Embracing energy efficient solutions: Awelo’s journey from surviving to thriving

At 5 pm, the residents of Awelo Makweri village bask in the warm glow of the sunset while a peaceful hum of buzzing insects fills the evening air. As I approach Awelo Millers and Packers—a youth-led agro-processor—I am greeted by freshly pressed sunflower oil’s faint yet distinct aroma. Situated in the tropical savanna district of Oyam in Uganda, Awelo is making waves in the Ugandan energy landscape through her adoption of energy-efficient processing technologies that have increased the company’s productivity and profitability, benefitting over 1,200 farmers in the region, with support from SNV’s Inclusive Markets for Energy Efficiency in Uganda (IMEU) project.

Meet James Ebuk, CEO, Awelo Millers

Founded in 2015, Awelo Millers was the first milling operation in James’ village. 'The name ‘Awelo’ originates from the local dialect and means ‘visitor.’ In a broader sense, it means to ‘give a visitor a hoe,’ signifying the spirit of hospitality and generosity,' explained James Ebuk, the Awelo Millers chief executive officer. His agro-food processing business specialises in producing organic sunflower oil, rice, maize flour, groundnut paste, rice-soya flour, and laundry products, including liquid and bar soap.

But this hasn’t always been the case. In 2023, the fuel price crisis severely impacted Awelo Millers by escalating the costs of diesel, which in turn inflated their operational expenses and squeezed profit margins. The diesel price in Uganda increased by nearly 18% from UGX4,230 (€1.04) to UGX4,992 (€1.22) per litre. The economic landscape made it challenging for agro-processors to sustain production levels over time. For Awelo Millers, this reliance on diesel proved financially burdensome. 'When using diesel engines, the cost was incredibly high, averaging about UGX80,000 (€19.59) daily. This was unsustainable, and we were not profitable. We were just surviving. We needed to reduce our costs further to become competitive,' recalled James. 

The collapsible dryers have been a game-changer for us. Previously, we relied on tarps, which would take 2-3 days to dry farmers maize, sunflower, and soya bean grains. However, we now achieve quality dried grains in 4-6 hours with solar collapsible dryers.

James Ebuk, CEO, Awelo Millers

Confronted with these challenges, Awelo Millers pursued energy-efficient solutions to enhance its operations. In 2023, Awelo Millers partnered with IMEU to invest in energy-efficient technologies and practices such as installing solar collapsible dryers for their farmer drying needs, turbo ventilators for natural cooling of the processing space, two additional 25Hp and 10 Hp energy efficient motors for efficient milling, a solar PV system, translucent iron sheets for leveraging on natural daylight during processing and adopting best energy conservation practices such as switching off lights and equipment when not in use, proper scheduling of milling operations and regular maintenance of machinery. 

Implementing energy-efficient technologies and conservation practices led to a reduction in energy costs by nearly 50%. Our monthly fuel expenses were approximately UGX2.4 million (€588). With the adoption of energy-efficient technologies and conservation practices, we pay an estimated UGX1.4 million (€343) on average. 'We have achieved a cost-saving of nearly 50%,' James added. 

Additionally, the adoption of collapsible solar dryers for drying grain at the factory has significantly enhanced efficiency and productivity through reduced drying time, increased drying quality, and reduced post-harvest losses. James elaborated, 'The collapsible dryers have been a game-changer for us. Previously, we relied on tarps, which would take 2-3 days to dry farmers maize, sunflower, and soya bean grains. However, we now achieve quality dried grains in 4-6 hours with solar collapsible dryers.' This remarkable reduction in drying time has enabled Awelo Millers to process larger quantities of seeds within a shorter timeframe, leading to increased overall output. This transition to energy-efficient solutions highlights Awelo Millers’ dedication to sustainable production practices. The company’s commitment is further exemplified by its goal to reduce approximately 11.5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent in yearly carbon emissions.

Furthermore, the co-investment with the IMEU project triggered a profound and immediate mindset change in the workers towards embracing efficient energy technologies and conservation practices that benefited Awelo Millers and had a ripple effect on achieving the targeted energy cost savings and emissions reduction as well as other benefits. Today, James is optimistic about the future, 'I am confident that in two or three years, Awelo Millers products will soon fill the shelves of renowned multinational retailers such as Carrefour with its product,' highlighting the company’s ambition and commitment to inclusive and sustainable growth. 


The Inclusive Markets for Energy Efficiency in Uganda (IMEU) is a four-year project funded by the Embassy of Sweden. The project is implemented by a consortium led by SNV, with support from Makerere University College of Engineering, Design, Art, and Technology (CEDAT) and Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) as implementing partners. IMEU aims to develop sustainable, inclusive markets for appropriate energy efficient (EE) products and services for households, businesses, and institutions in agriculture and the built environment to enhance livelihoods and increase the resilience and competitiveness of businesses in Uganda.

Learn more about the Awelo Millers in this short video.

By Denise Mpanga, Communications Officer, SNV in Uganda 

To learn about SNV's sustainable energy projects