Girls turn waste into energy and learn about technology
Only 60% of people have access to electricity in Cameroon, and this falls to less than 20% in rural areas. Access to clean cooking fuels and technologies is also limited, meaning firewood remains the primary source of energy for most households, despite being expensive and damaging to health and the local environment. Lack of access to reliable, clean energy is also a significant barrier to development and gender equality, because women predominantly shoulder the burden of collecting firewood and doing the cooking, while they are forced to spend a significant proportion of household income on expensive energy.
The youth organisation has found an innovative way to solve many of these problems at once. They simultaneously work to advance gender equality, increase access to affordable, sustainable energy and manage waste effectively. They achieve this by training girls in Cameroon how to generate energy from alternative sources including waste and the sun. This training gives girls valuable skills to enter the renewable energy sector while promoting STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) in an aim to close the gender gap in this sector and create renewable energy solutions for families, schools and communities.
While working for an NGO aiming to advance girls’ education in Nigeria, Green Girls’ young founder Monique Ntumngia was confronted with the reality that a lack of reliable energy, for light in particular, was one of the key barriers to girls’ learning. On her return to her home country Cameroon, she decided to make a change through increasing access to energy, and founded Green Girls.
Since it’s creation the Green Girls Organisation has trained 672 girls from 23 communities in Cameroon, created over 30 Green Girls clubs, carried out over 100 solar installations and provided over 3000 households with affordable local biogas. The organisation ultimately aims to replicate its model across Africa.
Biodigesters, needed to convert waste into energy and solar installations, have been installed in several communities in Cameroon. Green Girls runs ‘Green Girls clubs’ to teach girls how they work and how to maintain them. They have had a huge impact on students’ education. “We could not study well during such blackouts that sometimes last for over a week. We have been suffering even though we are blessed with a clean energy source in our backyard,” said Magdalene Lum, a student at the University of Buea. “The new energy from our human waste will supply us electricity constantly and cheaper,” she said. The biodigester system protects households and schools from the hardships created by volatile energy prices, which could fluctuate dramatically throughout the year. “The biogas we generate provides a constant supply of the energy the school needs, unlike the hydroelectricity that regularly goes on and off,” said Peter Nke, principal of Baptist High School Buea.
The knock-on effects of Green Girls’ work are numerous for communities and the environment. The use of biogas reduces reliance on firewood, which helps slow local deforestation. The process also curbs air pollution from pit latrines and open defecation. The energy creation process is cheaper and more reliable, leaving families and schools with extra money to spend on education and healthcare. Lastly Green Girls is teaching schoolgirls to think innovatively, giving them the tools to think of creative solutions to local problems.