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A Light of Hope in Uganda

Posted 17 May 2023 by Fortunate Mugume.

The rising levels of poverty and unemployment in low developed countries has left the youth desperate, denying them a chance to attain quality education, ridding them a chance to access sources of capital to start businesses, and leaving masses of opportunities and potential untapped. In Uganda, the government has put a lot of emphasis on industrialization so that the people can get employed in factories and industries, but the employment rate remains drastically low because the youth lack basic skills, and basic education to enrich their mindset to be positive towards development.

In a move to empower the youth and vulnerable in Uganda, NGOs like Rape Hearts Foundation (RHF) with branches in Jinja and Kamuli districts has partnered with Solar Fire Concentration Ltd to skill these people most especially the women who have no sources of income, the school dropouts, rape victims, and girls forced into early marriages, to be empowered, stand up for themselves, and believe in themselves to do incredible things.

In January, 2023, Solar Fire Concentration limited sent another team of trainers on a two months mission to Kamuli district in Bukyerimba community which houses one of the branches of the Rape Hurts Foundation (RHF) on a mission to turn a pessimistic community of people without work, and some whose hope has been dimmed by acts of cultural norms, sexual and gender-based violence, unemployment, and poverty, to engage in a capacity building activity that would change their lives for the better.

Lytefire saves energy, reduces deforestation and air pollution, and it contributes to more gender equality and social justice.

The most amazing thing was that this was all to be done with the use of the Sun as an energy source, something that nature has offered to us for free. The trainees were taught to harness the power of the Lytefire 5 oven which does a great deal of work including baking a wide range of products such as buns, queen cakes, peanut butter cookies, bread, party cakes; equipped with a roaster for roasting ground nuts, and a also boiler that can be used for cooking and deep frying

One of the trainers Mr. Olowo Augustine testing the power of Lytefire 5.

The first weapon to equip with the trainees was the mind-set change knowledge. In a community where norms have shaped women to entirely depend on men for survival, or seek their approval to do almost anything relating to work and productivity, and where business is informally done with limited record keeping knowledge and chances of a business life-shelf not exceeding a year, the trainees had to learn that anything can be done if they put in an effort, learn that failure is a step towards progress and not a sign to give up, and get the knowledge that only them can shape their future if they believe in themselves, work towards their personal goals, and understand that they are the only person that can change their course of life.

Luckily for them, they had a mentor and figure to look up to, Mrs. Lunkuse Hellen, the iron lady that has steered the Rape Hurts Foundation to an immense life changing Organisation that it is. She is a perfect example of victory in the Bukyerimba community which she has transformed by empowering its people with business skills in crafts and bakery, put up community infrastructure in the form water access boreholes, solar powered streetlights to affirm security for the girls who walk at night and the entire community at large, and the Bukyerimba Vocational and skills center that trains the people in tailoring, carpentry, bakery, so that they can fend for themselves. Such a visionary figure in the community was one of the reasons why the trainees mostly female had irrefutable hope and passion for what they were doing because they believed that one day they can also stand out and do great things just like her.

Some of the participants trained by the Solar fire team pose with the RHF proprietor and figure Mrs. Hellen (in the middle)

The trainees were majority women (21) and 3 men, most of whom their everyday life before they came for training was about tendering to their homes as stay home wives to do house cleaning chores and cooking duties, taking care of their parents and guardians, subsistence farmers to produce food crops, and 95% consisted of the illiterate and school drop-outs. Such was the cycle of their life and when some of the young girls were asked what they hoped their future would be like, they answered that they hoped to find a man would marry and take care of them. Their future was short sighted and Solar Fire was about to open their eyes to look further than where a finish line of their dreams had been drawn, because dreams are infinite.

Mr Allen Odongo, experienced professional baker, likes to start a training day with a little group exercise and singing

The model of empowering these trainees was hinged on mind-set change, skill learning and sustainability, and the Solar Fire team did its duties diligently. On the skill learning part, trainees were trained to assemble the Lytefire 5 oven on their own, learn how it operates by collecting the sun’s rays using the mirrors and converging them all on a central focal point of the oven to generate enough heat to bake, roast, and cook. The baking lessons were carried out by a great professional Mr. Odongo Allen who was later added an assistant trainer Ms. Prudence Yoo Acel Ladegi to equip these trainees with the baking knowledge and skills.

Miss Prudence Ladegi happily presenting the solar breads of the day

The trainees were trained in baking products like bread, buns, queen cakes, party cakes, peanut butter cookies, and roasting ground nuts using the roaster equipment of the Lytefire 5 oven. By the end of the training, the trainees exceeded our expectations by producing astonishing quality products all on their own, sourced a wide market for their products, and did quite a good number of sales.

Yes, it’s possible to bake nice buns only with direct solar energy!

Attaining baking skills was just the tip of the ice-berg. Using these skills to enrich the trainees’ lives was as equally important and that’s how the business sustainability knowledge was introduced to them. Trainees had to learn basic business knowledge such as costing and pricing of the different bakery products, book keeping, marketing, so that they could extract a profit from the business activities and keep the business afloat as they looked towards future prospects of a legitimate big bakery enterprise. Lives were already starting to change but how well this would last was a string connected to how sustainable these skills and knowledge would be efficiently used. Trainees were taught how to keep track of their sales, identify their business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and learnt how they can convert those weaknesses into strengths, and eliminate the threats. The business had to be tended to because in the area of knowledge they understand, “as a farmer tends to his/her field, so is the product that his/her field yields.” This duty was executed by Mr. Olowo Augustine and Mr. Mugume Fortunate, and it was a difficult area to cover given its mathematical nature and the state of most participants lacking basic education, but by the end of the two months, the trainees were doing well in that field.

Mr. Olowo Augustine explains the functionality of the solar lite 5 oven to the community members of Bukyerimba on demonstration day.

In a community where a future was opaque, Solar Fire left a bright light that improved the people’s livelihoods and gave them hope to make their lives better through baking. In a community where the environment was misused by using energy sources like firewood that destructed forests, solar fire offered them the opportunity of clean energy by utilizing the sun’s heat energy. In a community where victims of Sexual and Gender based violence thought they had lost it all, Solar fire patterned with Rape Hurts Foundation to show the victims that the scars of their past did not limit their future. And in the world where everyone wants to be happy, Solar Fire left a big smile.

Figure 4: Some of the products that were being showcased on demonstration day


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