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Country Terms of Reference: Zambia

By

Mrs. Langiwe Chandi


BACKGROUND

Zambia is a landlocked country situated in Southern Central Africa covering an area of 752 614 square kilometers. As at 1998, the population estimate was 10.1 million with an annual growth rate of 3.1%. Over 50% of Zambiaís population is based in the urban areas making Zambia one of the most urbanised countries in the SADC region The current economic policy in Zambia is centred on economic liberalisation. The major source of revenue is copper mining and other principal exports include cobalt, tobacco, and non- traditional exports such as flowers. Zambia's economy has been steadily declining since the late eighties. The copper mining industry has had a significant role in shaping Zambia's development pattern. Zambia's economic dualism for example can be attributed to the dependence on copper which entailed developing infrastructure and providing social services centred on the mining industry. This point cab is clearly illustrated by the national railway line, which built to facilitate imports and exports of the mining industry. The same railway line is what broadly demarcates Zambia's urban and rural areas. The areas along the line of rail are the urban areas where the Government made tremendous effort in putting in place infrastructure and other basic and social services. The areas off the railway line are basically neglected.

The mining industry also played a significant role in the rural to urban migration both historically and presently. Many able bodied men left the rural areas in search of employment in the mines and other auxiliary industries when mining activities commenced. Currently, because of the poor living standards in the rural areas, many men have left the rural areas in search of a better life. The implications of this situation are that there has been severe pressure on the infrastructure and other facilities in the urban areas. It has also lead to other problems such as development of slums and other social ills that go along with sustenance of livelihood under such desperate conditions. It also meant that a lot of women were left behind in the rural areas. In 1995 it was estimated that 33% of the households were female headed and of these, 70% were living in poverty. (GIDD, 1996). This number is said to be increasing and the trend is more so in the rural areas (CSO, 1996).

In Zambia, women form 51% of the population. Women's life expectancy is also higher than that of men.  This has been exacerbated by the advent of AIDS, which has left more widows than widowers. However, women still continue to lag behind in all sectors of the economy.  Although Zambia has committed itself to mainstreaming gender in all sectors of the economy, the trend has been to search for areas where women can be slotted in.

In terms of energy, Zambia is well endowed with energy resources such as woodlands for woodfuel, hydropower, coal and new and renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind. Petroleum is the only energy source that is imported. Despite this rich energy base, accessibility to these energy sources is very minimal especially in the rural areas. In terms of electricity only 2% of rural households have electricity as compared to 44% in the urban areas. (CSO, 1996) The prime source of energy in the rural areas is woodfuel, which has negative effects on environment and health. Energy is used for cooking, lighting, heating and so on, all tasks that society has allocated to women. In areas of localised deforestation women have been known to travel several kilometers in search of woodfuel. This affects both their productivity and the nutritional status of the family i.e. it may be difficult to cook foods such as beans and dry fish which require longer cooking times and more energy.

Zambia has an energy policy, which aims to promote optimal use and development of energy resources to induce socio - economic development under a safe and healthy environment. There are sub sector policies and strategies that have been outlined in the policy document targeted at achieving the sector goal. Under woodfuel for example the Government would like to reduce the dependency on woodfuel. Women are the segment of the population that is responsible for this energy source at a domestic level and also where they have ventured in income generating activities, but it seems that women did not get the recognition due as the major stakeholders.

The critical role that women play in the end user acceptability for some of the new energy technologies especially, renewable energy technologies does not seem to have received much attention. This can be demonstrated by the fact that women are mostly consulted at the testing phase and mostly such technologies are rejected. For example in Zambia, the first coal briquette stove that was built was rejected because it was not portable. This had major disadvantages was that women could not easily carry the stove to collect burning wood or charcoal from their neighbour to ignite their fire. What the designers didnít recognise that by moving with their stoves to the next place were there was burning fuel, women were able to socialise within their chores. In Malawi, a kiln that had been developed to improve energy efficiency was rejected because it resembled a child's grave. This therefore demonstrates that Ignoring this silent power that women have entails resources will continue to be wasted in development of technologies that will not succeed or have a low penetration rate.

Given the right energy services women have a great potential to enhance their status. Some of the known traditional skills of women that can be and have been put to commercial use are pottery, baking, food preservation, sewing, knitting, crocheting and beer brewing. If rural development through energy and renewable energy technologies is to be promoted then poverty alleviation in one of the most vulnerable groups and major end user of domestic related energy - women should be considered in decision-making. It is for this reason that this study will give adequate attention to women who are crucial stakeholders in the use of energy and who have been ignored in the past.


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