Green energy creates new opportunities for women

Ludmila Abramciuc is the first woman in Moldova managing briquetting enterprise. She received high-performing biofuel production equipment via leasing mechanism from EU-UNDP Energy and Biomass Project. Photo: Mihail Maciuca/UNDP Moldova

8 May 2013. Overwhelmed by daily chores, having to cope with the challenges of being a mother of twochildren and an excellent wife, Ludmila Abramciuc from the town of Balti in Moldova, leaves everyone in awe when she announces that since 2008 she finds time and energy to manage a biomass briquette production company.

Difficulties? There were many indeed, the woman confessed, but she managed to address them gracefully. It has been a challenge to demonstrate to her business partners that besides excelling in the kitchen, she can successfully lead of a company - “Ecobricheta” LLC, that operates in a field primarily dominated by men – the energy efficiency sector.

”At the beginning, my business partners, and even my employees, regarded me somewhat suspiciously. They probably doubted whether I could ‘make it’ in the energy field, where one encounters mostly men than women. In spite of this, their doubts vanished the moment they realised they are talking to a professional. In fact, having many years of hands-on experience in the recycling industry has helped me a great deal in managing the present company. Moreover, I am pleased with the fact that I managed to create 15 new jobs”, proudly states Ludmila Abramciuc.

Half-joking, half-serious, the leader of “Ecobricheta” SRL is convinced that there should be more women engaged in renewable energy field:

”Only in such a way the country would be kept tidy. Nothing should be discarded, everything needs to be recycled. Moreover, I think that recycling businesses should be managed by women, who are, in my opinion mindful and cost-effective. Honestly, I would prefer to have more women on my team because they are more responsible and aren’t late for work”, Ludmila Abramciuc stated.

Her spouse, also owner of a non-metallic waste recycling business, supported Ludmila in all her aspirations. For more than a decade “Junicart-Com” LLC, led by Ivan Damaschin, processes carton, plastic, rubber and textile waste, and converts it into pyrolysis oil, a fuel that can be used for heating.

In the businessman’s opinion, the household waste is not just a source of odour and pollution as many could think. The waste, properly processed, may generate liquefied gas that can be used for heating. Prior to the establishment of the company, the waste from Balti municipality was simply buried near the outskirts of the city: “The waste was collected daily and disposed of at the town landfill to be buried afterwards or, even worse, burnt, in absence of another alternative. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the waste has not been recycled, thus, has been polluting the environment ever since. Once we started to work in this field, we began to sort the wastes. We paid some private individuals who were eager to earn an additional income, and they collected the specific types of waste that we purchased from them, and recycled it.”

Ivan Damaschin admits that he is proud to introduce his wife to his business partners not just as an excellent better half, but as a dependable business partner as well.

Since the businesses headed by this couple proved their efficiency and sustainability on the Moldovan energy market, they have recently been assisted by the Energy Efficiency Agency and the Energy and Biomass Project, funded by the European Union and implemented and co-financed by UNDP in Moldova, in procuring highly performing briquette production equipment out of cereal and forestry residues (sawdust, straw, sunflower hulls). The entrepreneurs admit that without the project support they would have not been able to afford such equipment, which costs over MDL 300, 000 (approx. 23,000 USD). Thus, thanks to the new installation, “Ecobricheta” LLC would achieve a threefold increase in briquette output. If until now the company was able to produce 90 tonnes of briquettes per month, nowadays it can produce more than 300 tonnes. The latter quantity is sufficient to heat five schools and kindergartens during the winter season.

The 1 million EUR financial assistance provided by the Energy and Biomass Project aims to stimulate the Moldovan biomass fuel production market, and is intended to facilitate the procurement, under a leasing scheme, of a wide range of biomass baling, milling, briquetting and pelleting equipment by private businesses. The equipment is provided under advantageous conditions for a three-year period with 0% commission, 0% interest and zero-rate VAT. It is expected, that 200 – 250 new jobs will be created as a result of implementing the leasing financing programme.

The endeavours undertaken by Ivan Damaschin and Ludmila Abramciuc from Balti haven’t remained unnoticed. They found themselves among the champions in the renewable energy field in Moldova and were awarded for their success at the “Moldova Eco-Energetica” Gala, organised by the Ministry of Economy and Energy Efficiency Agency with support from the Energy and Biomass project.

By means of such programmes, the Energy and Biomass Project hopes to contribute not just to the achievement of the national targets set by the Moldovan authorities in terms of reducing the country’s energy dependence, but also to promote the economic and civic participation of women as widely as possible, explains Victoria Ignat, gender focal point and training specialist with the project: ”The experience of the Energy and Biomass Project shows that women play an important role in the decision making processes associated with the implementation of biomass heating projects in beneficiary communities. Thus, around 56% of the members in the Community Project Committees are women, who work side by side with men, in designing project proposals for affordable heating of public institutions with biomass, mobilising local citizens and collecting community contribution - at least 15% of the EU-UNDP investment value. We are also pleased that the leasing mechanism implemented by the project opens new possibilities for women entrepreneurs who want to start or expand clean fuel production businesses in Moldova.”

The EU-funded Energy and Biomass Project has set the goal to connect at least 130 kindergartens, schools and community centres across the country to biomass heating systems by the end of 2014.

Only by the end of 2013, some 121 public institutions, mainly schools and kindergartens, will have access to environmentally-friendly and affordable biomass-derived energy. The institution managers may channel the savings obtained from lower heating bills to supplement the libraries with textbooks, to repair gyms or to arrange playgrounds for children.

According to the project data, around 7,000 people, of whom 80% are women employed as managers, teachers or civil servants, benefit from better working conditions and improved heating comfort in rural public institutions throughout Moldova.

The indirect beneficiaries of the project are the parents of those 42,000 children attending the schools and kindergartens, who are no longer worried that their children would spend time in cold or poor heated classrooms or kindergartens. Also, they have now more time to undertake full-time employment, thus contributing to increasing the family incomes in the longer run.

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