Case Studies

Team Bidiepa, Green Enterprise Challenge

20th May 2024

Team Bidiepa won the 2023 Green Enterprise Challenge competition in Ghana with their business plan to produce and sell smokeless fuel briquettes made from waste palm kernels.

The judges were particularly impressed with how the team’s business idea tackled three environmental issues at once, clearing and re-using waste materials while also promoting alternatives to burning wood and charcoal, and minimizing smoke from cooking. Crucially from a business point of view, they could also see a broad, immediate market for the product.

The team, whose name Bidiepa means ‘good charcoal,’ wanted to tackle the problem of palm kernel waste, a by-product from the production of palm oil and palm nut soup. Mountains of waste kernels were blocking drainage ditches in their villages, leading to local flooding during the rainy season.

‘Because I am concerned about the environment it was an opportunity for me to see how I could best help our environment,’ explains Jessica, one of the five team members. ‘We looked around our villages and realised there are a lot of particular towns that produce palm oil. After producing the palm oil they leave the kernels unused… when it rains, because we don’t have good drainage system, it gets the gutters full, that’s the reason why we get floodings. So we decided to make good use of the palm kernels that have been thrown.’

While Jessica was motivated by environmental reasons, her teammate Marisca was more focused on acquiring business skills. ‘I am a business student so when I learned it was going to be about business I decided to partake, and it went far for us,’ she explains.

Both girls stress the importance of pursuing your own path, even in the face of discouragement from others, after some of their peers tried to dissuade them from taking part in the competition. ‘When we began our classmates were giving us negative vibes but we just left them because we knew we were aiming for something,’ Marisca recalls. Their win has vindicated their determination and perseverance.

Prince’s Trust International’s Enterprise Challenge programme is now delivered in nine countries through local partners. It aims to develop young people’s core skills and entrepreneurship skills through coaching, mentoring and an online business simulation game, followed by an inter-school competition where teams develop and pitch their own business ideas.

Alongside the teamwork and business skills they honed through the programme, Jessica explains that the programme also developed her research skills, which has stood her in good stead in school.

‘I didn’t really like to do research but this programme has really helped me. Now every second of my spare time I pick up my phone and do research,’ she says. ‘Even when we had homework with research I didn’t do it, I was not a fan of that, but after the doing the programme I think research has become my friend, it has really helped me.’

During the programme, the team’s research and development efforts included creating product prototypes and cooking with them. Marisca explains how their mentor helped them refine their product so that it stuck together as a block.

‘When we first had the idea we only cracked the [palm kernel] shells up, but our mentor told us that other companies were making charcoal from coconut husks but making it into the powdered form and mixing it with starch, so that’s where we got the idea. We tried that with the kernels, using starch which sticks the brickettes together. We cooked some rice using the brickettes and it was good!’

After winning £500 in seed funding as their prize, Jessica, Marisca and their Bidiepa teammates are now taking forward their business concept in real life. As they progress their business in future, they hope to diversify into a second palm kernel product, fertiliser.

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