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Panel: Microfinance, Their Clients, and Clean Energy

Today was a breakthrough!  Since 2002, GreenMicrofinance has been participating and leading panels on microfinance and the environment at various Microcredit Summit gatherings- Bangladesh 2004; Chile 2005, Halifax 2006, and today in Bali. 

During today's session on Microfinance, Their Clients, and Clean Energy: Making a Positive Impact on the Environment there was a definite shift in interest and ‘energy' around the topic.  THE LIGHTS ARE ON!

Craig Wilson from The Foundation for Development Cooperation based in Australia and my colleague, Kathleen Robbins from GreenMicrofinance, provided a macro overview of moving forward with clean energy and the microfinance.   

We then shifted to the local perspective.  Paul Thomas, Founder and Exective Director,  Evangelical Social Action Forum (ESAF), India, and Chitta Ranjan Chaki, Deputy General Manager, Grameen Shakti, Bangladesh, both provided very comprehensive overviews of their clean energy initiatives.  

ESAF in partnership with GreenMicrofinance is developing a clean energy lending program; they recently completed a market survey of 1,200 clients in four States in which they work.  A couple of highlights from the survey include:

  • Majority of these people use firewood for cooking purposes; even if they do have LPG connections they prefer to use firewood stoves (comparatively cheaper source)
  • Waste generated in each household could be processed to produce renewable clean energy.

One I can't help but be impressed with the work of Grameen Shakti, which incorporated in 1996, and which provides energy services in remote rural areas of Bangladesh. GS sells, installs, and maintains solar photovoltaic systems, and has biogas, solar thermal, and wind programs.  

The session was very well attended with about 45 participants from government, NGOs, energy service providers, national banks, advocacy groups, and microfinance institutions.  We invited the group to post on this blog some of their thoughts and questions to further the dialogue on this panel theme.   

From my own perspective, I think we need to clearly identify our vision within the microfinance sector, continue to develop innovative solutions, and promote champions (like Paul Thomas and Chitta Chaki), who will reenergize communities to work together to conserve our natural environment and to promote environmental justice.