Magdalene’s story: Clean energy business helping women to diversify income in Yola

Magdalene Joseph in the kiosk where she sells solar products.
Magdalene Joseph in the kiosk where she sells solar products.

Bridging the Energy Gap

Magdalene Joseph is a solar product entrepreneur in Saminaka, Yola, Adamawa State. Before her engagement with the USAID funded Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity, the mother of two would hawk Kunu, a locally made drink popular in northern Nigeria to garages, workshops and motor parks in order to support her family. Her search for opportunities to increase her income paid off when she met Ms Charity, the Solar Sisters’ Agent Supervisor in Adamawa State.

Solar Sister is a social enterprise seeking to eradicate energy poverty by empowering women with economic opportunity. The organization is working with the Rural Resilience Activity to improve the livelihoods of 300 vulnerable women initially across Adamawa and Gombe states. Through the Rural Resilience Activity’s Enterprise Investment Fund (EIF), the Activity facilitated the smooth entry of Solar Sisters into the Northeast market by incentivizing and de-risking its model, and ensuring that women in Adamawa and Gombe states have access to clean energy and are earning income through the Direct Sales Agent (DSA) approach. Magdalene is one of the DSAs who market solar products to the last mile communities in Adamawa State. She was motivated by the fact that she had used solar products in the past.

Like in most Northeast states, many peri-urban and rural communities, particularly those affected by the insurgency, do not have access to constant electricity, making it difficult to charge their phones and resulting in high costs of generating energy, often from unclean energy sources such as firewood.

Magdalene joseph with her solar product kit.
Magdalene Joseph with her solar product kit.

“When she (Ms Charity) said Mercy Corps wants to empower women, she said we would come with our capital. So we came with N10,000 and they gave us products worth N27,000.

“I moved straight to the market and sold everything for N39,000, then I went back to buy N20,000 worth of products and I added N19,000 out of the balance to my business. Before the end of the week, I sold everything.”

Magdalene diversifies her income

From the profit made from selling the solar products, Magdalene built a Kiosk and added other household products such as detergent to her offerings. She makes approximately N19,000 weekly from the sales of solar products compared to about N6,000 in weekly income from her Kunu business.

“My business is growing, because then, I was not selling biscuits and Omo (detergent). It was only the drinks. I also didn’t have a kiosk; I used to carry the drinks on my head to the garage and sell Kunu. Now I stay here, and they come to meet me in my shop. So with the help of Solar Sisters I have established myself.”

Solar sisters dsas sisterhood meeting.
Solar Sisters DSAs sisterhood meeting.
Kiosk built by magdalene joseph with the profit from the sales of solar products.
Kiosk built by Magdalene Joseph with the profit from the sales of solar products.

Being a DSA helped Magdalene to increase and diversify her sources of income. She can now support her family without much pressure on her business. Magdalene is also grateful to the USAID funded Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity, Solar Sisters and Mercy Corps for helping her to discover her marketing skills.

“Now when I sell the solar products, the Kunu and the Omo, my income has tripled.”

About the Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity

The Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity is a five-year, US$45 million program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to facilitate economic recovery and growth in vulnerable, conflict-affected areas by promoting systemic change in market systems. The Activity is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative. It is aimed at empowering vulnerable households, communities and systems to cope with current shocks and stresses, and to be prepared to withstand future ones.

The Activity is implemented by Mercy Corps, in partnership with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and Save the Children (SCI), primarily in the Northeast states of Adamawa, Borno, Gombe, and Yobe. Through the COVID-19 Mitigation Response Program, the Activity's operational areas also include Benue, Kebbi, Niger and Ebonyi states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory. Using market-led approaches, the Activity will move over 567,780 individuals out of chronic vulnerability and poverty.

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