United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

From Mobile Solar Computer Classrooms to Novel Baobab Products: Green Entrepreneurship is Thriving Across Africa and Beyond

2014 SEED Awards Honour Low Carbon and Women-Led Enterprises.

Nairobi -- Nairobi plays host to one of the largest gatherings of start-up social and environmental enterprises ever, as 41 green entrepreneurs are celebrated at the 2014 SEED Awards Africa Symposium, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

The SEED Awards identify and support innovative social and environmental start-up enterprises which can tackle key sustainable development challenges at community level, in developing and emerging economies. As in previous years, the 2014 SEED Awards have a special focus on Africa, with 28 Awards made to enterprises in Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. A further ten SEED Low Carbon Awards go to climate-smart enterprises across the globe that contribute towards grassroots climate change mitigation and/or adaption. Special recognition is also given to three women-led enterprises that promote gender equality and women's empowerment as their core objectives.

Every SEED Award Winner will receive a financial contribution, technical assistance, access to different supporting institutions, and tailor-made support to develop their business and skills.

From an enterprise that produces premium outdoor furniture out of recycled plastic and organic waste materials in Colombia, to a women's farming cooperative that improves food security in Nepal, to enterprises that market solar electricity kiosks in rural off grid areas of Malawi and promote bikes as subsidised moving billboards for the rural poor in Mozambique - this year's SEED Winners again demonstrate that innovation, working in partnerships, and a dedicated focus on sustainability contribute significantly towards building a world of flourishing communities in which eco-entrepreneurship drives sustainable development.

The 2014 call for applications saw contributions from 84 countries, representing the collaborative efforts of partnerships between enterprises, non-governmental organizations, women's and youth groups, labour organizations, public authorities, international agencies, and academia. Most of the applications were in the agricultural and rural development sectors; others were in energy and climate change, and ecosystem management. Many entries at the same time addressed IT applications, and education and training.

All the 2014 SEED winners were honoured at a high-level International Awards Ceremony at The Nairobi Safari-Park Hotel in Kenya. The Award winners will receive from SEED a package of individually tailored support for their businesses, technical assistance, access to other supporting institutions, and a financial contribution of US$5,000.

The winners were selected by the independent SEED International Jury of experts (details below).

The International Awards Ceremony was a highlight of the SEED Africa Symposium, which brought together over 250 entrepreneurs and business people, policymakers, and representatives from civil society and support institutions from across Africa around the theme 'Making growth sustainable: co-creating solutions through social and green entrepreneurship.'

Representatives of the SEED Partners said about the SEED Winners:

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General, UNEP Executive Director: 'The SEED Winners are visionaries who are spearheading the green economy among diverse communities and across a wide range of sectors. We are especially proud of the SEED's acknowledgement of women-led green enterprises having introduced the Gender Equality component since 2011.'

'We salute the vision, innovation and resilience of these trailblazers as they lead the way towards a greener and more sustainable future,' he said.

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator: 'The 2014 SEED Winners, have followed enlightened social and environmental pathways in their entrepreneurial activities. They offer good examples of how local entrepreneurs can contribute to successful and sustainable development.'

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General IUCN: 'With the environment at their heart, these innovative enterprises create economic opportunities for communities that are often located close to natural resources, but are nonetheless deprived of sustainable livelihoods and social facilities. Speaking as Chairman of the SEED Board, we are impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit and the commitment these new SEED Winners bring to their communities. They can count on our support to help them to scale up and replicate, and so to inspire others to follow suit.'

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director UN Women: 'Women's economic empowerment is central to achieving gender equality. It's more than a matter of basic fairness: it's an established positive cycle. With a livelihood and an income of their own, women have increased status, can provide for their families, and become empowered in other parts of their lives as well, such as making decisions about education, housing, food choices, and medical care. We are pleased to be working with SEED and supporting the SEED Gender Equality Awards for the outstanding women-led social and environmental enterprises that are leading the way.'

Li Yong, Director General UNIDO: 'Economic growth, environmental sustainability and the alleviation of poverty cannot take place without women. Women's empowerment is crucial for inclusive and sustainable industrial development and UNIDO is committed to promote gender equality in its work. This year's SEED Gender Equality Award Winners are best case examples of how women-led enterprises can be leading the way towards a green industry growth path and we are eager to see their businesses flourish in the months and years ahead.'

The 2014 SEED Gender Equality Award winners (by country) are:


  • 'JITA Social Business' is an innovative rural distribution network, providing jobs and a regular income for women from low socio-economic communities across Bangladesh. Called Aparajitas - meaning 'women who never accept defeat' - the women earn commissions selling a range of products from solar lamps to food and sanitary items on a door-to-door basis.


  • 'Women's Off-season Vegetable Production Group' is a women-led initiative growing and marketing organic vegetables in a climate where weather usually limits year-round production. The enterprise deploys agricultural techniques, notably poly-tunnels and greenhouses, to help improve food security and nutrition while empowering marginalised women through job creation.


  • 'Precious Life Foundation's Outgrower Project' teaches bio-intensive, organic agricultural techniques to vulnerable women living at its shelter who then pass on their knowledge to the community. The enterprise empowers these women as teachers while working towards improved food security in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland South Region. Women farmers who benefit from the training donate labour or produce back as a form of payment for service.

The 2014 SEED Gender Equality Awards are largely supported by UN Women, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) which promotes inclusive and sustainable industrial development. Additional support is given by the international law firm, Hogan Lovells.

The 2014 SEED Low Carbon Award winners (by country) are:


  • 'Diseclar: Ecological design and production' makes furniture, decks and pergolas from recycled plastic and agro-industrial waste, including sugar cane pulp, coffee and rice chaff, based on a method developed by the enterprise itself. Diseclar is working in co-operation with a university and a local government agency.
  • 'Fundación Huellas Verdes' helps to protect communities at risk of landslides by planting tiva, at the same time as providing a carbon offset mechanism for enterprises and institutions. The grass, also known as vetiver, has great potential to store carbon in its roots and prevents erosion when planted on slopes at risk of landslides. Working closely with the affected communities the enterprise ensures maximum benefits for them.
  • 'Proplanet' transforms materials that are hard to recycle, such as long-life Tetra Paks, into food packaging, construction materials and paper fibre. It is the first enterprise in Colombia recycling Tetra Paks. Through intensive research on how to improve its recycling processes, Proplanet managed to increase the spectrum of recycled materials and expand its product range, considerably reducing the pressure on landfills in Colombia.


  • 'Frontier Markets' provides rural low-income families with affordable solar energy lanterns, torches, and home-lighting systems using a hub-and-spoke distribution model. The specific needs of rural low-income families are integrated into the business model through after-sales services and regular product use needs assessments. Using solar energy products allows customers to reduce their energy expenses and to reduce the use of traditional polluting fuel sources such as kerosene.
  • 'Last Forest Enterprises' is a marketing platform promoting fair trade principles, sustainable harvesting and biodiversity in India. The enterprise markets and sells 68 kinds of organic, forest-based or indigenous products such as handicrafts, garments, honey and timber products. Founded by a non-profit organization (NGO), the platform sells the sourced and branded products at its own retail sites or on e-commerce portals.
  • 'Switch ON: ONergy' overcomes the obstacle of last-mile distribution of solar-energy products by providing solutions such as solar micro-grids and lanterns to rural communities, using a full-service distribution infrastructure, based at Renewable Energy Centres. By partnering with national banks, microfinance institutions and credit co-operatives, the enterprise ensures off grid village households can sustainably finance the products.


  • 'L's Solution' promotes and sells solar powered lamps, chargers and cookstoves at village trade fairs and installs larger-scale devices such as solar water pumps and solar PV panels. By focusing on promotional activities the enterprise generates income and entrepreneurial opportunities for vendors, marketers and distributors, especially women. The products themselves reduce fuel consumption by 60 per cent, reducing deforestation and reducing health risks from indoor air pollution.


  • 'Green Bio Energy' is an enterprise distributing its own brand of Briketti charcoal briquettes, solar lamps and EcoStove outdoor cookstoves to low-income families in Uganda through its network of trained micro-entrepreneurs. Its long-burning briquettes are made of 100 per cent recycled agricultural waste and its cookstoves have very low carbon emission rates. The enterprise regularly implements capacity-building workshops for its network of micro-entrepreneurs, thus enabling them to generate higher incomes for their families.
  • 'Green Heat' is an enterprise installing and marketing biogas digesters that convert decaying organic material from latrines and agricultural waste into biogas fuel for cooking and heating. By using biogas digesters, urban and rural households, schools, prisons, hospitals and tourist lodges in Uganda reduce their dependence on firewood and charcoal, improve their waste management systems, and help reduce deforestation and greenhouse gas emission rates related to methane release.


  • 'The Elegance Company' showcases agricultural products and livestock, renewable energy technologies, and organic farming techniques through its zero-waste, multi-culture, multi-crop and closed loop system implemented on its model farm. Partnering with NGOs and research institutions the enterprise provides consultancy services for product incubation, sustainable farm design, and development of new technologies.

The 2014 SEED Low Carbon Awards are largely supported by the International Climate Initiative of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

The 2014 SEED Africa Award winners (by country) are:


  • 'Asrat & Helawi Engineering Partnership' manufactures and sells clean cookstoves for private and institutional customers. Heated with electricity, biogas, or ethanol the stoves considerably reduce both fuel costs and health risks related to indoor air pollution. Local communities help produce the stoves while additional indirect jobs are created through a retail network.


  • 'Arusha Women Entrepreneurs' is an enterprise training and employing women in the production and marketing of aflatoxin-free peanut butter. Smallholder farmers supply the peanuts which are processed into peanut butter and sold in bulk to a large wholesaler as well as to supermarkets and kiosks, and through door-to-door sales. Gender quotas ensure women are able to hold leadership positions in the enterprise.
  • 'Mesula - Meru Sustainable Land' supports bio-intensive farming by providing Arusha smallholder farmers with technical advice on how to convert to organic farming. Smallholder farmers see increased crop yields and higher incomes. Mesula buys their organic produce and sells it, together with conserves made by a group of local women, at a farmer's market and a local supermarket.
  • 'Village Inc. Africa' supports the creation of village companies in the Babati area of Tanzania. Communities structure their village like a business, thus giving them access to low interest loans to fund enterprises and projects. Profits are used to fund urgent social projects, such as sanitation. Villagers become shareholders once a village company meets a series of good governance and fiscal targets.


  • 'Appropriate Energy Saving Technologies' works closely with local farmers in Uganda's Teso District to provide households in the district with clean, sustainable cooking fuel. The farmers provide the enterprise with bio-waste which is used to manufacture the biomass briquettes. The enterprise then sells and distributes biomass charcoal briquettes and fuel-efficient cookstoves to local community groups.
  • 'Bringing gas nearer to people' has developed a strategy to reach underserved rural and peri-urban communities in the central region of Uganda with Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) as an alternative clean energy solution for cooking purposes. The enterprise is trialling a door-to-door gas delivery service and alternative payment schemes tailored to the needs of rural low income communities, such as pioneering pay-as-you-go LPG community kitchens.
  • 'Budongo Women Bee Enterprise' is a co-operative beekeeping enterprise producing honey and beeswax products. In mobilising women in the Masindi region to become beekeepers, the enterprise uses the honey business as a vehicle for community development, including promotion of sustainable land-use and climate change adaptation.
  • 'Girls Agro Investment', implemented by KadAfrica, trains young rural women to manage and run smallholder agricultural businesses in passion fruit farming. The girls are given rent-free land and training for two and a half years, during which KadAfrica buys back their produce. Empowering the girls to continue farming at the end of their internship, the enterprise offers an economic alternative to rural exodus in western Uganda.
  • 'Kataara Women's Poverty Alleviation Group' runs an innovative small-scale enterprise selling handicrafts made with paper produced from elephant dung. The paper is used to make cards, menus, and notebooks that are sold to tourists. Women employed by the enterprise are also trained to construct energy-efficient cookstoves which are marketed locally. The group aims to not only alleviate regional poverty but also to conserve its environment for future generations.
  • 'KingFire Briquettes' is an urban recycling enterprise in Kampala which uses organic material, otherwise considered waste, to create biomass briquettes. Sourced from local materials, the briquettes offer an alternative energy source to firewood or charcoal and provide quality, affordable, sustainable fuel for heating and cooking.
  • 'Southwestern Women Bean Growers Union' works to rally together the existing smallholder sugar bean farming community in south western Uganda. Women can join the enterprise's collective where they are trained in how to increase production and sales and receive social support and wide market access. Through multiple partnerships, the enterprise also works to protect the local environment, replanting trees that have been cut to stake the beans.
  • 'The Mobile Solar Computer Classroom' is helping bridge the digital divide in Uganda by making computer skills accessible, affordable, and relevant to rural schools and community libraries in Uganda. The enterprise uses solar powered computers - housed in modified SUV vehicles fitted with solar panels - to bring its technology to its trainees. A digital literacy curriculum is delivered to each participating venue over the course of two years.
  • 'The Sustainable Mushroom Farming Initiative' is a community enterprise which farms and sells organic oyster mushrooms in the Kanungu District of Uganda. Providing alternative livelihoods for disadvantaged women and indigenous Batwa people living adjacent to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the enterprise reduces pressure on the gorilla habitat, as fewer community members engage in illegal foraging for food in the National Park.


  • 'Electricity4All' sells and rents solar battery kits and accessories at solar electricity kiosks in rural off grid areas. Each kiosk serves up to 500 customers who can use mobile phones to process payments. By collaborating with international foundations and multinationals, the enterprise helps rural entrepreneurs power their private businesses, reduces energy expenditures, contributes to forest protection, and eliminates the use of toxic batteries.
  • 'Honey Products Industries' creates an agribusiness value-chain out of high-quality honey. By training young adults to operate business outlets via a franchise model and providing beekeeping equipment to smallholder farmers, the enterprise increases income generation and improves market access for rural communities in Malawi.
  • 'Kumudzi Kuwale' provides renewable energy solutions to off grid communities by selling cookstoves, lamps and lanterns, by supplying electricity at village charging stations, and by installing larger-scale solar energy projects. The enterprise thus contributes to forest protection and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 'Powered by Nature' has developed a clean-energy value chain providing quality-proven and affordable clean energy devices to rural households in Malawi. By partnering with community stakeholders the enterprise educates the general public about clean technologies and trains women to construct cookstoves and make biomass briquettes, so becoming clean energy entrepreneurs themselves.


  • 'Recycling for Environmental Recovery' recycles plastic waste to produce secondary raw materials that are used in the lucrative plastics industry. Women waste workers are trained about the health and safety hazards and encouraged to join a co-operative to help regulate waste collection.


  • 'Baobab Products Mozambique' provides hundreds of women harvesters with a new source of seasonal income from the processing of fruits of the baobab tree. Harvesters are trained in processing techniques and are paid to supply seeds and pulp used to make baobab powder and other products for both national and international markets.
  • 'Mozambikes' engages in breaking the poverty cycle in Mozambique by selling locally-built custom-designed bikes at low prices. The enterprise enlists the private and public sectors to buy and distribute branded bikes in remote communities for various marketing and employee initiatives. The bikes then act as 'moving billboards', while women are trained how to ride and maintain the bikes.
  • 'Piratas do Pau Upcycling Centre' employs and trains underprivileged youth in the design and production of modern furniture and other household products made from 90 per cent reclaimed materials. The enterprise reduces waste and teaches Mozambicans about the benefits of up-cycling.
  • 'Pro-Sofala Verde' uses bees and a reforestation project to show a rural Mozambican community how sustainable living can lead to social, economic and environmental benefits. Families are given beehives and trained in good beekeeping and harvesting techniques. The high-grade honey is sold back to the enterprise, which processes and distributes it in small and affordable portions.

The 2014 SEED Africa Awards in Ethiopia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda are largely supported by the European Union and the Government of Flanders. The European Union is made up of 28 Member States who have decided to gradually link together their know-how, resources and destinies. It is committed to sharing its achievements and its values with countries and peoples beyond its borders. The Government of Flanders is active in Southern Africa.

The 2014 SEED South Africa Award winners are:

  • 'All Women Recycling' turns discarded plastic bottles into unique gift boxes, called kliketyklikboxes, which are sold internationally. In the production of the gift boxes the enterprise employs young women, primarily previously unemployed single mothers. All Women Recycling also contributes to cleaner townships by strengthening environmental awareness, particularly in schools which, as a result, set up collection points for plastic bottles.
  • 'Growing the Future' promotes nutritious and organic food production and improves household food security by providing a three-step gardening programme for unemployed people. After receiving an innovative wicking-bed gardening starting kit, households complete a gardening training course and can acquire land for smallholder farms.
  • 'Khoelife Organic Soap and Oils Co-operative' is a women's co-operative, marketing organic soaps and oils. Through training and a micro-loan scheme its members are enabled to become independent entrepreneurs. Khoelife Manufacturing, the supplier of the organic soaps and oils, uses traditional labour-intensive methods, certified organic ingredients, and renewable energy in its production processes.
  • 'Waste to Food' recycles food waste from retailers and processes it into pre-compost using industrial technology, which is then converted into high-quality compost with an earthworm vermicomposting system operated under a franchise model. By offering an alternative to landfill disposal, Waste to Food decreases carbon emissions, strengthens soil structure, reduces chemical fertiliser input, and increases income generation for local communities.

These 2014 SEED South Africa Awards are largely supported by the European Union, which is made up of 28 Member States who have decided to gradually link together their know-how, resources and destinies. The European Union is committed to sharing its achievements and its values with countries and peoples beyond its borders. Additional support comes from Hisense.

  • 'Botanica Natural Products' has developed a method of extracting beneficial substances from Bulbine frutescens, a traditional medicinal plant, for the cosmetic industry. The plant is cultivated and processed organically in its indigenous location in rural Limpopo, and its commercial use provides employment opportunities in the marginalised area. The local community further benefits through an Access and Benefit Sharing agreement.
  • 'greenABLE' has found an innovative solution for recycling empty printer cartridges. The recycled plastic and metals are sold, generating a steady flow of income and employment opportunities for previously unemployed persons with disabilities. Jobs are being created in the enterprise's recycling facility, or as greenAGENTS who run their own home-based cartridge collection business and sell the collected cartridges back to the enterprise.

These 2014 SEED South Africa Awards Awards are supported by the Government of Flanders, which is active in Southern Africa.

Further details about the SEED Winners 2014 can be found on the website of the SEED Initiative at http://www.seedinit.org/awards/all/2014.html.

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