In Ethiopia’s Amharic language, Hulu B’eje means “everything is in my hands.” Hulu B’eje is also the project name of student Yohannes Bimrew Simegn (’25, Ethiopia), a Mastercard Foundation Scholar who was one of the winners of the 2021 EPIC Challenge (End Poverty Innovation Challenge). This competition invites students worldwide to develop social ventures that contribute sustainable solutions to their communities’ poverty reduction challenges. As a prize, the winning social enterprises obtain mentoring and financial support to make their ideas tangible.
EPIC is a flagship program of the Social Ventures Foundation, whose mission is to create sustainable markets by facilitating development and investment in scalable social ventures that improve people’s quality of life and generate affordable social impact in their countries and worldwide. There were nine finalist companies in the competition. Three were from EARTH students and a recent EARTH graduate who believe that seeking solutions to latent global problems is in their hands.
Hulu B’eje Sustainable Energy
Yohannes’ project involved creating a mobile hybrid hydroelectric generator that can produce 5 to 10 kW of electricity for a rural community using small rivers and streams. Hulu B’eje generates electricity that can run water pumps for agriculture, reduce the environmental impact of using firewood, and democratize access to technology and digital tools. Yohannes worked on the project with one of his friends studying at a university in South Korea.
“HuluB’eje can reach areas without access to electricity. The main objective is to provide energy sources for the countryside, farmers, schools, and health centers. The project allows people living in rural areas to use electronic devices. This innovation will improve the educational system by enabling young people to study at night and use digital technology to connect with the world. Its benefit in farming is that it can simplify and improve farmers’ lives. By applying this technology, farmers can modernize and increase their agricultural productivity,” says Yohannes, who dreams of “filling homes with light.”
In 2021, Mastercard Foundation Scholar Winfred Alfred Nziku (’23, Tanzania) and Tennyson Nkhoma (’23, Malawi), a Whitney McMillan Scholar, won second place in the Wege Prize competition in addition to the EPIC Challenge. Their project Sutote (Sustainable Tomato Technology) focused on eliminating synthetic pesticide use in tomato production by formulating organic pest-control solutions made from the ornamental plant Tithonia diversifolia (Mexican sunflower). Their project evolved to become Crown Multiverse, a company they registered in Malawi with the same objective as Sutote but with the vision of impacting all kinds of crops.
“Participating and being one of the winning EPIC teams shows the value of our project to provide an affordable solution to the problems we face in our countries. We want to reduce environmental pollution and promote safe, healthy food production and consumption for all people. Our vision is to produce crops in our countries with less use of synthetic agrochemicals that are harmful to the health of consumers and the environment,” says Tennyson proudly.
José Antonio Balcárcel (’21, Guatemala) is behind Honguea’T, one of the competition finalists. The project aims to combat malnutrition by producing edible mushrooms that can be grown any time of the year and are an alternative rich source of protein. Honguea’T proposes that mushrooms be produced in agricultural waste generated by indigenous farmers in the Guatemalan region where the project will be implemented. Honguea’T’s mission is to produce and market these mushrooms and train and educate the country’s indigenous population to improve their diet, economy, and food sovereignty.
We congratulate the three teams for achievements that allow them and entire communities to win.
The solutions are in our hands!