Biomass Power for Economic Development of Rural Sierra Leone

We use biomass power to convert natural resources into valued products, create jobs, and provide electric transportation in rural areas.

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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.

  • Yes, I'm eligible

Preferred language

  • English

Organization name

Salvest LLC

Year founded

2009

Initiative stage

  • Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)

Annual budget in 2017 (USD)

  • $10k - $50k

Number of beneficiaries impacted so far

  • 50 - 100

Organization type

  • Social enterprise

Secondary Focus Area

  • Water
  • Nutrition

Headquarters location: Country

  • Sierra Leone

Headquarters location: City

Freetown

Location(s) of impact

Sierra Leone: Ribbi Chiefdom

Website

http://www.salvestllc.com

Facebook URL

https://www.facebook.com/Salvest/

Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?

Poverty has been an intractable problem in Sierra Leone where rural, subsistence producers are about 65% of the population. Poverty reduction requires a strategy of sustainable rural development, including the commercial use of natural resources to produce value-added products and decent jobs. Cost-effective energy from locally available resources will catalyze such rural industrialization but it is unavailable in Sierra Leone. This is why we must provide low-cost energy in remote areas with commercial potential.

Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?

We will provide electricity and process heat in rural areas of Sierra Leone wherever we identify and validate opportunities for productive uses and job-creation. We will utilize the 20 KW Power Pallet (All Power Labs of Berkeley, California, USA), fueled by a purpose-grown woody shrub, Calliandra calothryrsus. Our solution involves the establishment of an out-grower scheme with calliandra producers close to all our operating locations. A specific example is that of a import-substitution enterprise which produces sea salt in a remote corner of Sierra Leone. Our biomass power will reduce its electricity cost from $1.10/KWH (petrol based) to less than $0.20/KWH. Our solution, by providing cost-effective power, lowers the production cost, ensures continuing employment of local workers, and creates new earnings for producers in the fuel value chain. Surplus or off-peak power will charge batteries for electric vehicles, lower transportation costs, thus creating even more shared value.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work

Sea salt production is our first enterprise, located on what had been unused marshland. It has had quite an impact.
*Employed 23 workers at $7000 in wage payments each dry season, and $300 for land lease *Although paltry in dollar terms, payments make a big difference in their life of subsistence
* Cash earnings have enabled them to buy battery-operated lights and cellphones, and to transport surplus produce to the big market.
*With our generator on site, workers do not have to go miles away to charge their phones.
*Some workers now afford to grow higher-valued produce and earn additional income during the rainy season
*Our unique process has enabled higher-scale production and better quality salt to compete with imports.
* Unlike the artisanal salt-making process, we do not use wood fires. Hence, mangroves will not be destroyed anymore.
*Increasingly, artisans want to stop making their inferior product, avoid smoke exposure, and become distributors of our product instead

Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?

To date, all financial support has come from the six members of Salvest, LLC. In the next 1 to 2 years, our budget would come from: 75%, grants; 20%, earned from salt sales; 5%, surplus energy sales. Beyond year 3, our annual budget will be funded 100% from earnings. We will secure local anchor energy users such as telecom towers, water supply and waste management facilities, agro-based enterprises, light manufacturing, electric transportation systems and commercial centers, to assure stable demands, high system efficiency and financial viability of the micro-grids. We will design our micro-grids to support growth in base demands of productive community enterprises, electricity demands of the new wage earners at these enterprises, and cumulative demands from new enterprises.

Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?

Value Proposition: lower cost productive power and transportation for viable rural enterprises, jobs and enhanced social welfare.
Innovations:
- Purpose-grown calliandra fuel: fast-growing and excellent coppicing ability. The norm is reliance on waste biomass for fuel, the availability of which could be uncertain.
- Surplus and off-peak power for electric transportation lowers a major cost for rural residents and businesses. Transportation costs are not usually a target of rural energy scheme

Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.

In 2001, on a visit to Sierra Leene, my native country, I observed that all salt products were imported. We had access to the Atlantic Ocean, why can't we make our own salt. By then, I had been living in Newark, California, not far from the Morton salt works and rode my bicycle by the plant all the time. Aha!. We could do the same in Sierra Leone; just as Morton does, albeit at a smaller scale. Thus started our quest in rural Sierra Leone, only to realize that diesel power was not cost-competitive.

Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?

  • Participated in previous CSV Prize competitions

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Photo of Mouhamadou Moustapha

Really interesting. Good luck.

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