The journey continues with Plan International’s Smart Up Factory as the team visits Alebtong, the most rural area the trainers have visited so far! In the Northern region of Uganda, a 40 minute drive west from Lira District. The surroundings of Alebtong are vast with long stretches of beautiful green land, dusty terrains and livestock farming.
The climate in Alebtong has very hot dry summers with mother Earth providing the harmony and balance of the wet rainy seasons providing a green abundance of agricultural farming.
The purpose of this project is to provide underprivileged women and youth in this very rural area in Uganda solar baking and entrepreneurship training in order for the Alebtong hub to have a running bakery to offer delicious baked bread and other solar baked goods to their local community! The Alebtong Smart Up hub location is a 15 minute boda ride from the very small town but in the close surrounding areas there is a school, the Town Council Headquarters and a police station! All of which have been very supportive during the first few weeks, visiting the hub, discovering the power of the LyteFire solar oven and buying baked goodies from the bakery!
As one of the smallest hubs the team has visited, the hub and Alebtong town embodies a spirit of a very supportive and communal family. The Smart Up students worked together in teams, advancing their many skills in different areas, always eager and yearning to learn more! The mission for this training is to deliver a unique type of education that hasn’t been provided before in Alebtong to allow the participants to gain a diverse set of training skills and knowledge other than hairdressing and tailoring which are very competitive businesses within Uganda.
We hope with this training that we provide this hub the opportunity to be an independent and running solar bakery in Alebtong as it is a district like Nebbi but on an even smaller scale! They do not have a bakery in this area so one problem we wish to help solve is creating an income for youths that suffer to find employment especially in such rural areas like Alebtong. Their bakery business will also support the local community with delicious freshly baked bread which is a cheaper alternative for Alebtong shopkeepers that will no longer need to pay for the transportation of food products from towns or cities further afield. We hope for them to build an active and loyal relationship with customers to form a trustworthy reputation within the Alebtong community where the Smart Up students can provide locals with delicious goodies baked locally with the power of the sun!
One Lytefire unit has been provided at the Alebtong hub alongside a 3-week intensive training course in entrepreneurship, technical and baking skills tailored to using a solar thermal concentration oven. Week 1 consisted of how the Lytefire technology works from a technical perspective with the combined education of solar science which introduced many participants to the effects of climate change and global warming. The majority of students were completely unaware of the damage caused to the Planet before we arrived and how climate change is affecting countries like Africa the most with drastic disasters such as flash floods and droughts.
A shocking fact is that approximately 8.2% of infant deaths in Uganda are primarily linked to indoor air pollution from unsuitable cooking spaces using charcoal and firewood. 4 million people, mainly Females and children die each year from household pollution from using unsustainable fuel sources with many other people here developing respiratory problems.
As the majority of the participants were under 24, most with families at such a young age and many of the women that attended the training had children, they were appalled at these statistics. This is where we introduced the benefits of the Lytefire technology, not only improving health but how it helps preserve the environment.
As a small rural area we came across challenges regarding marketing as the students and training team had a discussion on what methods were best to market their bakery during the entrepreneurship training. Collectively, the students decided offline marketing was to be their most favorable strategy as ‘word of mouth’ recommendations spread widely and they could promote their solar bakery with business cards, posters and a Sun Light Solar Bakery logo! Many students and locals in the area do not have smartphones, so they would use SMS and calls to speak with their customers if they had any promotional offers on!
As the students all live locally they knew the market and ‘competition’ in the area so explained to us what baked goodies they believe they could offer their customer and what would sell well. So during week 2 the first few days the students focused on mastering bread loaves and bread bun recipes. They explained many locals didn’t have access to freshly baked bread and only had bread that contained many preservatives in them that were transported from Alio, Lira or even Kampala.
The days following Hasheem, our baker trainer taught the students how to bake cupcakes, G-nut cookies, ginger cookies, sponge cakes, cinnamon buns and solar baked mandazi! The solar baked mandazi sold out due to members of the town council headquarters who made an order of 76 mandazi for their meeting the following day! Once they had one bite they could not resist the taste of freshly solar baked mandazi!
During week 2 and over the weekend mentors and mentees showed up to bake on Saturday at the hub as they had to prepare some more pre-ordered baked goods for solar baked mandazi!
The hub were selling baked treats like hot cakes! Sales made so far from the first 2 weeks and over the weekend were already over 224,000UGX (56EUROS)!
This meant Week 3 was all hands-on deck: Ready steady bake, bake, BAKE! During the last week, Hasheem, our baker trainer, dedicated one afternoon to teach the very excited participants the eagerly anticipated cake decorating class! This included how to frost a cake by making icing bags from baking paper and using specific nozzles to create beautiful decorations on a party cake! As many locals were head over heels in love with the solar baked mandazi, the students had to primarily focus on baking these as the local community enjoyed how fresh and readily available these goodies were!
The Smart Up hub had the Lytefire 5 combined roaster and oven installed so the trainers demonstrated to the participants the G-nut Roasting process. With the sun smiling down in Alebtong the students roasted 10kg of raw groundnuts in the solar roaster for a total of 3 hours. This saved roughly a total of 2kg of charcoal that would usually be used burnt for roasting the ground nuts in a pan.
The process included the rinsing and washing of the ground nuts, then adding 200g of salt with water. This mixture was then placed into the solar roaster and the outcome was super delicious! If you would like to see this process you can check out our video reel on our Instagram page!
For the last week of training the students were preparing for their Solar Demo Day where they would showcase their solar baked goods and present a demonstration of how the Lytefire solar oven worked for guests that were attending. We had family members of the participants attend, amongst special guests Pastor Caro and 2 journalists covering the demonstration day from a radio station in Lira. The sales made on that day were just over 100,000ugx (25 Euros) from the wonderful support of the local community, family and friends that attended the special day. It was a truly wonderful celebration to end the training as every single participant were very hard working and excited about the beginning of their journey with their new solar bakery!