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close this bookSustainable Energy News - No. 35 - November 2001 - Theme: Poverty & Energy (INFORSE, 2001, 18 p.)
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View the documentEditorial: Energy Vital to Fighting Poverty
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Editorial: Energy Vital to Fighting Poverty

Demonstration of solar cookers, hay boxes, and sterilisers in Uganda.

Photo by Youssef Arfaoui.

There is no refrigerator in the medical centre of small towns. Fridges do not work because there is no electricity. With no frigeration, many medicines and vaccines cannot be stored.

Without local access to those medicines, sick members of the community have to travel twenty kilometers to the nearest bigger town for much of their health care. Poor households use less energy per household than wealthier ones. This means, among other things, that these families are less well equipped to pre-boil the water that they use for drinking and hygiene purposes.

In many rural areas, producing energy for household use can mean spending several hours a day collecting fuelwood loads of 20 kg or more. In urban areas, the cost of charcoal or kerosene is often juggled with meager household incomes. One consequence of the latter is that it reduces societies’ capacity to accumulate financial resources needed to invest in strategies to improve livelihoods.

Resource-poor communities have to be offered energy choices that help to generate income and to alleviate poverty. It is important to take note of the hard reality that women and men have different access to resources and decision-making within the household.

Energy options that can facilitate activities like retail trading, beer brewing, and dressmaking can increase women’s income.

In food processing, affordable energy would increase the shelf lives of certain food commodities and would contribute to a reduction of farm losses.

Within the health sector, the availability of energy to run fridges is an essential component of maintaining a constant supply of vaccines against measles, polio, and other killer diseases. Effective cooling can guarantee a constant supply of good-quality semen to improve breeds of farm animals. Ready availability of energy can also produce many other beneficial effects on the lives of the poor.

Women, more than men, are particularly affected by this energy poverty. Their health suffers. They work long hours, often in poor conditions, not only to provide energy for their household, but also to compensate for their lack of access to drudgery-reducing technologies.

Timothy Byakola
Climate and Development Initiatives
National Focal Point INFORSE (Uganda).