In order to bring additionality to renewable energy purchases and help realise SDG 7 (affordable, clean energy for all), the EKOenergy ecolabel raises funds for new renewable energy projects in developing countries (see more on our Climate Fund page). These projects are managed by experienced organisations and are implemented in cooperation with local NGOs. The selection happens every year through a transparent process.
In 2018, we started a cooperation with the Siemenpuu Foundation for the selection and long-term monitoring of projects in Mali, Myanmar and Nepal. The Siemenpuu Foundation has a lot of experience with financing grassroot organisations as well as with selecting and monitoring the financed projects. Through our cooperation, we want to combine the financial capacity of EKOenergy’s Climate Fund and Siemenpuu’s experience in development cooperation.
The Siemenpuu Foundation was founded more than 20 years ago by 15 Finnish NGOs and acts as a financier of democracy and environment-related initiatives of civil society actors in developing countries as well as a development cooperation organisation in Finland.
We asked the executive director of Siemenpuu Foundation, Hanna Matinpuro a few questions about the collaboration between EKOenergy and Siemenpuu.
What kind of cooperation do you have and how does it benefit both?
Our cooperation with EKOenergy started in 2017 and so far it has been fruitful and both parties have brought their own perspectives, thereby increasing the success of the cooperation.
This cooperation benefits both parties. Without EKOenergy’s Climate Fund we probably would not be able to do such hardware-intensive projects, i.e. projects with investments in renewable energy installations. In return, EKOenergy benefits from our long-standing experience in Mali and with our help the funds go directly to the local organizations, strengthening local empowerment and local capacity building.
Could you tell us a little more about your local partners and their role in the energy projects?
I myself am the contact person for Mali, so let me take our work in Mali as an example. Siemenpuu has been cooperating with Malinese grassroots organisations for almost 20 years. These contacts and networks are very important to introduce renewable energy too. Most of the renewable energy projects take place in remote, off-grid, rural areas. It would be impossible to deliver lasting results in these areas without the support of the local communities. Also, these projects should serve the wider community rather than individual families, (as has been the case in previous projects), and support the development of livelihoods. Examples of previous projects include meeting the energy needs of health clinics, women’s cooperatives and schools. Here, it is important to work with local organisations so that the project supports the interests of the local village as much as possible.
Can you give an example of some of the projects, and how have these affected peoples’ lives?
Two of the Malinese projects started in 2019. Of course, in those villages where the projects took place, the quality of life of the residents has directly improved. Electrification of health clinics is likely to bring reduced child mortality, since it improved the conditions of the clinics and access to vaccines. In one village, the project supported the installation of street lighting, which has increased the sense of security in the villages. Together with the street lighting, charging points have also been installed, allowing villagers to recharge their electronic devices without having to travel to another village. However, it is difficult to assess the actual results immediately after the end of the project, as it will only become clear later once the results have accumulated and revealed how sustainable the project has been. The success of the project after it has ended depends a lot on the functioning of the local government.
How is project follow-up guaranteed?
When it comes to the monitoring of the projects, there are several ways to ensure that they are progressing as planned. From every project at least one interim report and one final report is required according to the financial agreement. In addition to the reports there is also a lot of e-mail exchange between Siemenpuu Foundation and the project promoters in Mali to keep everyone informed at all times. Virtual communication has become increasingly important in the past months due to the pandemic and traveling restrictions. This year, Siemenpuu has also hired someone from a Malinese organisation to go to these villages and track the progress. We are also planning to hire someone to visit these projects, take pictures and work on good communication materials about the projects. Because, although the communication between Siemenpuu Foundation and these Malian organisations are great, the photos they send are often of poor quality and cannot be used for communication.
How can we make sure that the project can be replicated in other communities?
Replicating these projects in many other communities, especially in smaller villages, is difficult because the projects are quite expensive, especially taking into account the extreme poverty in the regions where we work. External funding is almost always necessary. This is something that Siemenpuu is trying to find solutions for with its partners, e.g. how to better support replicating energy security projects in smaller communities. Another thing Siemenpuu is doing is creating a Whatsapp group with the organisations in Mali for a wider exchange of information to document the development of the projects. This would ensure that the information from previous projects can also be used for future projects.
How do you see this cooperation evolving?
Our collaboration is quite new and so we have to think about how it could be even better. Of course, it is a long process and we hope that cooperation can be continued together with EKOenergy and develop further.
We have some initial ideas, along with our co-funded project partners, on how to more strategically target both EKOenergy’s funding and ours. We want to ensure support for the civil society, as well as a wider dissemination of the projects‘ results.
We thank Hanna Matinpuro for answering our questions, and Siemenpuu for our fruitful cooperation.
You can see the leaflet Solar energy for Malinese Villages to learn more about two of the projects financed in cooperation with the Siemenpuu Foundation in Mali. To stay updated about our work and the other projects we’ve financed, subscribe to EKOenergy newsletter and follow us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr, and Xing.
Published on 9 December 2020.