Born and raised in the Rwenzori mountains in south-western Uganda, Daniel Misaki, founder of Ihandiro Youth Advocates for Nature (IYAN), grew up surrounded by lush forest and rich biodiversity. However, local households depend heavily on firewood and charcoal burning for cooking stoves and light sources, and over time Daniel’s community has seen significant forest cover loss, as well as increased landslides and soil erosion.
Recognising that many of these challenges were rooted in poverty through a lack of access to, and education about clean energy sources, Daniel founded IYAN to empower the local community to protect nature through a number of conservation and sustainable livelihood efforts.
Firstly, IYAN’s Rural Clean Energy Access Programme provides affordable modern energy saving stoves and solar powered lighting to rural communities, helping them reduce household wood consumption by over 50%. IYAN partners with youth and women’s community associations to drive awareness of clean energy and its positive impact on the environment and their health, and support a number of women’s groups through their social enterprise arm, selling clean energy cooking stoves at affordable prices to maximise accessibility. Secondly, IYAN’s Green The Hill campaign, which has planted over 150,000 trees in just 3 years, helps to restore lost vegetation cover and protect the ground from further erosion. Finally, IYAN runs Eco-Investment projects that educate locals on green enterprises which utilise unused land and fragile ecosystems, such as beekeeping and fish farming.
Since 2020, IYAN has received unrestricted grant of 35,000 GBP to implement a rural clean energy access project. IYAN is promoting rural access to affordable solar and eco-stoves as opposed to the previous traditional three stone wood burning stoves used by people which produced high levels of carbon and consumed a lot of wood. The project is mainly implemented through women village saving groups which pay for the products on interest free credit to increase affordability to underserved homes which can`t afford to do upfront payments. Through QCT support, IYAN established an eco-stove production workshop as sustainable model to deliver on clean cooking. This has changed IYAN from an eco-stove dealer to a producer.
IYAN have now provided clean cooking to 10,500 homes through eco-stoves. Institutional eco-stoves have been installed in 12 schools. They have supported solar lighting in up to 700 homes and supported 42 solar based businesses. These include solar saloons, cinemas and phone charging accessing solar from IYAN`s revolving fund. These clean energy enterprises employ 67 youths who are improving their living standards by giving them economic opportunities to find work.
The greatest impact has been on rural women who have been most affected by the energy crisis in Uganda. IYAN worked with local youth and women’s groups to make eco stoves accessible and affordable. Over 70% of the stoves are now sold through women groups.
As part of IYAN’s Green the Hill campaign, a total of 180,000 trees have been planted in an attempt to restore lost vegetation. IYAN was able to give the community free seedlings of Indigenous trees that were endangered. Also, an Eco-investment project by the NGO has seen the establishment of 200 fishponds and 300 beehives as income generators.
Undoubtedly as a unique donor, QCT also provides capacity building to IYAN, enabling Daniel and his team to establish effective operational systems and necessary policies. The guidance received allowed them to develop and operationalize the financial policy, safeguarding policy, monitoring and evaluation plan and strategic plan among others. These have been fundamental to creating change and making informed decisions.
“Before QCT’s support, we didnt know anything about organizational policies. This meant we were so prone to risks during our operations. Today, there is something to refer to for any challenge encountered during operation.” – Daniel Misaki
Teamwork makes the dream work
The QCT partnership has had made IYAN stronger ensuring long term sustainable growth and impact. Daniel and his team now have a solid five-year plan through funding and capacity building.
“As rural youth with a big dream but with limited capacity to make its impact realistic and sustainable, QCT`s capacity building first put us in a state of mindfulness and high vision of risk management and sustaining impact. These was through sessions on planning, reporting and system building.” – Daniel Misaki
As a result of QCT funding, IYAN’s Eco Stove project is steadily growing and hopes to become self-sustainable in the near future. As a young leader Daniel has learnt a lot through QCT’s guidance. From childhood he defied the odds within his community and demonstrated that his dreams are not mere wishes but realistic and achievable.
IYAN has improved his confidence and ability to manage high impact projects whilst creating sustainable relationships with stakeholders. Peer support and training has also been a lifeline for young leaders like Daniel.
“QCT linkage to the youth hub has provided me an opportunity to hear from other youth on how they overcome barriers they face. This learning opportunity has been an eye opener on how to handle various dynamics.” – Daniel Misaki
Daniel’s advice to other young entrepreneurs is to remain persistent.
“It takes a heart of dreamer to start but a warrior`s heart to win your dream. Therefore, love it, and be passionate and courageous enough to defy the growth dynamics.” – Daniel Misaki