NAKURU (Xinhua) --
As Kenya focuses on increasing
production and use of clean and renewable energy, women are
prioritized as key agents to achieving the targets.
Women are primary managers of fuel for cooking in the households
in Kenya. And for years firewood and charcoal has been the major
source of cooking energy for millions of households in the
country but which World Health Organization (WHO) considers a
health hazard due to the loss of lives its costs families.
At least 2,000 people die annually in the East African nation
due to air pollution contributing to the WHO’s global estimation
of 1.5 million dying yearly from complications associated with
the use of atmosphere impurifying biomass.
Daniel Wanjohi, Eastern African Regional Representative for
Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) said women and
children make up the largest percentage of those affected with
use of biomass fuels such as firewood and charcoal.
They carry children while walking long distances through some
unsafe paths to search for firewood and return to the kitchen to
cook with it further exposing themselves to an additional danger
of too much smoke, he said.
"If we empower women, we transform the whole household, from
children to the husbands," said Wanjohi.
At least 40 percent of the household income is spent on
energy, a consumption which would be reduced with empowering
women to access cheaper and more affordable alternative sources
of energy, he noted.
He said promotion of clean cooking practices was significant
to addressing gender disparity in the Kenyan society and thereby
fostering holistic development.
"We need to support women energy entrepreneurs to expand
their businesses and benefit many people," he said.
He also emphasized on the need to mainstreaming issue of
gender and energy in every department to improve lives of many
Lydia Muchiri, Senior Gender and Energy Advisor for Practical
Action Eastern Africa region said it is crucial to include women
in energy planning and allocate resources to women led
businesses because they are a major resource to delivering the
ambitious target on energy in Kenya.
By 2017, total generation of power in the country would have
reached 5,000MW based on the 2013 target set by the government.
This would include input from the hydro, thermal, geothermal,
wind and solar sources.
However, by June 2015 the total generated electricity stood
at 2,299MW according to the Energy Regulatory Commission annual
report for the 2014-2015.
"We advocate for inclusion of women in energy planning at the
county and national levels because lives of families change when
you support women and they should not be just users of energy
but also producers," said Muchiri.
She said involvement of women in energy planning included
provision of support for innovative financial mechanisms that
can help them access more affordable energy options such as
solar, briquettes and improved cookstoves.
The gender specialist said modern cooking has been
prioritized in the Kenyan energy national plans since large
percentage of Kenyans use biomass fuels for cooking which
exposes them to numerous challenges and dangers.
"Women economic empowerment sets a direct path towards gender
equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic
development," she said.
Muchiri said there was need to lobby and advocate for
adoption and support for women economic empowerment approaches
in delivering energy target at organizational, county, national
and international levels.
John Maina, the Principal Renewable Energy Officer at the
Ministry of Energy and Petroleum said women in Kenya played a
vital role as energy producers and managers in their respective
However, despite their immense contribution in energy sector
activities, women lack sufficient capacity and resources to
undertake energy related projects, he said.
"Empowerment is key in increasing women’s access to renewable
energy," he said.
He said women wasted not only too much time searching for
firewood but were also vulnerable to safety and security
challenges while collecting the fuel.
They spent up to five hours sourcing for the cooking energy
often deep in the forests where their safety is unassured, he
He said over 2,000 Kenyans die annually due to the air
pollution indicating urgency to increase access to modern energy
in the households.
Sensitization of the Kenyan communities on enabling women to
access clean and affordable energy was important to eliminate
dangers associated with use of the air polluting fuel, he said.