A Lasting Impact: An ACC Graduate’s Work in Tanzania Impacts Thousands

Jon Sebastien took full advantage of the opportunities within his grasp to better the lives of people thousands of kilometers away in Tanzania.  He graduated in 2009 from the Land and Water Management program at Assiniboine Community College and with the skills he learned during the program, particularly project management, Sebastien was able to “create his own job” through an internship. This internship later led to employment with SNV Netherlands Development Organization, where Sebastien played a crucial role in bringing better cookstoves and solar energy to rural communities in Tanzania.

More efficient cookstoves are vital to Tanzanians as 95% of the country’s energy comes from the burning of firewood and charcoal. The result of the dependency on these two sources has led to environmental degradation and a lack of sustainability as deforestation becomes a more prominent issue. This project also aimed to better the lives of Tanzanian women who could spend up to ten hours of their day collecting fuel, starting the cookstove, preparing and cooking the meal.

During the EnDev program that Sebastien worked in, the new cookstoves could burn either firewood or charcoal at a rate of 45-55% more efficiently. The stoves are produced by small entrepreneurs in Tanzania, and when they’re sold to a customer the entrepreneur receives points that are redeemable to support growth and production capacity.

  “It’s like Air Miles for entrepreneurs… As long as it’s going to assist with production. They can get anything from water storage tanks for ceramics to metal cutters and power tools to bicycles.” Sebastien said when he returned to Brandon after eight years in Tanzania.

The program was a huge success. 60 small enterprises, employing more than 100 people full-time and another 200 part-time, collectively produced more than 2,500 stoves a month as a new product line within their enterprises.

EnDev undertook the task of expanding solar energy in Tanzania, rewarding companies who go the extra mile to hook up farmers who live far from conventional power grids. Sebastian developed a private sector fund to stimulate the spread of solar power in the rural Lake Zone region, using Results Based Financing (RBF.) Companies that meet the fund’s criteria can get direct financing – but only upon verified delivery of quality solar product sales to rural customers. This project has been life-changing to people such as Elizabeth Mukwimba, 

Mukwimba, a 62-year-old Tanzanian farmer, stated, “Having an energy-efficient cookstove has made a huge impact. The difference with solar is also huge! We used to have to use kerosene for lighting. With the price of kerosene always going up, solar makes a huge difference for people like me. It means my grandchildren can see to study in the night.”