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.

Inspiring Latent Entrepreneurialism in Young Professional Women: a new model for capacity building in the last mile

By Aneri Pradhan, ENVenture

Liberia Munduru energy access ENVenture.jpg
Liberia Munduru

Liberia Munduru is a 27-year-old woman hailing from hailing from West Nile, a region of Uganda bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. She received a degree in Social Development from Makerere University, a top University in East Africa. She was awarded a scholarship to study education at the National Teachers College. However, she wanted to return to her community and use her new skills to improve the situation for her people. She turned her scholarship down.



Continue reading “Inspiring Latent Entrepreneurialism in Young Professional Women: a new model for capacity building in the last mile”

Targeting decentralised energy with international climate finance

By Rianne Teule, SNV

SNV and and others development organisations have been saying this for a while, but now the call for climate finance to be better targeted towards small-scale decentralised energy has been reinforced by experts from a Dutch policy institute, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL).
SNV energy access in Tanzania

Continue reading “Targeting decentralised energy with international climate finance”

Universal energy access: what’s gender got to do with it?

Charlotte Taylor,  in partnership with Mariama Kamara, Founder and Director, Smiling Through Light

The energy sector is traditionally male-dominated with men’s access to better education, skills training, and finance enabling them to develop businesses and access markets that women have often been excluded from as a result of gendered social norms and women’s unpaid care work. In the energy world, the role of women has often been limited to that of consumers; particularly in relation to the household sphere and cooking practices. The benefits of clean cooking fuels and technologies on women and girls is championed on global platforms; and women are being increasingly recognised as important to energy access planning processes. What benefits arise, though, when we embrace and empower women as agents of change who are actively striving for, and driving us towards, Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7)? Continue reading “Universal energy access: what’s gender got to do with it?”

ACCESS and the One for All Campaign – Webinar Monday 6th March 1400 GMT

One for All is an independent, global campaign that seeks to mobilize new forms of capital and new investors to invest in energy access. One for All will dramatically diversify and increase funding for energy access – and bring clean affordable energy to remote rural places, for cooking, lighting, clinics, and schools and businesses. We will support communities to build local capacities. We will direct and scale investments to solve a global problem at the local level.

View the recording of the webinar.

Continue reading “ACCESS and the One for All Campaign – Webinar Monday 6th March 1400 GMT”

Bringing solar out of the shadows

By Sarah Best, senior researcher in IIED’s Shaping Sustainable Markets research group.

For Tanzania to meet its energy needs – and in a way that is sustainable – huge levels of finance are required to boost its decentralised energy sector. But the latest research shows current funding flows are way off target.


Continue reading “Bringing solar out of the shadows”

Kenya Climate Change Working Group – Case Study

Interview with John Kioli, Chair of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group, by Hannah Mottram

Tell us about your organisation

The Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG)  is a consortium of over 300 organisations working climate on climate issues. We try to support government in international meetings, such as the recent COP in Marrakech. Our civil society members have been engaged with energy and climate issues for longer than some members of government, so it is a strength that we can support. We also maintain an oversight of government and county policies, and hold them to account.

John Kioli with Kenyan delegates at COP22

Continue reading “Kenya Climate Change Working Group – Case Study”