Two students from the Netherlands have changed the lives of millions in East-Africa. Probably they didn’t only change the lives of the million Africans but also for the rest of the world by saving the planet.
A couple of years ago I worked for SimGas a company started by those two students, Mirik and Sanne. During their study, Mirik and Sanne discovered a way to great an affordable bio-gas system that can be used for low and middle income families for African people.
People in East-Africa have mainly the following two problems, and bio-gas system could potentially solve these problems:
1) They don’t have enough income to take care of their family.
2) They use charcoal for cooking, which is bad for their health (number 1 death cause in Africa) and also bad for the environment because there are more trees chopped than plant.
To solve this problem Mirik and Sanne started to build a production plant in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to solve this problem. The way they were able to produce bio-gas systems for East-Africans would save their life, safe them a lot of money and give them other benefits as well.
Basically there are two versions. One is the rural version and the other one is the urban version. With the urban version people will put their food waste into the bio-gas system and then the system will produce electricity, manure and gas to cook on.
The rural version works the same however instead of food waste you will put cow manure into the system. This is also more efficient and in the end 4 families can use one rural version for their cooking and electricity supply.
The system is a success. When I worked for SimGas we won the Siemens Stiftung Award, and got recognition from Siemens of the success of the system.
Since I am gone the company expanded not only in Tanzania, but also moved out to Uganda, Malawi, Zanzibar and Madagascar. More and more people are buying the system because in the end this is way more beneficial for them than cooking on charcoal.
How did they do it
Sanne and Mirik are social entrepreneurs. They believe in this type of business model and they proved it can work.
Basically what this means is that the business is profitable for the people, for the planet and also brings profit. Normal businesses are normally only profitable on two points and will damage one of the other three.
SimGas is bringing benefit to the people by bringing them a healthy cooking solution, saving them money, they can use the output of the bio-gas installation as manure for their harvest and creating jobs for them. The planet will be saved because less charcoal is used and less trees need to be chopped for that and besides that the product will be sold with profit. This can be used to put back into the company.
Why is it profitable?
You may wonder why a bio-gas installation can be profitable in East-Africa. Sanne and Mirik invented an innovative way to mass-produce a modular bio-gas system. Previous bio-gas installations where hand made and it took weeks to install them on a location.
With this system you can install a couple of systems per day. The building materials are cheaper as well, this all together lowers down the cost-price significantly.
They also use the CO2 emission market. Basically the company is reducing the CO2 emissions and they can sell this on the market to company who are overproducing those emissions.
The future of this system
Sky is the limit. When I worked for the company we set-up research plants, so that they could figure out what the best way is to take care of the system.
You have to see a bio-gas installation as a pet, you need to take care of it. If you don’t give it the right diet it will die. This is also the reason why the customer will also receive a lot of customer support after they bought the system.
When we left they were searching for new market opportunities. They were looking at India as well. Bio-gas installations need a certain climate to operate well, so you can’t expand easily to every country. However there is a lot of potency this modular mass-producible affordable bio-gas system.
Two students from the Netherlands found an innovative way to produce bio-gas systems. They started a social business and changed life of millions of this in East-Africa. As long as you be creative also you are able to change the life of millions in needs. It only needs a brilliant idea and people who want to make this idea possible!