Meet Ruth Kimani, CLASP East Africa Team
In celebration of CLASP’s 20th anniversary, each month we will profile one our incredible team members. This week, we sat down with Ruth Kimani, who works on CLASP’s clean energy access program from Nairobi, to learn more about her perspectives on work and life.
Tell us a little bit about your role at CLASP.
I started as a Coordinator when I first joined CLASP, and now I am an Associate on the East Africa team. My role has been focused on market development programs, specifically, the Global LEAP Awards results based financing (RBF) program and the associated off-grid refrigerator field testing. More recently, I have also been working on the newly launched Global LEAP Solar E-waste Innovation Prize program.
My work involves a lot of partner coordination. I think I perform well in my role because I am very meticulous. I always make sure that I am working with correct information and I spend time ensuring that everything I produce is high quality. I also love learning how to be a better analyst. To me, it is really interesting and exciting to learn new skills, so when I get into something I really get into it.
You have traveled all around East Africa over the past year for the Global LEAP program. Can you tell us about your favorite field visit?
That would definitely be Uganda. Even though I live next door to Uganda, this year was the first time I was able to go on a proper visit.
Before joining CLASP, I ran community-based environmental solutions projects in Kilifi, Kenya. That’s why it was so fun for me to get to meet and interact with community members again while in Uganda. The excitement and happiness on their faces was so genuine. We also faced many unexpected challenges during that trip, but being in the field allowed us to think on our toes and solve the problems hands on.
Can you talk about a specific problem that you had to solve on your trip to Uganda?
After waiting so long for the refrigerators to arrive to their respective warehouses in Uganda, and just as we were traveling to deploy them in the field, we found out that the refrigerators could not be installed and started on the same day. After installation, the refrigerant gases need about 24 hours to calm down before the product is turned on.
To solve the problem, we asked the transport company to pick up their speed and start installing the refrigerators prior to our arrival. I also asked a field researcher from Energy 4 Impact to accompany the team to ensure the installations were done correctly. We then circled back to visit the refrigerators in the order of their installment. It took a lot of follow up to ensure that all parties involved were flexible and clear on the directions.
What is one surprising thing you have learned about the off-grid clean energy sector over the past year?
I was surprised by the level of thought that goes into manufacturing an appliance. For the refrigerator testing process alone, there were so many meetings about all the different parameters that have to be measured.
There is a lot of thought, process, and discussion behind us having the benefit of owning an appliance, and ensuring consumers get the best quality product at an affordable price. This is something I had not truly appreciated before coming to CLASP.
Why did you decide to transition from your previous community development role to CLASP?
Kilifi, one of the poorest counties in Kenya, has experienced a lot of deforestation in recent years because people are cutting down trees to make charcoal. I was working to identify an alternative kind of charcoal for communities to use to alleviate that unsustainable level of deforestation. One solution involved training community members on how to run a business making small charcoal-like pellets out of twigs, coconut hairs, and clay. The work was all about identifying the natural resources and livelihood sources that communities could tap into to help save the environment while also generating income.
After two years of this community development work, I left Kilifi to earn my master’s degree. While in school, I learned about the linkages between energy and the environment. If we solve the problems related to how to get clean or renewable energy, we would be able to address a lot of the environmental problems we are seeing today. This intrigued me because I had never thought of environmental problems from an energy perspective before. I am very passionate about the environment and I want to do work that enables me to make the largest impact, so when I came back home and learned about CLASP, it seemed like the perfect place for me to be.
From your perspective, how do you perceive the culture at CLASP?
The culture at CLASP is significantly different than any of the formal working environments I’ve experienced. At my previous job, the environment was very hierarchical, so CLASP was certainly a pleasant surprise. Whether you are talking to a Senior Manager or Coordinator, everyone is so friendly and eager to help others grow and develop within the organization.
You are young, smart, and hardworking. What is your vision for our future, and hopefully this better world that we are making?
My vision for the future is mostly focused on the African continent because I feel that there are a few things here that just need to be slightly changed to make a substantial difference in people’s lives. One of the things that people lack is access to information and opportunities. Most of the time, you only interact with people from the village you are born, which shapes your life and the types of opportunities available to you. The question is about how to get everyone on the same level so that they have equal access to whatever opportunities are in place, whether it’s to jobs, education, or basic quality of life. There are strengths and weaknesses to everyone, it is just about figuring out how to work together.