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By A. de Clippele and E. Waeterloos,
Sustainable access to energy is an important vector to improve the living conditions of the rural population of Mozambique. Not only can sustainable energy access facilitate day-to-day life by extending hours for food preparation, studying or watching TV. It can also create new opportunities for local income generation through production of goods or services such as recharging of mobile phones or sales of cold drinks. However, the link between energy access and income-generating activities is not always well-known nor straightforward. That is why it is important that the population has appropriate access to information about possible productive uses of energy. In addition, the impact of energy in everyday life has a strong gender dimension, as many of the household and small-scale income generation activities are undertaken by women. Therefore, energy can also be a tool to address gender inequities.
It is with this in mind that the Mozambican partner Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MIREME) organized with the support of Enabel a two-day event on 28 and 29 November 2019 in the locality of Chinhambudzi in the province of Manica. The objective was to promote and exchange knowledge on productive uses of energy and its link with gender equity. This event was attended by the local populace, local authorities and MIREME gender focal points from all provinces of Mozambique.
Various public and private stakeholders shared their ideas and answered questions about productive uses and gender equity. Both the local authorities and the population showed interest in the topic, which demonstrates that access to energy is an important preoccupation for all. It was also the opportunity for the ministry to be in contact with the population and better understand its expectations. The gap in lifestyle between the rural areas and cities where the ministries are based, makes sometimes difficult for the authorities to understand the needs of the rural population. While for instance the information distributed by the authorities will explain the different sources of renewable energy, the concepts and advantages, the population is more interested in practical information. Information that they could directly use in their daily life. Such as how, in practice, renewable energy will help them to have light at night? How do the improved ovens work, how much wood or charcoal will it save and where could someone acquire one? What are the details to verify in order to acquire a reliable solar mini-kit?
After this public event, all gender stakeholders of the energy sector had the opportunity to meet and discuss future actions. Different organisations such as MIREME, provincial delegations, local authorities, FUNAE (Rural Energy Fund), Police, CPCS (Provincial Council for the Fight against AIDS) as well as two local associations were present. Although all interventions were linked to gender equity and energy use, the relation between these two proved to be complex topics for the local stakeholders. The concept of productive use is very broad and not always fully understood. In Mozambique, classical examples of productive uses of energy are irrigation, electrical sewing, installation of fridges/freezers, electronic welding, improved ovens … The latter wood or charcoal-saving stoves/ovens are important, as around 80 percent of the population uses biomass such as wood or charcoal for daily cooking. The link between gender equity and energy transpires clearly in these domestic uses of energy. But also, the question of gender equity inside the public institutions was discussed. Different challenges were pointed out. Among them, the difficulty to distribute the right information. How to reach the whole population? It is one thing to propose a new practice, but another one to have it accepted. It is important that everyone really understands what the advantages are and how to use it. Some associations complained that they were confronted with a strong resistance to change. The market is not yet interested in what they were proposing. Eventually, by sharing experience, the participants agreed that it takes more than new electrical grid lines to improve the living standards of the population. Electrification is a first step, often strongly desired by the communities. But bringing only energy is not enough to promote sustainable development; it is important to also have the devices and applications available to transform these new sources of energy into new sources of income and well-being for the entire community.