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Renewable and Energy for Rural Development  With a Gender Perspective: Draft Short Term Study Report


Langiwe Chandi


Development is a multi - dimensional process that involves both qualitative and quantitative changes, it is therefore essential that all factors that have an impact are carefully considered and integrated in the planning process. Many developing countries have put in place rural development plans, yet decades after independence the challenges of economic dualism remain unresolved. This situation has necessitated the need to revisit previous development strategies and incorporate global strategies to induce development.

Energy is a key input in all-domestic, commercial and industrial activities, which form the economic base for development. On the other hand all resources are of no use if there are no human resources to harness them and ensure they produce the desired developmental effects. However, human beings have minds of their own and it is prudent that any development efforts that are implemented incorporate all stakeholders to ensure success.

In Zambia, like many other countries, wood fuel is the major source of energy especially for households. Women are not only the custodians of domestic energy use but they also constitute 51% of the total Zambian population. Statistics also indicate that poverty is at its worst in female-headed Households where over 80% live in abject poverty. In terms of contribution to the economy, women are the major producers of food and most of them are involved in income or potential income-generating activities such as sewing, knitting, making handicrafts, food preservation, processing and retailing. Given this background, it would be assumed that policies such as the energy policy recognise them as key stakeholders and target them as beneficiaries, though the prevailing situation is contrary.

With the provision of energy, women can be afforded the chance to be more productively i.e. because they would spend less time searching for energy. This study seeks to examine whether current government efforts have enabled and can enable women to excel through the provision of energy services. In order to undertake this short-term study, two hypotheses that were developed were tested. The hypotheses are as listed below:

  1. Government rural initiatives have failed and are failing because they do not explicitly address gender issues in energy.

  2. Women's welfare and quality of life plays a marginal role in determining energy provision in rural households and income-generating activities.

The methodology of testing the hypotheses entailed both desk research and field surveys. The analysis was centred on analysing policy documents and other projects and programmes. This information was derived mainly from the National Energy Policy Document, that National Gender Policy and other project reports and documents. With the assistance of an officer from Central Statistics Office covering a selected number of villages in Central Province, Lusaka Province, Southern province and Eastern province of Zambia. The findings are preliminary as more data is awaited to undertake more comprehensive analysis. Several policy recommendations were made and their feasibility considering the current situation in Zambia was tested by considering the following factors:

  • Institutional and Management.

  • Legal Framework.

  • Economic and Financial.

  • Human Resources and Technical capability.

The findings based on the testing of the first hypotheses indicate that at policy formulation level there were very few women and as such insufficient provision representation of women's concern. In terms of the actual agenda, there was an attempt to incorporate gender issues in the wood fuel sub sector policy. However, other sectors especially those of commercial nature made provisions, which considered society to be homogenous, i.e. that both men and women have equal access to resources. In terms of projects, there is a correlation between incorporating gender issues at project design stage and the rate of success. The success is best proven by end user acceptability, purchase of electronic equipment, commencing of income generating activities and increased input and output in entrepreneurial activities.

For the second hypothesis, the continuous economic decline has made the shift from traditional sources rather elusive. The items that are on the priority list include rent, food and school going children related costs. In cases where there have been energy shifts, there have been relocations into peri urban areas i.e. in the Lusaka rural district. In Eastern Province observations from the ESCO project was that more men were able to shift to solar energy.

Having considered the following factors the final policy recommendations among others are as follows:

  • Government should ensure all existing policies are reviewed so that they are gender sensitive.

  • There is need to review the national energy policy.

  • There is need to harmonise the national gender policy and national energy policy and develop effective strategies for successful implementation.

The low-income levels of women necessitate provision of credit at concessional rates.

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