Bridging the gap on clean energy use

Sunday November 17 2019

 

By Hellen Nachilongo@musanachi60

It was in 2015 when Mr Baraka Machumu went to Ukerewe District for a visit and learned about a 15-year-old girl whose education journey had been cut short due to pregnancy.

Hers was a touching story. The only daughter in a family of five children had been raped when she went to fetch firewood. She was expelled from school as a result.

“This made me come up with the idea of an alternative source of cooking energy to help women and girls who are most vulnerable to such incidents,” says Mr Machumu who is the managing director of Green Conservers.

He narrated the sad story to Life&Style during a recent meeting themed “Women in energy round-table series 1 on clean cooking.” The meeting sought to understand the current status of the clean cooking subsector, learn about the challenges, opportunities and solutions towards increased adoption of clean cooking solutions in Tanzania.

Mr Machumu who has established a small factory in Madale to make renewable energy using coco-nut shells, plastic bottles and food left overs says instead of using char-coal and firewood women should embrace renewable energy.

“Women face an increased vulnerability to physical attack when leaving their communities or refugee camps in search of fuels. Yet women are not just victims, they are critical to the widespread adoption and use of clean cooking solutions,” he says.

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A resident of Mkuranga, Ms Fatuma Ally says the biggest problem in their area is that most people in Mkuranga rely on energy sources like charcoal and firewood.

She says using firewood and charcoal puts women at risk of health hazards caused by smoke, violence, rape and unwanted pregnancies.

“We organised ourselves to form a group of 30 people so that we could work together to find a solution of clean cooking and reduce the exposure of health hazards caused by charcoal and firewood,” she says.

According to her, through a certain organisation, they acquired skills to make some cooking stoves since they no longer use charcoal and firewood. They instead use organic products and soil for cooking.

Clean cooking energy for all

Assistant commissioner at the ministry of energy, Mr innocent Luoga says the country is endowed with diverse renewable energy resources, ranging from biomass and hydropower to geothermal, solar and wind. However, much of this potential has not been fully exploited.

If properly utilised, Mr Luoga says such renewable resources would contribute significantly to Tanzania’s energy supply, thus moving the country closer to achieving middle-income status, as envisioned in the Tanzania National Development Vision 2025.

He further noted that currently, 85 per cent of all Tanzanians use unclean energy that comes from charcoal and firewood while only 5 per cent have access to clean cooking energy, 9 per cent kerosene and 1 per cent alternative energy. This shows there is still a gap on the use of clean energy.

The government has in recent years been collaborating with several stakeholders to ensure the country and every citizen is reached with clean cooking energy.

“We expect by 2025 to produce 10,000 MW power generation capacity energy while by 2030 we want to make sure energy is accessible to all,” he said.

Addressing gender issues

The goal is to attain universal access to modern energy services. Mr Luoga urged the private sector to collaborate with the government in its bid to ensure increasing power generation from renewable energy resources that are available in abundance in the country.

This will lead to more than 75 per cent of Tanzania’s residents, the majority who live in rural areas, to have access to electricity services by 2030. The only way to attain this is to ensure gender inclusive on renewable energy is addressed to reduce challenges that are faced by most women on clean cooking.

Creating jobs

He added that recognising the potential contribution of renew-able energy to the country’s future energy mix, the government is committed to foster the development of low-carbon energy initiatives, by harnessing the country’s renewable-energy resource base.

Renewable sources of energy, which are environmentally benign, can be utilised to improve access to sustainable, modern and cleaner energy services. Deployment of renewable energy technologies has the potential to contribute to job creation and income generation.

He noted that there was no doubt, the Scaling-Up Renewable Energy Program is among several key interventions that are in place to promote renewable energy in the years ahead as they strive to achieve energy security.

Tanzania Gender and Sustain-able Energy Network executive secretary, Mr Hezron Kajange says by working with Hivos East Africa, they have embarked on sensitisation initiatives to increase public and stakeholder awareness on issues related to clean cooking.

He says clean cooking is one of the ways that will contribute towards realisation of sustainable energy for all sustainable goals. Through increased energy access has been prioritised in the energy development undertakings in the country.

Consequences on women

However, access and uptake of clean cooking energy has been slow and hindered by numerous challenges therefore stakeholders should explore opportunities and solutions so that they can position themselves to serve the public.

Studies show that more than three billion people rely on fuels like wood, charcoal, coal, and kerosene to cook their food every day. This kind of cooking leads to dangerous levels of smoke exposure, killing up to four million people annually, with women and children being particularly vulnerable.

Lack of access to cooking solutions has significant consequences for women and girls. Not only does cooking endanger their health from inhaling toxic smoke, but they may be removed from school because of domestic work like fire-wood collection, and walking long distances carrying heavy loads due to forest degradation.

The solution providing women access to modern energy is a critical but often overlooked means of empowering women at a house-hold level and advancing gender equality.

With clean cooking technologies, a woman could reduce or eliminate her exposure to household air pollution, cut down on cooking time; eliminate or reduce the number of trips she makes to fetch firewood, and be able to leverage the time saved to engage in productive economic activities, pursue educational opportunities, or simply rest.

Women play a critical role in increasing awareness and generating demand for clean cooking solutions, partly as a result of their networks and community relationships.

The clean cooking value chain also offers new pathways for women’s economic empowerment, pro-viding opportunities for women entrepreneurs to contribute to a thriving global industry for clean cooking.

Email: hnachilongo@tz.nationmedia.com

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