By Watmore Makokoba
Due to the patriarchal setup of most societies in developing countries, the scarcity of reliable and easily accessible power sources impacts negatively more on women and young girls than men.
Lack of alternative energy sources has resulted in heavy reliance on firewood as the sole source of power for most communities especially in rural areas. This leaves women and girls heavily burdened with domestic chores.
Traditionally, women and girls take care of household errands including cooking and ferrying heavy loads of firewood over long distances. This affects their health, minimises their opportunities to attend school or engage in business. They also risk exposure to sexual violence and attacks by wild animals.
According to the World Bank, women in developing countries spend between two and nine hours a day collecting fuel, foodstuff and cooking tasks.
The time spent in the bush searching for firewood, exposes women and girls to risks such as rape. As a result, women and girls cannot meaningfully contribute to development of their communities because of gender inequalities compared to men.
However, the global campaign towards alternative sources of energy which are climate smart, cleaner and sustainable as opposed to fossil fuels and firewood present opportunities for women and girls to participate fully in development.
“The collection of biomass to meet a household’s energy needs is the burden of women and girls. In addition, these sources of energy such as firewood, charcoal and animal dung, among others – burn inefficiently and give off noxious fumes that can cause serious respiratory diseases and even death,” says SNV, a Netherlands development organisation.
HIVOS Southern Africa Hub in partnership with SNV, the Ministry of Energy and Power Development and the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, has bankrolled renewable energy projects that have so far benefitted thousands throughout the country.
Nyarai Nyanhete of Chatiza village in Guruve, Mashonaland Central province, says the biogas projects have changed her life in addition to addressing gender related issues and energy poverty.
Energy poverty refers to inadequate energy to meet basic needs such as cooking, warmth, lighting as well as essential energy for manufacturing, services, schools, health centres and income generation.
She uses cow dung to produce methane gas from the bio-digester at her homestead.
“Our family has benefited immensely from biogas. We use the gas for cooking, lighting and heating. We even use the gas to provide heating and lighting for our broiler chicken project which has been our sole income generating project and source of school fees for our children.
“We also use the slurry from the digesters as an organic fertiliser for our vegetables and crops,” said Nyanhete.
According to HIVOS, the Zimbabwe Domestic Biogas Programme aims to establish a vibrant biogas sector that will improve the living conditions and health of more than 67,000 households, mostly benefitting women and children. The project follows a market-driven approach in promoting the dissemination of biogas technology.
“The project running under the theme: Gender mainstreaming for the Zimbabwe Domestic Biogas Programme, is anchored on the fact that energy poverty denies people basic standards of living and fosters a vicious cycle of poverty, particularly in rural areas.
“ This cycle of poverty hits hard on women and girls especially ”, reads a statement by HIVOS.
Globally over 1.3 billion people live without access to electricity and almost three billion lack clean cooking facilities.