Heading out on the rough roads leading to Hta Nuang Kahn village, the electric power facilities become increasingly scarce, before they finally disappear altogether. We are in the Dry Zone, one of the poorest regions in the country, and home to 18% of the population. The residents here do not have access to reliable and quality electricity.
Most households use wood for cooking on traditional stoves, which put forest resources under a lot of strain: the deforestation rate stands at 2% a year nationwide.
Locals – mostly women – spend 200 hours a year on average collecting wood, and are at risk of contracting respiratory diseases from being exposed to toxic fumes.
Geres, with support from Agence Française de Développement (AFD), is addressing this issue by promoting the use of distributors of “last kilometer” Sustainable Energy Solutions (SES), which are the missing links to reach the most remote villages. Eight women have been trained in business to sell several types of SES: solar solutions, such as solar lamps or kits, as well as an improved wood cook-stove.
In Myanmar, 50.5% of women work, as compared to 85.2% of men. According to a study by the International Labour Organization on women’s entrepreneurship in Myanmar (2014), they face a number of obstacles to set up their own business: less access to credit, information and education, as well as the burden of chores and domestic responsibilities.
These are barriers that the project aims to remove by offering tools to participants – selected for their motivation and commitment – to help them start their work. In addition to training, they benefit from capital to facilitate the investment. Geres then provides them with products which they pay for as their sales progress and they begin to earn an income.
Being an entrepreneur makes Myint Myint Maw proud: “I’m really happy to have been able to start this activity, support myself and be independent!”