Lanforce Energy, a Zimbabwean for-profit social enterprise creating affordable access to renewable energy
Judith Marera is the founder and CEO of Lanforce Energy a women-led, for-profit social enterprise in the renewable energy sector. Born and raised in rural Zimbabwe she realised the challenges that women and children go through in search of firewood for cooking. Human Resource practitioner by profession, having worked for both private and the public sector. Her background supplemented with her experience at the Meteorological Services Department and the World Meteorological Organisation, urged her to find solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change. She is a Woman in Africa 2021 laureate (WIA54), 2021 Tony Elumelu Foundation entrepreneurship program beneficiary, 2021 Small and Medium Enterprises Association Zimbabwe (SMEAZ)and the Chartered Institute of Project Managers Zimbabwe (CIPMZ) award winner. 2021 Uplink World Economic Forum Climate Justice Challenge Top Innovator.
In 2022 Judith was recognised as Zimbabwe’s influential woman in project management (Renewable energy solutions) by CIPMZ. She was among the top 15 nominees for the Women Agripreneurs of the Year Awards (WAYA) and finalist for the African Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) Energy Entrepreneur Award. Holder of an Msc Human Resource management from the Midlands State University and currently pursuing MBA with Regent Business School. She is married and a mother to three boys and one girl. She enjoys travelling and meeting people from different backgrounds sharing knowledge.
Lioness Weekender spoke to the inspirational change-maker Judith Marera about her vision and mission in Africa’s renewable energy sector and her ambitions for the future.
What does your company do?
Lanforce Energy is a women led for profit social enterprise in the renewable energy sector. Our major trust is to contribute towards the achievement of the United Nations sustainable development goals. The company constructs and installs biodigesters for farms, households, hotels and institutions. Lanforce Energy provides access to innovative portable biodigesters which are scalable depending on energy requirements. The services are provided on Pay As You Go for affordability by all users. Lanforce Energy was founded in 2018 after realizing the challenges that women and children face in sourcing energy for cooking, cooling and lighting.
What inspired you to start your company?
At just four years of age, I began to learn about energy management – tagging along with my mother and sisters to climb the Nyakuni Mountain in rural Zimbabwe in search of firewood. Luckily, my family home was near the mountain; other girls and women had to do a 5-km trek, several times each week. As I grew older, collecting wood became a constant preoccupation. Even on my way to school, I would gather a few logs and hide them in the bushes to pick up in the afternoon for next day’s meals. And I could see things were changing: the trees became depleted, forcing families to go further. I also became aware of new dangers and learned ways to try to avoid men who took advantage of women and children. This challenged me to find solutions for those living in off-grid communities when it comes to energy and agricultural solutions.
Why should anyone use your service or product?
We provide our services for affordability by the majority of Zimbabweans who are not yet connected to the national grid. We have also introduced smart biogas meters which help us in monitoring the performance of our digesters remotely thereby reducing on down time. We also engage the local women and youth as community-based agents and technicians as a way of empowering the local communities.
Tell us a little about your team
Our team is comprised of 75% women as we try to encourage more women in the sector. We have Vimbai Madzanire as our Accountant, Belindah Masvivi Human Resource Manager, Shingai Matuturur in Business Development and Marketing and finally Kenneth Chunyamakobvu heading the technical side. All have vast experience in their fields having worked on similar projects in their previous employment.
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
Lanforce Energy was founded in 2010 and started operations in 2018. Prior to starting biogas projects, I have worked in different spaces selling different wares. My grandfather also had an entrepreneurial spirit having run a dry-cleaning company as he believed that women should be spared of too much household chores and focus on other productive task. He went further to open a tuck-shop for my grandmother selling everyday basics for the local communities. At school I used to sell sweets to my fellow schoolmates which helped in grooming my entrepreneurial spirit.
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
We have plans to spread our wings across the whole country and further into our neighbouring countries and be the top provider of renewable energy solutions in the sub-Saharan region.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
Being able to bring a smile on the faces of communities we serve.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Women should never look down upon themselves and continue to empower themselves. They should have a fighting spirit to keep going despite all the obstacles they may come across.
To find out more about the work at Lanforce Energy, contact Judith via email: [email protected] or visit the website https://www.lanforce.co.zw or the company’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lanforcebiogas