Closing the Last Mile Gap; Training Women as Clean Energy Entrepreneurs

Written By Maureen Onyango

Edited by Linda Davis, PhD

Introduction

Over 4.3 million people die annually as a result of health complications associated with indoor air pollution. Household pollution as a result of burning of solid biomass fuels such as wood and charcoal for cooking has been blamed for the increased incidences of respiratory diseases. Sadly, as primary users of these inefficient sources of energy, women and children are more exposed to toxic fumes from burning of solid fuels. Current statistics indicate that approximately 800,000 children under the age of 5 years die each year due to health complications as a direct result of household pollution. Similarly, degradation of natural resources due to inefficient energy use means that women spend more hours (at least 5 hours a day) collecting fuel for cooking.

In a majority of the rural households, a typical day for a woman begins with house chores such as cleaning, cooking, fending for food, and taking care of children. Cooking meals tends to occupy a good part of a woman’s day, with evidence showing that at least 3 hours of a woman’s day is spent cooking meals for the family. Consequently, majority of women and girls have limited access to education and opportunities for empowerment due to time consuming household chores.

Women walk long distances to fetch firewood to fuel their traditional cookstoves.

As primary end users, women are more exposed to toxic fumes and have an increased risk of developing respiratory infections.

Building Capacity for Women in Clean energy

Realizing that clean energy goals may not be achieved if women are not fully engaged in clean energy initiatives, the Partnership of women in renewables (wPOWER) targeted women through community trainings. The main aim of the trainings was to increase public awareness on the critical role of women in promoting clean energy and combating climate change and to promote women’s leadership in the supply and distribution of clean energy technologies.
The women came in their numbers – mothers carrying their infant children, the young, the old. Even disability did not hinder them from attending trainings.

In the 3-day training, trainees were taken through a rigorous skills-based training centred on three modules: 1) Sustainable Clean Energy Entrepreneurship; 2) Empowering and Developing Transformative Leadership, and 3) Environmental Stewardship

The trainings were conducted across seven regions in Kenya namely; Homabay, Othaya, Maragua, Kahuro, Machakos, Munyaka and Kibra.

Interspersed in-classroom sessions, there were practical exercises on production of briquettes to replace charcoal use in households.

Trainees were educated on available clean energy technologies in lighting and heating.

In total, 353 women graduated with knowledge and skills to engage in clean energy entrepreneurship and to increase adoption of clean energy technologies within their communities.

The Impact of Community Trainings

As a result;

There was increased adoption of clean energy technology.

Women engaged in production of cleaner energy sources such as briquettes

There was an increased production of improved and affordable cookstoves

Solar lamps replaced kerosene lamps and school going children recorded more reading hours using solar lamps.

Women engaged in clean energy entrepreneurship, selling cookstoves and solar lamps while creating awareness on the importance of adopting clean energy technologies.

Trained women sellers outsold their male counterparts by a margin of 3:1 and women were found to be more likely to pursue customers more to make sale

Environmental stewardship- Women engaged in tree planting to restore forest cover that had been depleted due to overreliance on firewood and charcoal.

wPOWER Impact

In the end, the following impact results were recorded between the years 2013 and 2016.

Our Impact

Conclusion

The need to build capacity for women in clean energy has lagged behind despite the fact that women are the most vulnerable when it comes to impacts of inefficient cooking and lighting technologies. Engaging women in clean energy needs to start with creating awareness on clean energy products and providing entrepreneurship or job skills training, and. wPOWER continues to promote the role women can play across the clean energy value chain as a faster way of increasing adoption of clean cooking and lighting technologies.