With 2017 as the year BioLite emerged into a full energy ecosystem in Kenya, we wanted to shine a light – literally and figuratively – on a key partner who helped us make this a reality: One Acre Fund.
Since 2006, One Acre Fund has worked to make Kenyan smallholder farmers more prosperous. They provide everything rural farmers need for bigger harvests: access to quality seeds and fertilizer on credit, and the training to improve crop yields and sell any surplus. With a team of more than 2,900 and a network of more than 335,000 farmers in Kenya, One Acre Fund has developed an in-depth understanding into the needs of rural Kenyan households and the complex challenge energy access plays in both livelihood and daily life. In 2015, BioLite and One Acre Fund launched a partnership to co-develop a solar-based home lighting system that would cater to the specific needs of a rural, smallholder farmer. This was the spark for BioLite SolarHome 620.
Through firsthand customer feedback, small-scale prototyping, and rapid testing, BioLite undertook five phases of product development and refinement to land on a final design that met performance and durability requirements aligned with customers’ real-life needs. One Acre Fund worked closely with the BioLite team on distribution for beta and pilot testing, collecting data and insights on usage and quality control, and developing financing opportunities to help make ownership of SolarHome620 a reality. It is through this work that key features like the motion sensor and FM radio were incorporated as well as smaller but equally important details such as the cord length for each hanging light.
A product is only good if people use it – and One Acre Fund provides the access and training needed to help potential customers afford and adopt these new technologies into their lives; in July 2016 One Acre Fund served as BioLite’s launch partner on SolarHome 620, selling the first 5,000 units through their network and pairing it with invaluable orientation sessions that helped farmers navigate operation and installation of their new units. With the success and positive response received, One Acre Fund will go on to distribute an additional 30,000 systems in the first quarter of 2018 alone.
We are grateful to One Acre Fund for their continued partnership, their commitment to tackling complex problems, and for helping us scale our ecosystem and fulfill our promise of energy everywhere.