Kaloli Energy

Delivering Clean Cheap Charcoal to Uganda

Photo of Margaret Kristian
2 3

Written by

Eligibility: Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

January 22nd, 1996

Where are you located:

Country 1: Kampala, Uganda
Country 2: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, 55414

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

http://www.facebook.com/KaloliEnergy

Date Started

September 30th, 2016

Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

Kaloli started as a classroom project but grew into so much more. We learned that 40% of Uganda’s forests have been consumed, and agreed that we couldn’t wait to do something about the charcoal industry driving so much damage. Through interviews, Skype calls and research, we made connections in Uganda, and learned as much as we could from the US. Our team members travelled to Uganda for three months to meet the people using charcoal daily, and work with the innovators designing alternatives We grew to understand how a more sustainable fuel could work to preserve a beautiful, important natural resource while still supporting with cultural norms.

We started Kaloli Energy because we believe a more sustainable world is not only possible, but that now is the time to disrupt the dangerous charcoal industry before an invaluable resource is lost.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

In Uganda, 90% of people use charcoal to cook, contributing to the loss of 40% of native forest. As populations grow, it will only get worse. Ugandan entrepreneurs have invented cleaner, cheaper briquettes made from agricultural waste, but don’t have the capacity to distribute to household markets, one of the major sectors of charcoal use. Therefore, most households still use the expensive, dirty standard, and the need for charcoal remains high.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Kaloli kickstarts the transformation of the Ugandan fuel market with a self-sustaining business model of delivering waste-based briquettes at a lower price than traditional timber-based charcoal. We buy briquettes in bulk to store at a neighborhood hub, then our Ugandan team members promote the product at public events, conduct public demonstrations with briquettes, and deliver briquettes to customers’ homes. The convenience of home delivery is a key benefit of Kaloli’s model - families would otherwise walk to a marketplace daily or carry dozens of pounds of charcoal back to their homes. Kaloli has identified local brands which burn most similarly to charcoal, so customers can cook their usual meals.

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When a customer uses Kaloli Energy, they call or text our in-country team members to order briquettes to their home. Kaloli sends a delivery vehicle with the sustainable, clean briquettes in a clean, waterproof container to the customer’s location, and the customer pays with cash or mobile payment systems MobileMoney or Airtel Money. The delivery driver returns the previously-used container to Kaloli to be cleaned and reused.
We have attracted interest by hosting events where anyone can come see Kaloli briquettes being used to cook food, purchase briquettes, or learn more about how Kaloli reduces deforestation.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Our seven-month pilot identified local producers of higher quality briquettes that lit quickly, fit in commonly used stoves, and were hot enough to cook with effectively. We tested and rejected business models based on subscriptions and trash collection during our pilot, to instead focus on price point, home delivery, and convenient sizes to sell our product. Unlike charcoal, using Kaloli means you don’t have to get covered in charcoal dust or make a long trip to the market. Kaloli is so much cheaper, cleaner, and convenient that it becomes the obvious choice.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

We’ve laid groundwork in communities by making connections with local leaders and officials that will allow us to promote briquettes throughout the community. After raising over $7,500 by winning pitch competitions and fundraising from friends and family, we ran a test of our model for seven months to ensure its viability. . Over the course of this pilot, we distributed more than 2 tons of briquettes to 30 households, displacing timber-based charcoal that would have otherwise been harvested from forests. We’ve also networked with other young entrepreneurs in Kampala and employed three Ugandan team members at a living wage, plus many more short-term workers in country.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Kaloli is pursuing grant and angel funding to apply what we learned in our pilot to a new attempt co-led by our Ugandan teammates. The two key changes will be to invest in a marketing plan to reach a larger customer base and to offer a wider selection of briquette quantities to better meet customer needs. We will focus on traction in our current neighborhood, then scale to additional locations. Our long term vision is for everyone in Kampala to use sustainable briquettes rather than charcoal.In the future, we would also like to work with briquette producers to lower our environmental impact. This might look like bringing together producers to share best production practices or better sourcing methods for organic material.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

To bring sustainable briquettes to everyone in Kampala, Kaloli needs funding, and mentorship. We’ve run a minimum viable product of our model and validated that briquettes are a useful product to households, but now we need resources to invest in the marketing plan and product development which will allow us to scale to more locations in Kampala. Our next steps will require $25,000 to invest in delivery vehicles (boda-bodas), staff salaries, and a marketing campaign to introduce briquettes into more neighborhoods of Kampala. Mentors with social-venture experience would help us avoid pitfalls in international communication, marketing a commodity, and business structure.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

During our pilot, we partnered with start-up accelerator Finding XY to gain insights and connections in Kampala. We met entrepreneurs involved in businesses that work with biomass could become potential suppliers for raw organic material. We might also work with companies with the capacity to dry organic waste for our suppliers on a significant scale.To reduce the impact of charcoal on deforestation in Uganda, we could expand our marketing efforts to include outreach to local schools about the importance of forests and ecosystem services. We will also continue our involvement in the Kampala and Minneapolis startup communities, and will continue to work with other young innovators who want to make a difference by sharing ideas and insights in spaces like the Innovation Village. At the Changemakers conference, we would be happy to present our experiences to support teams at earlier stages in their design process. We are also eager to support fellow changemakers by workshopping ideas together and sharing resources and experience to improve each team’s likelihood of success.

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc) (8)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Megan Voorhees

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Photo of Brittany Corner
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Great Idea to fix an overlooked crisis

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