More women join clean energy campaign

Women who have benefited form Energy and Gender training making briquettes  for sell. The briquettes are cheaper and safer compared to using charcoal or firewood. Picture: Courtesy
Women who have benefited form Energy and Gender training making briquettes for sell. The briquettes are cheaper and safer compared to using charcoal or firewood. Picture: Courtesy

In Kenya, just like many other countries women are the ones left with the responsibility of cooking for the family.

The process can be tiresome, time consuming and at times pose health risks in especially poor families. This is because most of them use firewood, charcoal and   kerosene as they source of cooking fuel. Those who use firewood spend a lot of time looking for the commodity which is scare as replacing trees that have been chopped down is not taking place.

While looking for wood fuel is a big challenge, health issues emerge as the greatest problem affecting those who use it. Statistic from the United Nations indicate that in Kenya, at least 14,300 women die every year from inhaling the gases that are emitted from the smoke in the kitchen.

Kenya, it’s noted, is amongst the eight countries that contribute 65 percent of deaths contributed by wood fuel globally, which currently stands at 4.3 million. The other countries include Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Bangladesh, China and India.

Statistics

Statistics also indicate that there are a significant number of children who are suffering and some dying. These are the children who have a habit of keeping their mothers company in the kitchen as they cook. Others suffer the consequences because they use kerosene tin lamps to read at night.

Globally, at least three billion people rely on solid fuels for cooking, causing serious environmental and health impacts that disproportionately affect women and children.

Women also expose themselves to many risks when looking for firewood in the forests. Because of the current strict rules aimed at conserving forests, they have to go deep inside. This exposes them to dangers of meeting wild animals and also being at risk of rape.

In order to save women from these ordeals, Practical Action Eastern Africa, in partnership with Sustainable Community Development Services (SCODE), and with the support from ENERGIA International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy is implementing a programme with two components: the ‘Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya (WEEK) project’ and the ‘Advocacy for Gender and Energy in Kenya’ project in seven counties.

In Kenya it is being implemented in Kisumu, Kakamega, Siaya, Nakuru, Nyeri, Murang’a and Nairobi.

Awareness  

In order to increase awareness, advocate and mobilize support for the integration of Women Economic Empowerment approaches in energy
service delivery, Practical Action organized a stakeholders forum in Nairobi to create awareness campaign targeting to reach over two million people.

During the forum, women who have benefitted from the programme got a chance to share their experiences.

Elizabeth Maina from Nakuru makes improved jikos that uses less charcoal and emits less smoke while still cooking more food. Maina’s journey started as a customer of SCODE products. She bought a jiko that worked very well for her and lasted longer than the ordinary jiko. People who visited her noticed and started inquiring.

“That is when an idea struck me that instead of sending them to SCODE I requested that they make me their distributor so that I could sell the products and earn some money.”

The idea worked well for Maina and after sometime she was able to start a shop which was stocked the jikos. As time went by she started stocking other utensils that were also needed by her customers. She was then trained on record keeping because her business was expanding fast and today Maina has a big and popular shop in Nakuru town.

“Because of selling these jikos I am now financially independent while I encourage more women to use safe energy.”

Damaris Ochola is another beneficiary from Kisumu County. She makes briquettes using molasses. This new technology reduces cutting of trees hence conserving the environment. Ochola was trained in 2015 with other members of her group. After the training, however, Ochola had challenges because she did not have the machine used to make briquettes.

“We only have one machine in the whole of Kisumu town so you have to book in advance in order to hire. This means that you have to make as many as you can during the few days that you have the machine,” she said adding that the machine is too expensive for one person at the beginning.

Challenge

Another challenge that Ochola faces is accessing molasses. Many people always associate molasses with alcohol brewers (chang’aa) .This also poses a challenge in transporting molasses because matatu owners fear that they will be arrested for encouraging chang’aa production.

Another challenge is that the briquettes only do well during the sunny season. When there is no sufficient sun, they take longer to dry.

However, Ochola has managed to overcome the challenges and beyond selling the briquettes, she has also become an employer.

“I am very happy that I have introduced women to safe energy where their health is taken care of while their expenses have also gone down.”

Ochola would like the county government to give them loans so that they can expand their businesses by buying the machine which is worth KSh80,000.

Through this project, there are also women who have been trained on how to install and repair solar panels and wiring for lighting and other appliances like radio. The trainings are done by Energy4Impact to reduce the gas emitted by tin lamps and also reduce the use of batteries for radios, which are an environmental hazard.

Lydia Muchiri, Senior Gender and Energy Advisor-Practical Action said 730 women entrepreneurs have been trained and economically empowered in the WEEWorks programme. The women are spread across five regions and seven counties. She said this was done to enhance women participation and benefit.

“We all know that if you empower a woman, you empower a community. Women are also very good in marketing good products and bringing down bad products,” explained Muchiri. She noted that so far women have been doing a good job at marketing the products that they make and also consume.

Lillian Ogombo, Chief Officer Energy and Mining, County Government of Kisumu encouraged the women to continue spreading the gospel of clean energy. She also shared with the attendants that her department has a kitty of KSh5 million which is at their disposal.

“You already have groups so you should make use of the available resources by applying for loans and grants where possible. That money is set aside for you and you should come for it,” Ogombo said.

John Maina, Principle Renewable Energy Officer, Ministry of Energy also expressed his support for the programme. “Women are pillars of the society and so when we make their work easier, healthier and safer, the whole society is happy,” said Maina. He added: “I am glad that the programme covers many regions and with our continued partnership I can see it going to all parts of the country. One day we will be a country of cleaner.”

WEEWork programme also works towards attaining seven out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is reducing poverty, reducing hunger, encouraging good health, supporting quality education, providing affordable and clean energy, encouraging clean and decent work and economic empowerment and supporting climate action.