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Published on 24 March 2022

Robisha Tamiru, 31, (right) and Selamawit Eyob, 25, run the small Berhan solar shop together in Konso town, southern Ethiopia. 'Berhan' in Amharic means light. Their growing business sells solar lighting and improved cook stoves, which require less firewood to heat. Together they are helping to tackle climate change in their region through raising awareness about the challenges of deforestation and supporting their customers to move towards more sustainable solutions.

Soil erosion and climate change

In Konso Zone, Robisha explains that the land has become infertile due to flooding removing topsoil. Forest clearance for firewood for cooking has also increased erosion.

The current weather is different from the time when I was a child. Drought is becoming erratic and even the timing of seasons they are changing

- Robisha.

Through their demonstrations and taking products into the community, Robisha and Selamawit are successfully changing peoples’ opinions about using renewable energy products. Previously the market was saturated by illegally imported goods that did not last long and so their customers were doubtful. But now Robisha and Selamawit struggle to meet demand. 

Image credits and information i
Credit: Meseret Abiy/Christian Aid
Selamawit with her son Leul
Selamawit with her son Leul (Meseret Abiy/Christian Aid)

Selamawit explains that since being part of the business, she can support her small family. Her husband is a driver, and his wages are low, so having her own business means that she too can help provide for the family.

Now, I have my own source of income and can support my son to grow well. Also, I have some deposits in my bank account which gives me confidence to strive for better tomorrow

- Selamawit.

Robisha too is supporting his family with his profits from the shop, approximately £450 to date, through helping his brother to start a shoe shop, providing for his mother, and funding his brother and sister through further education.

Starting the business is not without its challenges, working as a team, and creating a market has taken time. Access to sustainable energy products to sell still remains an issue at times, but the shift in their customers’ desire for their products is encouraging.

I am distributing solar energy, especially in the rural areas (where people do not have electricity). People were clearing forests for firewood and cooking their food. This practice causes deforestation, which also contributes to climate change. The project is a good solution.

- Robisha.

Through our EU funded Breaking the Barriers programme, we are supporting women and men to create and own Women’s Led Sustainable Energy Enterprises in some of the poorest and remote off-grid communities.

These groups receive training in sustainable energy products and technologies, business skills and can access finance through savings and loans groups.

In Ethiopia, in South Omo and Konso we are supporting 692 women and 3 men to establish 58 businesses producing and selling improved cook stoves and solar energy products.