Dear SunFarmer friends and supporters:
First and foremost, thank you for your support as we have worked to build the best solar energy company in Nepal. We are extremely proud of the team and the company that we have built together.
In the last 4 years, we have installed solar energy projects at over 150 health clinics and 100 farms in Nepal, and when a devastating earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015, you responded with more than $100,000 in donations.
Over the last year, we have focused on making sure that SunFarmer Nepal has the right management and governance to thrive over the long term. Our co-founder Avishek Malla was promoted to CEO and has brought in Hari Shrestha, a solar industry veteran, to lead operations.
We were lucky to recruit two fantastic Kathmandu-based board members to help guide the team: Ashu Tiwari and Shuba Chandran. They have years of expertise building startups and scaling them into large organizations in Nepal and South Asia; Shuba ran a 10,000-person agribusiness in India before coming to Nepal to help coach farmers on how to scale their businesses, and Ashu has led leading Nepali organizations including Himal Media, WaterAid Nepal, and Sherpa Adventure Gear. Ashu and Shuba joined Avishek, myself, and Eli Mitchell-Larson (SunFarmer US Director of Operations) on a newly formed Board of Directors of SunFarmer Nepal beginning in late 2016.
In early 2017, dramatic shifts in the Nepal energy market led us to several strategic decisions:
• Focus on rural areas of Nepal, as major urban areas of Nepal suddenly have relatively stable grid electricity
• Focus on working with farmers, which make up nearly 70% of Nepal’s workforce
• Explore the possibility of providing more holistic solutions to farmers that go beyond energy, and enable farmers to substantially increase their income
The strategic shift was driven by our management team in Kathmandu, and will be executed by our Nepal-based staff who are in the best position to understand our customers and develop locallyappropriate solutions.
What’s next for SunFarmer US?
As we built more and more capacity within our in-country organization in Nepal, SunFarmer US’s role in Nepal became increasingly strategic and advisory.
Eli and I spent 2017 evaluating whether we could expand the SunFarmer model to other developing countries. After several months of scouting trips to candidate markets in West Africa, many conversations with potential partners and customers, and a lot of reflection, we have decided against expansion. Instead, we will use SunFarmer’s existing resources to ensure that SunFarmer Nepal continues to grow and achieves maximum impact in Nepal. Our hope is that SunFarmer Nepal scales to have an enormous impact in Nepal, and then is able to export its expertise to other countries in the region.
The SunFarmer US nonprofit board of directors (myself, Jason Gray, and Mike Lord) will shepherd the funds that we have raised from generous donors like you, and will make sure that it is spent solely on:
• Strengthening the capabilities of SunFarmer Nepal, and
• Charitable purposes, such as our recent donation to build a solar-powered drinking water system in a farming community recently devastated by flooding
What’s next for the SunFarmer US management team?
Eli and I will continue to serve on the board of directors of SunFarmer Nepal, to help the team navigate the next stage of growth. If you have questions about where SunFarmer is headed, feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
We are both committed to volunteering as much of our time as needed to make sure that SunFarmer is an enduring success. In addition, we both plan to be active in US environmental policy– for example, Andy recently testified in New York urging the EPA to preserve the Clean Power Plan and is getting more involved with local advocacy groups.
Building SunFarmer has been and continues to be an amazing journey. SunFarmer’s impact will only grow over time, and we’ll keep you posted on both our successes and our challenges as we forge ahead. Please don’t hesitate to send us an e-mail if you have any questions!