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close this bookBoiling Point No. 44 - Linking Household Energy with other Development Objectives (ITDG - ITDG, 2000, 44 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentTheme editorial: Integrating household energy into wider development objectives
View the documentInterlinkages of household energy with the environment
View the documentAre energy projects not wanted any more?
View the documentHealth and household energy - the need for better links between research and development
View the documentCooking smoke can increase the risk of tuberculosis
View the documentMonitoring ECO-house performance as if people mattered
View the documentCarbon trading: a new route to funding improved stove programmes?
View the documentGTZ Pages
View the documentThe integrated approach to link household energy with other development objectives - Some organisational experiences from the ProBEC demonstration project in the Hurungwe District of Zimbabwe
View the documentThe ecological cost of increasing dependence on biomass fuels as household energy in rural Nigeria
View the documentWomen in post-harvest operations: reducing the drudgery
View the documentLight... from wind... a journey of will and imagination
View the documentThe Tehesh efficient biomass stove, Tigrai, Ethiopia
View the documentResearch and Development: The 'Turbo' wood-gas stove
View the documentPublications
View the documentWhat's happening in household energy?
View the documentITDG energy news

Are energy projects not wanted any more?

by Clive Caffall, ETSU, 156 Harwell, Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 ORA. E-mail

Les projets rgques sont-ils toujours drables?

Les bailleurs fonds ont drmais tendance avoriser les projets impliquant les populations plutue les projets orte intensitn capital. Cette approche devrait favoriser le dloppement des rgies domestiques. Cependant les besoins rgques ne sont pas toujours explicites car ils sont intdans d'autres besoins comme l'eau, la nourriture etc. Il peut e par consent difficile d'identifier les bailleurs de fonds appropriou les politiques ettre en oeuvre. Les projets rgie domestique devraient e formulde mani e qu'ils soient reconnus par les bailleurs de fonds potentiels, par exemple l'accplus litaire entre les genres, l'amoration des conditions sanitaires, une meilleure productivitevraient e mis en relief.

These are personal views based upon several years' experience of working within both multi-lateral and bi-lateral development agencies.

Funding organisations are aligning their work with the International Development Targets (IDTs) agreed at various United Nations (UN) summits. The prime IDT is halving the proportion of people living in absolute poverty by 2015. Related to this are several other quantifiable targets, eg for reducing infant mortality, working towards gender equality, and ensuring environmental sustainability.

The effect of this has been a trend towards more people-based projects. These can be at the policy level, seeking to influence the way authorities work, or working directly with the communities. Hence within many donor organisations the social sciences are now having a greater influence upon policy and therefore which type of projects will be supported.

To those working in household energy, this might seem to be a change for the better in terms of getting funding for their projects. However there is tendency, within agencies now, to consider more integrated approaches to tackling poverty rather than programmes devoted to a particular sector. One of the constraints for household energy people to contribute to this integrated approach appears to be 'connecting' with the correct policy and/or funding lines without being sent from department to department.

To overcome this, we have to realise that household energy is rarely seen as relevant to the objectives of these other departments and disciplines. There is an unfortunate perception that an energy project still means power stations and large-scale electricity provision. Or, at the other extreme, that household energy equates with just 'stoves', which are seen as involving hands-on management-intensive fieldwork that is best left to local NGOs.

The problem we have is that energy is not something that is needed for its own sake, unlike water, shelter or food. Participatory appraisals with communities do not explicitly identify energy as a need. Instead it is often embedded in the needs that are expressed, such as help for children suffering from asthma and breathing problems, adult education, or cash for basic fulfilment.

So the promoters of household energy will increasingly have to adapt their work to be incorporated within other initiatives, ie 'put into the mainstream'. Some may find it difficult to be only contributing to a small part of a larger activity instead having their own 'energy' project. But this is starting to become the only way to get support for energy work.

It is important to highlight those benefits of household energy interventions that are consistent with the IDTs. These benefits will often be things that we know well, such as reduced indoor air pollution, but they may have to be 'marketed' in terms that the potential funders are now seeking. It must be borne in mind that energy (or power) will have been (and may still be) the responsibility of another department. So the funders you are addressing now may never have had any dealings with energy specialists. Hence it may be good idea for you to collaborate with specialists from other disciplines such as social development, economics and governance to get the necessary perspectives.

Some examples follow of how household energy work can be shown to contribute to the IDTs. The addition of a relevant example (say from the country where the project will be) would help to illustrate the case being made.

Better health for poor people

The following health issues are associated with the absence of modern fuels:

· Health effects of collecting and preparing traditional fuels (see Table 1);
· Domestic air pollution and other hazards from cooking over open fires (see Table 1);
· Lack of power for health centres (lighting, vaccination refrigeration and sterilisation);

Health benefits that can arise from improving household energy provision:

· Smoke reduction via better ventilation, quicker cooking practices (less time in the kitchen), use of more efficient stoves, a transition to cleaner fuels (eg kerosene, LPG, bio-gas);

· Decentralised grids or standalone systems to provide electricity for health centres;

· Power for community water pumping from cleaner ground water supplies.

Table 1. Health hazards associated with biomass fuels


Possible health effects

Gathering fuel

Severe fatigue, risk of landmine injury, bites from snakes and insects, opportunity cost of time (eg reduced child care)

Preparing dung cakes

Risk of infection

Charcoal production

Smoke poisoning, burns, cataracts


- smoke emission

Acute respiratory infections (ARI), chronic obstructive lung diseases (COLD), conjunctivitis, exposure to toxic fumes

- heat emission

Greater incidence of burns and scalds, cataracts

- posture

Arthritis, back pain

Source: Prof. P Miller (BP40, 1998) adapted from WHO

The removal of gender discrimination

Women suffer most from the lack of access to modern energy. This forces them to spend most of their day on survival activities. In particular:

· Fetching water, which can be the most burdensome and time consuming activity;

· Pounding grain by hand, often a daily activity and the most exhausting;

· Collecting firewood or other combustible biomass (which accounts for 20% of rural women's work time on average);

· Cooking over inefficient fires;

· Head-loading of crops and other manual farming work.

Hence women's use of energy should be considered as a major issue within any gender analysis of development needs. The provision of appropriate energy supplies can enable a number of gender related benefits:

· Opportunity for women to improve their status by being freed from drudgery;

· Energy for small enterprises allows women to expand their traditional craft activities and diversify into new business areas;

· Provision of street lighting improves safety at night and facilitates social gathering;

· Power for a public phone can bring real benefits to women and the community.

The reduction of poverty

The limited access to reliable and affordable energy services constrains poverty reduction by:

· Perpetuating the lack of opportunities for sustainable income generation;
· Restricting productive activities in the evenings, due to poor quality lighting.

So incorporating energy supply into development programmes can:

· Encourage faster development of small enterprises, creating job opportunities and reducing migration to urban areas;

· Provide affordable electricity to homes, generated by decentralised mini-grids and standalone systems, for lighting and productive uses.

However, if the provision of a new energy supply does not stimulate an increase in local productivity and incomes, it is not likely to be sustainable. Micro credit schemes can only be based on an adequate future income to repay the loans (although an energy service company (ESCO) may only require a down payment for connection, not a loan). Therefore providing energy should be seen as an enabling element, not the reason for a development intervention. The best projects are those where the introduction of a small amount of energy can lead to a large increase in incomes.

It will greatly help the case you are trying to make if you are familiar with the programmes that the funding organisation is planning. Most donors publish their strategies for particular countries and themes. Some of these are available through official web sites. It will save both your time and theirs to approach only on those donors who are working in the country in which you are interested. Further you should identify which programmes (if any) might include an energy element, based upon the sort of reasoning given in the examples above.

Such programmes could be:

· Community managed natural resource schemes (improve the biomass resources available by instigating farmer tree growing and local woodland management);

· Influencing the policy environment (eg by addressing inconsistencies between forestry and energy policies; ensuring that traditional fuels are fully included in national and local energy planning);

· Facilitating market liberalisation (remove distorting fuel subsidies and taxes);

· Helping governments to create an enabling environment that will encourage the private sector to invest in public service delivery (eg ESCOs);

· Enterprise development (enabled by reliable energy supply)

· Institutional development (eg establishing community ownership of local decentralised systems, training in maintenance skills, etc).

The basic needs of poor people have not changed. Household energy interventions can help to meet these and improve their quality of life. The challenge is to show how this can fit within the broader agenda that development agencies are adopting.

Clive Caffall is an adviser on energy issues to various development organisations. His work includes strategy formulation, programme management and project design.