Women in Energy – Rosemary Nakasanga is Changing the Face of Energy Access in Central Uganda

Submitted by Marvin Tumusiime

Rosemary Nakasanga is the founder and director of The Women Support Initiative (TWOSI), based in Lwengo district (central Uganda). Like most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda grapples with the challenge of electricity access – 85% of Ugandans lack access to electricity and 98% of the population lacks access to modern facilities for cooking.

Rosemary (second from right) at ENVenture’s boot camp

Rosemary’s career as a social worker began at the Medical Missionaries of Mary, a religious institute that provides community-based healthcare. One of the programs ran by the institute was building mud stoves and sensitizing community members on the hazards that come with using firewood as a source of fuel. Rosemary enjoyed community outreach so much that she took a step further and set up TWOSI in her hometown of Michunda. In Michunda, 56% of the local population lives without electricity and the main source of energy for lighting is kerosene lamps. “Growing up, we used kerosene as a lighting source and the smoke was a constant menace in our home. It is a cheap alternative, and we were unaware of the dangers that it poses,” recalls Rosemary.

The fumes produced by firewood often takes a toll on the health of the community members – especially women – who are often the primary household energy managers. Now that Rose understands what the community is up against, TWOSI also constructs mud stoves for these elderly women who still use the three-stone method of cooking. She encourages them to use alternative sources of cooking such as fuel briquettes.  Giving these women access to energy, through renewable energy, means preserving their human capital and consequently improving the quality of their lives. Rose contends that spreading awareness on the benefits of energy efficiency is key to promoting behavior change.

Currently, TWOSI is sustained through the sale of quality solar lanterns to community members. “The community knows us for dealing in solar lanterns and they trust in the quality that we provide,” adds Rosemary. Rosemary’s future plan for TWOSI is to scale her energy business and serve more community members with quality solar products. This is in line with the “Light Lwengo” initiative unveiled by the Ugandan government to shift the district from poor to middle-income status by 2030. The extra income will be channeled to TWOSI’s advocacy and counseling efforts for girls and women affected by HIV/AIDS.

Courtesy of ENVenture, TWOSI is also part of a group of over 80 Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) that have formed an exchange platform to share knowledge, best practices, and foster collaboration. Rosemary has also participated in ENVenture’s boot camp which provides a platform for new CBOs to interact with manufacturers of their products and equips them with the necessary skills to run successful energy enterprises.

Rosemary (extreme left) with community members

Rose believes that small changes can make a big difference, “I encourage other CBOs to incorporate energy programs or at the very least environmental interventions. Start by planting trees in your communities and sensitizing people on the benefits that come with it such as combating the effects of climate change.”

ENVenture is a non-governmental organization based in Uganda that empowers rural cooperatives to set up their own clean energy distribution businesses in the last mile by partnering with Community-Based Organisations (CBOs). ENVenture seeks to address is three challenges: One, over 85% of Uganda’s population lacks access to energy, secondly, last-mile distribution for clean energy at the household level remains a challenge, and thirdly there is no support for locally-based enterprises in the last mile. To address these challenges, they have a tailored toolkit that comprises of a clean energy loan, business mentors, capacity building, and mobile technology to the CBOs that they support.

You can read more about their work on www.enventureenterprises.org

“Leaving no one behind” in the newly enacted Energy Law

This post is by ACCESS member, John Kioli. John is a member of the National Climate Change Council in Kenya and the Chairman of Kenya Climate Change Working Group.

In summary:

  • The Energy Act requires all county governments to carry out feasibility studies and develop renewable energy master plans.
  • Low-income households, located off the grid, in rural areas, spend more than 20% of their total income on energy.
  • The government should invest in affordable 0ff-grid solar power and create an enabling environment for private sector participation.

In March this year, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, signed the Energy Act. The Act provides for an established fund by counties that will prioritize energy access. Each county is required to develop and submit a county energy plan to be submitted to the Cabinet Secretary in respect of its energy requirements. The counties are also mandated to carry out feasibility studies for renewable energy aimed at providing relevant information for optimal exploitation of resources and to aid in the development of renewable energy master plans.

High cost of energy

The cost of energy in Kenya causes a substantial economic burden to low-income households, particularly the poor in rural areas with households spending more than 20% of their total household income on energy uses. The majority of these households rely on fuel-based sources of lighting such as kerosene and candles, which expose them to severe fire and health hazards.

Kenyans have to contend with punitive tariff prices, which are worsened by the high cost of energy infrastructure such as land acquisition and wayleaves. The challenge faced by low-income Kenyans is moving up the energy ladder by using more convenient, clean, and affordable energy. High prices for liquefied petroleum gas encourages ‘fuel stacking’ – where households adopt more than one type of fuel, rather than ‘fuel shifting’ as only a few people in rural areas can afford the refilling prices.

Inadequate infrastructure and data

Inadequate port facilities for handling cheaper energy resources including coal and natural gas coupled with delays in decision making due to complicated corporate governance structures have continually contributed to energy poverty in Kenya.

The situation is worse in counties where fiscal and other incentives for private sector investment are insufficient and majority of land use master plans for energy infrastructure are hardly updated. To add on, counties are faced with inadequate energy data that is crucial to guide decision making for energy access development programs at the county level.

This is further aggravated by a lack of understanding and uptake by county governments, investors and other stakeholders for more evidence-based and innovative approaches needed to deliver Sustainable Development Goal 7 on universal energy access.

Reaching the ‘Last Mile’ communities

The Last Mile Connectivity Project is a government initiative that intends to add an additional 1.5 million Kenyans in rural areas to the national grid. The project involves extending a low voltage network to reach households located within 600 meter-radius from a transformer, thereby reducing the cost of accessing electricity for the customer and supply for the power provider.

These projects have seen poor people in rural areas undertake productive activities to improve their livelihoods as a result of access to modern energy. For example, food enterprises requiring power for cooled storage of agricultural or fishery products and value addition have thrived in the rural areas.

Small businesses such as salons, welding, shopkeeping, barber shops among others have improved as services can be offered in the late evening and at dawn. Health facilities and schools have access to required energy standards for optimal service delivery. For example, a student has extra hours of studying while patients can access technical services such as scanning, X-rays among others.

The role of government

In line with Kenya Vision 2030, Kenya Electricity Company Limited (KETRACO) has already completed the construction of a number of high voltage transmission infrastructure comprising of lines, switch gears and sub-stations across the country. These include the 482 km 400kV double circuit Mombasa-Nairobi project which is the first of its kind in the region, the 97 km 132kV line, and sub-stations from Mumias Sugar Company through Rang’ala, to Kisumu, Kamburu-Meru 122 km single circuit 132kV line, among others.

In addition, the Rural Electrification Authority (REA) has aided through connecting public facilities and surrounding “last mile” homes across all 47 counties. REA has helped move rural electrification from 4% to 32% of rural households, largely through its efforts to connect ~60,000 public facilities (mostly primary schools) around the country and all household consumers within 600 meters of those facilities.

The government should expand renewable energy by supporting investments in the sector and aligning them with support from the international community. For instance, the Ministry of Energy could run auctions where private sector companies bid to invest in energy infrastructure. The government should also ensure that incentives such as tax exemption, speedy approval processes, and suitable regulations are available to interested parties and provide a framework for private sector investment.

Another significant advancement would be to make solar power affordable and convenient, particularly in rural areas where only a few households are connected to the national grid. Kenya needs to exponentially expand its energy transmission network which is plagued by flaws dating back decades. For example, the power generated from the Olkaria geothermal power station, cannot be used by the households and businesses that need it in Kisumu – only about 250 km away.

Member Spotlight – SYND (GHANA)

The Strategic Youth Network for Development (SYND) was founded in September, 2008 and its mission is to achieve environmental sustainability through the development and active participation of young people in policy formulation, planning and implementation of interventions.

The founder of SYND, Chibeze Ezekiel, realized that young people were often neglected in decision making spaces because they were regarded as inexperienced. The organization seeks to disapprove this notion by giving young people appropriate training and support so that they are empowered to participate in environmental governance. As is the case in most African countries, young people in Ghana are grappling with unemployment and a lack of income that is exacerbated by energy poverty.

To combat this, SYND is currently involved in national consultation processes, publication of articles/papers as part of influencing key decision makers in the environment sector. They also participate in sensitization campaigns at the community level on environmental related issues. They have a core team of 7 volunteers and they have reached over 100,000 young people as a result of their advocacy work.

SYND is currently being supported by the World Bank Institute and UNDP to establish the Youth in Natural Resources and Environmental Governance (Youth-NREG) Platform. Going forward, they intend to create a platform to bring youth groups working in the natural resources and environmental sector and are in the process of developing the governance structure.

As Chibeze contends, “The surest way to guarantee sustainability of the global development agenda is to empower young people in line with the “Leave No One Behind” mantra of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).” We couldn’t agree more!

SYND just released a report on ‘Youth Inclusion in the Governance of Natural Resources and Environmental Sector.’ You can read it here.

ACCESS at the SEforALL Charrettes in Amsterdam

ACCESS participated in the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) Charrettes in Amsterdam, Netherlands, from 18 – 20 June, 2019. The Charretes were convened to challenge the status quo and generate disruptive ideas and solutions to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7). According to the The Energy Progress Report 2019, 840 million people around the world still do not have access to electricity and 2.9 billion lack clean cooking solutions.

Using the design-thinking approach, participants were prompted to think out-of-the-box, challenge assumptions and come up with innovative solutions to accelerate achievement of SDG7. You can read a recap of the Charrettes here.

The ACCESS coalition also presented on the People Centered Accelerator (PCA) ‘Last Mile’ work stream, during the meeting held on 20th June 2019. Starting with Kenya, the ACCESS Coalition is partnering with Oxfam, World Resources Institute (WRI), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and Practical Action on a series of events aimed at advancing inclusive and integrated approaches to energy planning through advocacy by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues.

The events in Kenya will serve as the pilot project and a second phase will be planned for Ghana and Zambia. These events will culminate into the SEforALL Forum to be held in Kigali from 26 – 28 May 2020. We will keep you updated in subsequent posts.

Exchange visit in Ghana on collaborative advocacy for sustainable energy solutions

By Sanou Dieudonné, Program Officer at OCADES Caritas Dédougou, Burkina Faso and member of the expert group of CNPDER BF

As partners of the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP), I had the opportunity to participate in the V4CP exchange visit in Ghana, in November 2018. This learning visit provided a unique opportunity to share experiences from the different V4CP countries (Ghana, Kenya, Honduras and Burkina Faso), and to learn what sector players in Ghana are doing, how they are doing it, and the successes recorded. Continue reading “Exchange visit in Ghana on collaborative advocacy for sustainable energy solutions”

When energy means the difference between life and death

By Merit Hindriks, Communications officer- Green & Inclusive Energy program, Hivos.

While giving birth to my first child, a series of complications required the quick intervention of an array of doctors and medical equipment. Thanks to their prompt action, everything turned out fine. But this made me realize how privileged my situation was. I could count on good healthcare, well-trained doctors, and the availability of medication and quality equipment.  Continue reading “When energy means the difference between life and death”

From bystanders to powerful agents of change: the importance of gender for a just energy transition

by Fahima Dassu- Renew’N’Able Malawi

Whilst the links between gender and poverty have been tirelessly explored there still exists  a gap in tackling an element of poverty that can occupy up to a quarter of a rural woman’s time, largely affecting her health and is fundamental in developing her gender-strategic interests: energy.
Continue reading “From bystanders to powerful agents of change: the importance of gender for a just energy transition”

Global SDG7 Conference: Are we really doing things differently in energy access?

Blog by Carlos Sordo, Energy Access Partnership & Innovation Manager, Practical Action

More than two years have now passed since the 2030 Agenda was designed and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established – including SDG7 which ‘ensures access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’. The UN’s tracking of progress on SDG7 over the last two years has shown mixed results.

Global SDG7 Conference: Will 27 policy briefs lead to increased action on energy access?

Originally published on the SNV website here

Blog by Rianne Teule, Senior Advocacy Officer – V4CP (Energy)

This week, I represented SNV at the Global SDG7 Conference  in Bangkok where hundreds of representatives from governments, UN agencies, civil society and private sector came together to discuss progress and challenges in achieving energy access for all. Twenty-seven policy briefs were produced in the run-up to this conference. But will all this writing and talking lead to the necessary action?

Continue reading “Global SDG7 Conference: Will 27 policy briefs lead to increased action on energy access?”