entrepreneurship, technical and baking skills tailored to using a solar thermal concentration oven. Week 1 consisted of how the Lytefire technology works from a technical perspective with the combined education of solar science which introduced many participants to the effects of climate change and global warming. The majority of students were completely unaware of the damage caused to the Planet before we arrived and how climate change is affecting countries like Africa the most with drastic disasters such as flash floods and droughts.

A shocking fact is that approximately 8.2% of infant deaths in Uganda are primarily linked to indoor air pollution from unsuitable cooking spaces using charcoal and firewood. 4 million people, mainly Females and children die each year from household pollution from using unsustainable fuel sources with many other people here developing respiratory problems.
As the majority of the participants were under 24, most with families at such a young age and many of the women that attended the training had children, they were appalled at these statistics. This is where we introduced the benefits of the Lytefire technology, not only improving health but how it helps preserve the environment.

As a small rural area we came across challenges regarding marketing as the students and training team had a discussion on what methods were best to market their bakery during the entrepreneurship training. Collectively, the students decided offline marketing was to be their most favorable strategy as ‘word of mouth’ recommendations spread widely and they could promote their solar bakery with business cards, posters and a Sun Light Solar Bakery logo! Many students and locals in the area do not have smartphones, so they would use SMS and calls to speak with their customers if they had any promotional offers on!

As the students all live locally they knew the market and ‘competition’ in the area so explained to us what baked goodies they believe they could offer their customer and what would sell well. So during week 2 the first few days the students focused on mastering bread loaves and bread bun recipes. They explained many locals didn’t have access to freshly baked bread and only had bread that contained many preservatives in them that were transported from Alio, Lira or even Kampala.

The days following Hasheem, our baker trainer taught the students how to bake cupcakes, G-nut cookies, ginger cookies, sponge cakes, cinnamon buns and solar baked mandazi! The solar baked mandazi sold out due to members of the town council headquarters who made an order of 76 mandazi for their meeting the following day! Once they had one bite they could not resist the taste of freshly solar baked mandazi!

During week 2 and over the weekend mentors and mentees showed up to bake on Saturday at the hub as they had to prepare some more pre-ordered baked goods for solar baked mandazi!
The hub were selling baked treats like hot cakes! Sales made so far from the first 2 weeks and over the weekend were already over 224,000UGX (56EUROS)!

This meant Week 3 was all hands-on deck: Ready steady bake, bake, BAKE! During the last week, Hasheem, our baker trainer, dedicated one afternoon to teach the very excited participants the eagerly anticipated cake decorating class! This included how to frost a cake by making icing bags from baking paper and using specific nozzles to create beautiful decorations on a party cake! As many locals were head over heels in love with the solar baked mandazi, the students had to primarily focus on baking these as the local community enjoyed how fresh and readily available these goodies were!

The Smart Up hub had the Lytefire 5 combined roaster and oven installed so the trainers demonstrated to the participants the G-nut Roasting process. With the sun smiling down in Alebtong the students roasted 10kg of raw groundnuts in the solar roaster for a total of 3 hours. This saved roughly a total of 2kg of charcoal that would usually be used burnt for roasting the ground nuts in a pan.
The process included the rinsing and washing of the ground nuts, then adding 200g of salt with water. This mixture was then placed into the solar roaster and the outcome was super delicious! If you would like to see this process you can check out our video reel on our Instagram page!

For the last week of training the students were preparing for their Solar Demo Day where they would showcase their solar baked goods and present a demonstration of how the Lytefire solar oven worked for guests that were attending. We had family members of the participants attend, amongst special guests Pastor Caro and 2 journalists covering the demonstration day from a radio station in Lira. The sales made on that day were just over 100,000ugx (25 Euros) from the wonderful support of the local community, family and friends that attended the special day. It was a truly wonderful celebration to end the training as every single participant were very hard working and excited about the beginning of their journey with their new solar bakery!


2d project with Plan International in Uganda in 2021-2022

Posted Friday 1 April 2022 by Lorin Symington.

We are back in action in Uganda with Plan International and Plan Uganda! In 2018 we delivered two of our solar bakery and entrepreneurship trainings at Plan’s SmartUp Factory Hubs and now we’re back to do another nine installations and trainings! We have a bigger team and our ovens and Lytefire concentrators are better than ever.

We’re delivering these training sessions to two types of groups this time; SmartUp Hubs, which are youth training centers where underserved youth can come to learn life-skills and get training on a variety of subjects from tailoring to videography, and we’re also training ‘I-Decide’ groups which are typically women-led rural cooperative businesses that focus on empowering women economically so that they can decide for themselves how to run their lives and not depend on fathers, husbands, brothers or other men who might seek to control them.

During the training we cover three main areas: Lytefire Technical training so that participants have the knowledge to install, calibrate and maintain the equipment, bakery skills training where they learn hygiene, ingredients handling and the techniques to make a variety of delicious recipes, and entrepreneurship which includes everything they need to know to market their goods, do the accounting and manage their inventory.

Youth underemployment is a grave problem in Uganda, especially since the start of the pandemic but the great thing about baked goods is that they never go out of style. The fact that these young ‘solarpreneurs’ are using pure, direct solar energy to bake their products only adds to the excitement! Many of the areas where we’re training these youth have no local bakeries. Oftentimes the baked goods come from a town over an hour away, so this, in addition to using free, clean solar energy gives our young solarpreneurs a real advantage.

So far we’ve delivered 7 out of the 11 trainings that are planned. 9 are with fresh new groups and come with the latest and greatest Lytefires produced by our amazing team in Kisumu, Kenya, and the other 2 are ‘refresher’ trainings where we’ll revisit the Lytefires we installed in 2018 to train newcomers and conduct training according to the needs of the groups.

It has so far been a tremendous experience, meeting inspiring young people and adapting our trainings to the needs of each group. We’re recognizing that no two groups of young people from different areas are the same, and their needs differ greatly. Luckily, we have a really amazing team on the ground (if I do say so myself!). We have two training teams working at the same time, the first includes me (Lorin) as well as Augustine (who was one of the SmartUp youth we trained in 2018!) and Allen (a baking industry veteran who is based in Lira, Uganda) and they are training the I-Decide groups, scattered around Lira and the Northern Region, and the second team includes Callum, Hanna and Hasheem, who you might remember from our project last year in Tanzania at the Montessori School in Mwanza. Callum, Hanna and Hasheem are now rocking the SmartUp Hubs (if you’re not following us on Instagram @Lytefire_Solar, you’re missing out on some pretty incredible content!)

We are extremely grateful to Plan International and Plan Uganda for their support, and we’re proud to have a partner that is so dedicated to the well-being of young people. They’ve recognized that the Lytefire alongside the training we offer tick many many boxes: environmentally sustainable technology, healthy production of healthy products, socially just organization, empowerment for women and girls, cost effective business, and life skills not limited to hygiene, business administration, accounting and more! It’s not always easy when you assemble a bunch of young people together and put money on the table, but that’s the beauty of projects like this, we can facilitate life changing experiences and set youth on a course for a prosperous and sustainable future.

We’re looking forward to sharing success stories with you, and to working together with Plan to implement this program in more and more groups around the world.

More about the SmartUp Factory Program here.

Update from March 2022 - the project has been fully delivered and about 200 participants have been trained, resulting in the creation of 9 local solar bakeries. Read more in the posts.


Ojwina 2 week Refresher training

Posted Wednesday 23 March 2022 by Hanna Williams.

In 2018 the Lytefire solar oven was installed in Gulu, it was then relocated in 2021 and transported from Gulu to Lira’s Smart Up Factory location at the Lira West City Division. As part of the refresher training, the team, Callum, Hannah and Hasheem, revisited the Lira hub for 2 weeks, training the students on more technical skills of using the Lytefire 5 and helping them advance their baking knowledge and skills.
Lira is a small city, based in the northern region of Uganda where you may find yourself in the heart of the city which is energetic and frantic!

But if you take a 10 minute boda boda (motorbike ride) out of the city you are welcomed with the charming abundance of nature, vast green lands and a community life of agricultural farming. With an increasing population of 119,323 in 2022 from 99,059 in 2014 there is no wonder children are forced to work on the streets, finding ways of generating money and with the lack of parental care and neglect these children and adolescents are finding themselves with lack of employment, education and support.

Plan International’s Smart Up Factory provides training throughout many locations in Uganda that offers training opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable youths so they have a second chance of education and gain employment. Smart Up hub is a 10-15 minute ride away from the city center so this gives students a wonderful opportunity to engage and market their bakery with city people and the local communities close by.

As this was a refresher training the team were training the students with the older version of the Lytefire 5 solar oven. So there were a few differences in this machine regarding the mirrors but the overall durability of the Lytefire 5 since the transportation from Gulu was running very reliably with very little damage. A few mirrors needed replacing, which is ongoing when focusing and refocusing the mirrors during training. The overall structure of the machine was sturdy, stable and long standing with 3 mentors who were previously there when the Lytefire 5 arrived, maintained and knew how to use and look after the machine.

For the duration of training we implemented the improvement of their current finance and bookkeeping so they could record cash flow, sales profits and inventory accurately and efficiently. This also included the students learning the basics of understanding how costing and pricing of recipes work so they can recognize how to price each of their different baked goods and how to make a profit. Callum guided the team on focal training so they could really understand how to maintain, work and fix the Lytefire technology for the future of their bakery. This took 2 days while we had one main mentor who felt very passionate about the preservation and management of the solar oven monitored the Lytefire everyday making sure it was in working order!

As an already established bakery from the previous training was delivered, the bakery team named themselves ‘Sun Smart Bakery’. They were operating as a bakery before we arrived but since the refresher training they informed us since we left that they have been baking everyday with made to order cakes! We also experimented with recipes that would work in the Lira district, especially cupcakes as they were previously selling these. After the bakery team baked solar cupcakes with a new recipe, Hasheem (our baker trainer) provided them with and radically improved their cupcake recipe and they were soon selling many of these to locals! Hasheem also taught the students how to save money by making products that were readily accessible in the area such as ginger cookies, mango tarts and banana muffins.

As the location in Lira was not based in the city center and many students did not have a smartphone we explored offline marketing techniques with the bakery team. After teaching the students the entrepreneurship module we discussed Marketing and the importance of brand awareness where we asked the group to create a logo and business card. We soon discovered that this particular area worked well with word of mouth, events and networking to gain exposure of their solar bakery.
The whole 2 weeks of training the team baked completely with direct solar energy with the Lytefire oven! As the Lytefire is made with high quality materials and manufactured in our workshop in Kisumu, the solar oven has a lifespan up to 19 years with a social impact of saving many of the solar bakeries money by not relying on or using firewood, charcoal or electricity.

During demo day our guest of honor, the deputy mayor of Lira city west division came along and supported the bakery team by speaking about the Smart Up project.

Socials:
@lytefire_solar


Kampala’s training for the Solar Tech Bakery

Posted Thursday 10 March 2022 by Hanna Williams.

Kampala, the capital of Uganda is the most exhilarating city I have ever experienced! With a population of 3.6 million it is no wonder Kampala is a dynamic and fast-paced environment where you can find yourself getting lost in the hustle and bustle of the city!

The Kabalagala Smart Up hub is a KCCA (Kampala Capital City Authority) owned building. The Smart Up Factory works closely with the KCCA and they help with funding the project for Plan International Uganda. The Kabalagala one stop youth hub is a 25 minute ride from the center of town which makes it the perfect location for a bakery providing solar baked goods to local shopkeepers and the opportunity to supply and transport to the town center also.

The youth center became operational in December 2017 with partnership with Plan International from 2018. Since opening the Kabalagala hub they have trained 900 students (270 Males, 630 females) primarily focusing on young vulnerable women in cooperation with Plan International. The team arrived at the Smart Up hub where many other training sessions included hairdressing, shoemaking, graphic design and tailoring. With slow economic growth and accelerating high population rates there is a high unemployment percentage in Uganda. This is where KCCA plans to help solve this situation working alongside Plan International where they create projects such as Smart Up factory to offer free vocational training for young people.

During the first week of training, 1 Lytefire 5 solar oven was delivered to the hub where the students would learn all technical aspects of assembly and disassembly, how to calibrate and focus the mirrors to understand how the concentration of heat in the oven works. Alongside the technical training, Callum, our mission based trainer taught solar science explaining the effects of climate change and global warming. He explained the impact it has on the environment and how using the Lytefire technology can create solutions instead of problems such as deforestation from using firewood and charcoal to cook with.

(Installation of the Lytefire 5 & the traditional stick burning test)

Kampala weather conditions were hazy and the sun shone later in the afternoon. The hub surprised us when we found that they had previously baked briquettes before the Lytefire 5 solar oven arrived. Briquettes are composed of commonly found organic household or agricultural waste, such as peanut shells, banana peels and matooke leaves etc. The students at the hub compressed these by hand into small dense products that can be used instead of charcoal and excess amounts of wood harvested from nearby forests.

As the Smart Up hub was a 10 minute walk from one of the busiest roads with an immense selection of shops, restaurants and bakeries, we split the groups to conduct market research and recognize their potential competitors! When we discussed this as a class, the students understood the importance of having high quality products at affordable prices to attract customers! So of course we had to organize a taste test where the students would try products from local shops and bakers and what they would do differently to make their products taste more delicious!

They realized that to sell their own baked goods they must experiment with recipes, comprehend the costing and pricing of ingredients to determine their price per product. The market research also gave students knowledge on marketing, branding and selling techniques for their own solar bakery!
The students at the Kabalagala hub were so excited about making doughnuts as Kampala had a market for them but not a recipe as exciting as solar baked chocolate decorated doughnuts! Amongst experimenting with doughnuts, the students had also baked G-nut cookies and cupcakes during the second week of training so to test their selling abilities we gave all students a selection of each product to sell over the weekend to generate sales. To our surprise they ALL sold out of the products and between them made a huge profit of 204,000!

(Chocolate decorated solar baked doughnuts and cupcakes!)

Week 3 of training was the combination of all aspects of the modules taught to the students where they continued lots of baking for solar demo day and working out the costing and pricing of each individual product! They were educated in the importance of record keeping, inventory and cash flow to understand how to sustain a bakery business. A few students who were advanced in graphics were taking images and using these for marketing techniques on the brochures to showcase their unique products and attract new customers.
The students were so excited and inspired their sales and the entrepreneurship and marketing module that they begin straight away with the name of the bakery calling themselves ‘Solar Tech Bakery’. After the marketing module was taught we asked students to create a logo, business cards, food labels and brochures! They even created an Instagram account to display off their new baking knowledge and skills from the Lytefire training with images!

(Brocheres, business cards and food label stickers created by the students)

The launch of Solar Demo day had the students exhibiting their established solar bakery with an impressive display of delicious and tasty baked goods! These included a wide variety of products of decorated occasion cakes, cookies, cupcakes, doughnuts and pizza. From the previous week they had made to order decorated occasion cakes from customers in the local community which were on display for many officials of Kampala to feast their eyes on!
The sales they made were 91,000 in total with the guest of honor, the minister of Kampala buying 200 G-nut cookies at 50,000UGX (12 EUROS)! The day was full of joy, accomplishment and celebrating the success of Lytefire 5 solar oven at the Kabalagala hub with the 15 students graduating with a set of new skills and a mind of solar baking knowledge!

An article from the Kampala Solar Demo Day: https://www.kcca.go.ug/news/515#.YiiLd3xBzrc

Socials:
@lytefire_solar
Kampala’s solar bakery IG: @solartech_bakery


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