Name: Judith Marera
Company Name: Lanforce Energy
Designation: Chief Executive Officer
Embark on a journey through resilience and innovation as we shine the spotlight on Judith Marera, the Chief Executive Officer of Lanforce Energy, in the latest installment of our HER Success Stories series. Judith’s entrepreneurial voyage began at a tender age, navigating the Nyakuni Mountain in rural Zimbabwe in pursuit of firewood. This childhood experience kindled a passion for addressing energy challenges in off-grid communities, leading to the inception of Lanforce Energy. In this exclusive interview, Judith shares the profound impact of her background on the mission and values of Lanforce Energy. The company stands as a beacon in the biogas industry, pioneering sustainable energy solutions, promoting sanitation and waste management, and building a robust track record of global projects. Judith candidly discusses the challenges faced, including gender-specific hurdles, and the strategic approaches that propelled Lanforce Energy’s success. As Judith outlines her aspirations for the future, including expanding global reach and championing next-generation biogas technologies, she leaves entrepreneurs with invaluable lessons learned along the way. Join us in celebrating Judith Marera’s unwavering commitment to a sustainable, empowered future through Lanforce Energy.
Could you share your personal journey in becoming an entrepreneur and what inspired you to pursue your current business?
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 every 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 them up in the afternoon for the 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 energy and agricultural solutions for those living in off-grid communities.
How has your background and life experiences influenced the mission and values of your company, and the impact you aim to make in the world?
My background and life experiences have influenced my desire to become the leading renewable energy provider of renewable energy in sub-Saharan Africa. I aim to improve the health of communities in Zimbabwe as biogas does not produce harmful emissions, so it can help to improve the health of people who use it for cooking. I will also empower women by giving them a clean and affordable source of fuel that can improve their health and reduce their workload. The world will also benefit from deforestation by providing an alternative source of fuel that does not require the destruction of trees. By providing access to biogas energy, I can help to mitigate climate change and protect the environment.
In addition to these impacts, I can also play a role in the economic development of the country. By creating jobs in the biogas industry, I can help to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty. Additionally, biogas can be used to generate electricity, a reliable and affordable source of power for rural communities.
What are some of the achievements or milestones in your business journey so far? Can you share an example of a project or initiative that you’re most proud of?
Lanforce Energy has been a pioneer in the biogas industry, providing clean and sustainable energy solutions to communities around the world. Here are some of our key achievements and milestones:
- Pioneering the use of biogas technology in rural and remote areas – Lanforce Biogas has been at the forefront of developing and deploying biogas technology in rural and remote areas where access to grid electricity is limited or non-existent. Our biogas digesters provide a reliable and affordable source of energy for cooking, lighting, and other household needs.
- Promoting the adoption of biogas technology for sanitation and waste management – Lanforce Biogas is committed to providing sustainable solutions for sanitation and waste management. Our biogas digesters effectively treat organic waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and producing nutrient-rich digestate that can be used as fertilizer.
- Developing a portfolio of innovative biogas products and services – Lanforce Biogas has developed a comprehensive range of biogas products and services to meet the diverse needs of our clients. Our offerings include biogas digesters, biogas stoves, and biogas lamps, as well as installation, training, and maintenance services.
- Building a strong track record of project implementation – Lanforce Biogas has successfully implemented biogas projects in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, farms, and individual households. Our projects have a proven impact on improving energy access, sanitation, and livelihoods.
- Expanding our global reach – Lanforce Biogas is committed to expanding our reach and making biogas technology accessible to communities worldwide. We have established partnerships with local and international organizations to implement biogas projects in developing countries.
- Received numerous awards and accolades for our innovation and sustainability leadership
- Developed a strong team of talented and experienced professionals
We are proud of our work with Water and Energy for Food to provide clean, affordable energy to the communities and improve their agricultural yields. This project is making a real difference in the lives of the people who live and work in rural and farming communities. Lanforce Energy is committed to continuing its work to promote the adoption of biogas technology and make a positive impact on communities around the world. We believe that biogas has the potential to play a significant role in addressing the challenges of energy access, sanitation, and climate change.
Can you describe the challenges you faced during your entrepreneurial journey? Did you encounter any specific gender-specific challenges? How did you overcome them?
- Securing funding: Biogas technology is capital intensive and requires a high initial investment, which poses an affordability challenge for those at the bottom of the financial pyramid, resulting in low uptake.
- Competing with traditional energy sources: Biogas technology faces competition from traditional energy sources such as kerosene, wood, and charcoal. These traditional sources are cheaper and more readily available than biogas.
- Lack of mentorship and support: As a woman in a male-dominated industry without a technical background, I required guidance and support from mentors and experienced business professionals. However, as a women entrepreneur, I had less access to these networks and resources than men. This made it difficult for me to learn from other’s mistakes and make informed decisions.
- Unconscious bias: I had to fight gender stereotypes and biases as this was hindering my chances to access funding, opportunities, and recognition.
To overcome these challenges, I had to do the following:
- Building a strong team: I have surrounded myself with talented and experienced people who share my passion for biogas technology. This team has been invaluable in helping me to overcome technical and market challenges.
- Networking and building relationships: I have actively participated in industry events and conferences, which has helped me to network with other biogas professionals and build relationships with potential customers and partners.
- Raising awareness and educating the public: I have given presentations and held community engagement programs about biogas technology, which has helped to raise awareness of its benefits and create a demand for biogas products and services.
- Developing innovative solutions: I have continuously looked for ways to improve biogas technology and make it more affordable and accessible. This has involved developing new products and finding new ways to finance biogas projects.
- Persevering and never giving up: I have faced many setbacks along the way, but I have never given up on my dream of making biogas technology a viable alternative to traditional energy sources. I am passionate about the potential of biogas to improve the lives of people around the world, and I am committed to making a difference.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned as an entrepreneur that you would like to pass on to others considering a similar path?
I have learned that before embarking on a career in the biogas industry, it is essential to develop a deep understanding of the technology and its applications. This includes understanding the different types of biogas systems, their benefits and limitations, and the different feedstocks that can be used to produce biogas. The biogas industry is still relatively new, and there is a lot of growth potential. However, it is important to identify a clear market opportunity before investing in a biogas business. This could involve focusing on a specific application, such as biogas for cooking, lighting, or power generation, or targeting a particular market segment, such as rural communities, schools, or businesses. The biogas industry is a complex and multifaceted one. It is essential to build a strong team with expertise in a variety of areas, including engineering, finance, marketing, and project management. Last but not least, the biogas industry is a long-term investment. It takes time to develop and commercialize new technologies, build relationships with potential customers, and navigate the regulatory environment. Entrepreneurs considering a similar path in this industry need to be patient, persistent, and committed to the long-term success of their businesses.
Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals for the future and how do you plan to continue making a difference through your work?
We are committed to expanding our reach and making biogas technology accessible to communities worldwide. We plan to achieve this by:
- Establishing partnerships with local organizations and governments in developing countries.
- Developing innovative financing models to make biogas technology more affordable.
- Increasing awareness of the benefits of biogas technology through education and outreach programs.
We are committed to developing next-generation biogas technologies that are more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable through investing in research and development, collaborating with leading universities and research institutions, and exploring new technologies, such as membrane technology and advanced materials. We also believe that a thriving biogas ecosystem is essential to the long-term success of the biogas industry, so we intend to support the development of biogas entrepreneurs and businesses as well as advocating for policies that support the biogas industry.
In concluding this captivating installment of the HER Success Stories series, we celebrate Judith Marera’s journey with Lanforce Energy—a testament to resilience, vision, and the profound impact of sustainable energy solutions. From her childhood on Nyakuni Mountain to the forefront of the biogas industry, Judith’s narrative embodies not only personal triumph but also a commitment to reshaping energy landscapes. Lanforce Energy’s pioneering work in biogas technology, waste management, and global collaborations reflects a dedication to sustainability that goes beyond business endeavors. Confronting and overcoming gender-specific challenges, Judith’s story serves as a guiding beacon for aspiring entrepreneurs, offering insights into team-building, networking, and steadfast perseverance. As we look ahead, Judith and Lanforce Energy stand poised to continue their impactful journey, contributing not only to immediate projects but also to a broader, sustainable future. Gratitude is extended to Judith for sharing her story and adding a vibrant chapter to the unfolding tapestry of HER Success Stories, inspiring others to embark on their quests for a brighter, cleaner, and more equitable world.
About Lanforce Energy
Lanforce Energy is a pioneering, women-led for-profit social enterprise operating in the renewable energy sector, with roots dating back to its founding in 2010 and official operations commencing in 2018. Driven by a steadfast commitment to addressing the challenges faced by women and children in accessing sustainable energy for daily needs, Lanforce Energy constructs fixed dome biogas digesters for farms, households, hotels, and institutions. Our innovative portable biodigesters, scalable to varying energy requirements, provide a forward-thinking solution. Operating on a Pay As You Go (PAYG) model, we ensure affordability for all users, embodying our dedication to inclusivity. Our mission aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, emphasizing the pivotal role renewable energy plays in economic development, environmental sustainability, and social equity. Lanforce Energy’s journey is rooted in empathy, aiming to empower communities and eradicate energy poverty, leaving a legacy of resilience, empowerment, and environmental stewardship.