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Occasional  Paper 3: Energy for Rural Development in Botswana- Proceedings of a National Policy Seminar on Energy for Rural Development 

Edited by

Buti Mogotsi and Sam D. Bok


Executive Summary

According to the 2000 Botswana Annual Economic Report, about 50.8% of the population of Botswana resides in rural areas. The majority of the rural population depends on biomass, mainly in the form of fuelwood, to meet their energy requirements.  An estimated 85.7% of the rural population use fuelwood for cooking. In a 1993/94 survey, only 0.03% and 1.9% of the rural households used electricity for cooking and lighting, respectively. This indicates a high dependence on fuelwood, which has a very high potential for degradation of the natural environment.

Like other developing countries in Africa, Botswana is faced with the challenge of providing adequate and modern energy services to its rural communities.  This is expected to improve their standards of living through increased income and employment generation. The relatively low-income levels in rural areas make the provision of modern energy services un-affordable to most communities.  Although low energy consumption is not considered to be a cause of poverty, and energy itself not a basic human need, lack of energy has been shown to correlate closely with many poverty indicators.

Recent literature suggests that rural households and rural-based enterprises progress up the “energy ladder” or switch to modern fuels as income increases. Income is perceived to be the most important determinant factor in the type of energy consumed, although other factors such as access and information could be equally important.

This seminar is the first of series of annual national policy seminars being conducted in countries participating in the current AFREPREN/FWD research studies. These seminars provide useful platform to disseminate AFREPREN/FWD research findings and also solicit policy makers’ views on issues of national interest. Such views form the basis for formulating future research issues.

The seminar attracted 26 participants involved in the various aspects of energy, rural development and the environment. The participants were drawn from the Government, parastatals, NGOs and the private sector. The seminar was held for two days. The first day was devoted to presentations on the various energy sub-sectors and the second day to discussions and formulation of policy recommendations.

Within the context of rural development, the following issues were raised:

  • Contribution of the energy sector to employment creation in rural areas

  • The sector’s contribution towards promoting rural industries

  • The role of energy in improving social services in rural areas.

With respect to gender in the energy sector, some of the issues raised included:

  • The need to develop appropriate technologies to reduce the burden women carry in the provision of household energy.

  • The need to involve women in the development of appropriate rural energy technologies as well as increased representation of women in decision-making bodies of energy-related bodies.

On the different energy sources, the following issues were raised.

i)          Biomass

-Rural communities are over-dependent on the use of fuelwood.

-Fuelwood is harvested unsustainably in some parts of the country.

-There is need to develop sustainable management systems for fuelwood and introduce alternative energy sources.

ii)          Renewable Energies

-Outside biomass, solar energy is the most significant renewable energy in Botswana.

-Due to capacity limitations, the use of PV for income generation is restricted to low load applications.

-Affordability of PV equipment still remains one of the barriers to its widespread use.

iii)         Coal

-Botswana has got abundant coal resources, although its use in rural areas is low.

-Coal offers a number of income generating opportunities.  These include coal distribution and small-scale commercial applications such as baking and brick making.

-The major barriers to widespread use of coal in rural areas is lack of appropriate coal burning equipment and the unavailability of coal.

iv)         Petroleum Products

-Activities related to petroleum products in Botswana are mainly downstream-related activities.

-Three products are price controlled namely; petrol, diesel and illuminating paraffin.

-Distribution of petroleum products, inclusive of rural areas, is in the hands of the private sector.

-Constraints to supply of petroleum products include small markets, high transportation costs and high cost of establishing distribution networks in rural areas.

v)          Electricity

-Electrification rate in rural areas is still low.

-Due to budgetary constraints only a limited number of villages are connected to the national grid annually.

-In villages with grid connection, the number of households connected is low.

With respect to technologies for rural enterprises, the seminar observed that:

  • Rural Industries Innovation Centre (RIIC) has developed a range of small-scale technologies for income generating activities such as baking ovens and milling packages.

  • Despite the technologies being low-tech, they are still not affordable to many communities.

The following emerged as policy recommendations from the seminar:

  • Access to modern energy services should be increased in rural areas.

  • Appropriate energy technologies should be developed to address the needs of rural areas.

  • Awareness campaigns on alternative sources of energy should be mounted in rural areas to sensitise communities of the benefits of modern energy services.

  • Gender issues should be incorporated into energy and development issues.

  • Women representation in decision-making bodies of energy related institutions should be enhanced.

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