Social Venture Incubation
Social Venture Incubation Program
What do we know about high-impact entrepreneurship? We are entrepreneurs ourselves. We create and launch businesses to provide solutions to critical social and environmental challenges in the local community. Once we identify an unmet need, we conduct market research, create prototypes, and test potential business models. For the most promising ideas, we assemble a team led by an entrepreneur-in-residence, and work with domain experts and investors to bring these products and services to market.
In 2012, Alterna launched its first business, Estufa Doña Dora, which manufactures and distributes efficient wood burning stoves (see description below). In 2014, we launched our second social venture, Viogaz, which provides rural households with access to biodigestors that convert animal waste into organic fertilizer and cooking gas, thereby reducing the use of chemical fertilizers and firewood.
Estufa Doña Dora, the first venture to emerge from Alterna’s Incubation Program, builds and sells safe, fuel-efficient, wood-burning stoves. Doña Dora was founded in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala in 2011, to mitigate the serious social and environmental consequences for the 70% of Guatemalans who cook with wood. Unlike many non-profits, which often identify a problem and then impose a solution on a community, Doña Dora was one of the first enterprises in the region to treat low-income Guatemalans as consumers who choose to invest in a high-quality product that make sense for their families.
Doña Dora’s impact is focused on three main areas: reducing respiratory and other illnesses, improving household finances, and reducing deforestation. Compared with traditional, open-fire stoves that fill the kitchen with smoke, the Doña Dora stove dramatically reduces household air pollution, a major cause of respiratory illness and other serious health conditions that killed more than 5,000 Guatemalans in 2010 alone.
And while traditional, open-fire stoves are grossly inefficient, forcing families to spend up to 20% of their household income on firewood, the Doña Dora stove creates long-term savings for a family by significantly reducing firewood consumption. In addition to putting money back in people’s pockets, by reducing firewood consumption, the Doña Dora stove helps reduce the need for Guatemalans to clear hundreds of thousands of acres of forests each year to cook and heat their homes. This deforestation has decreased topsoil levels, increased erosion, and contributed to a dramatic spike in flashfloods and mudslides that have devastated the country.
Doña Dora has partnered with local microfinance companies to bring its stoves, manufactured by Guatemalans, for Guatemalans, to an even wider audience. In the past year and a half, Doña Dora has sold over 500 stoves and is proud to have helped Guatemalan families save money, improve their health, and protect the natural environmental on which they rely.
Viogaz is bringing existing technology that has enormous social, environmental and economic impact to Guatemala.
Over half of Guatemalans live in poverty, and over 75% of those people reside in rural areas. The main livelihood for this population is in agricultural activities, and farmers spend a portion of their income buying agro-chemicals to help their crop growth. In addition to using chemicals that add to soil breakdown, the majority of Guatemalan households (72%) purchase wood for their cooking needs. These strong dependencies on agro-chemicals and wood have a composite negative impact on deforestation, biodegradation of soil, environmental contamination and ultimately, reinforce the vicious cycle of poverty.
Small and medium size biodigesters have the potential to systematically address these issues. They offer an efficient solution for the treatment and recovery of the organic residue generated by family farms and cooperatives in the rural and semi-rural areas of Guatemala. Biodigester technology has been proven to be a source of clean energy for cooking (biogas) accompanied by a liquid effluent with unique properties as a soil conditioner (biol), but unfortunately access to the appropriate financing and support for these systems has not gained traction in Guatemala.
Viogaz is making biodigesters affordable and sustainable for rural families that previously relied on harmful chemical fertilizers and cooking over an open wood fire in their households. With over six years of experience on the ground in Latin America and over 95 biodigesters installed throughout Central America, the sustainability, safety, ease and affordability of this proven technology sets Viogaz apart from previous technological innovations in Central America.
· Long lasting - Viogaz biodigesters are fabricated with flexible (1mm thick) geomembrane polyvinyl chloride, which is five times thicker than conventional materials. With a useful life between 5-8 years, VIOGAZ ensures its systems are easy to repair using PVC glue, making it a product that once installed, will be easy to fix for each individual owner.
· Safe - The geomembrane has a capacity to expand up to 430% of elongation, which allows the biodigester to be inflated without the danger of breaking. They also can withstand
· Ease of use - Viogaz has undertaken extensive research, product development, and marketing efforts to communicate the system in a way that is “organically” adopted by the whole family. It becomes another member of the family and it helps in the everyday activities.
Viogaz has partnered with prestigious academic institutions, private partners, and international organizations such as: Universidad EARTH, SNV, Universidad Rafael Landivar, and more to achieve their impact on a regional level. In 2013, Viogaz reduced more than 6,000Tm CO2e through the capture of methane, equivalent to the protection of 750ha of tropical rainforest. Viogaz also treats over 200,000m3 of residual water each year. Read more about the impact they have here: http://www.viogaz.com//