Imagine a country where nine in every 10 people have no access to the grid and just a fifth of the haves uses electricity for cooking.
This is not a fairytale for many Malawians, but a stark reality pushing them to raid forests for firewood and charcoal.
As trees go up in smoke, with 90 percent of the population relying on firewood and charcoal, Hivos International has partnered five non-governmental organisations to increase the uptake of environment-friendly energy solutions that leave no one behind.
According to Hivos communications manager Masimba Biriwasha, increasing access to green and inclusive energy alternatives is central to the global push to achieve sustainable development goals to eradicate poverty by 2030.
He explained: “With almost 90 percent of Malawians excluded from the grid, the five partners will work together for five years to influence Malawians and policymakers to realise that there are other energy alternatives. We are promoting simple solutions that can make big impact on livelihoods.
The campaigners want populations affected by on-off hydropower and overdependence on forest cover to start tapping the power of the sun, wind and other renewable resources to close the gap.”
They include Youth Network and Counselling (Yoneco), National Association of Business Women (Nabw), Community Energy Malawi (CEM), Malawi Health Equity Network (Mhen) and Renew’N’Able Malawi (Renama).
According to Nabw spokesperson Otilia Kamphanda it is pathetic that women are largely excluded from the technical side of energy sector though they bear the brunt of existing gaps.
Nabw is handling the gender aspect to address inequalities because it is women who are under-represented in the energy sector although they walk long distances in search of firewood due to prevailing gaps.
Yoneco sensitises rural and urban communities to embrace smart solutions—including energy—efficient cookstoves called Chitetezo Mbaula—and demand life-changing decisions from duty-bearers.
In an interview, Renama advocacy officer Kenneth Mtago said the call to “green and inclusive energy for the future” entails promotion of healthy, pro-poor and sustainable alternatives to supplement sluggish rural electrification strides.
The organisation promotes the use of tree-conserving coockstoves, affordable solar solutions, briquettes, alternative cooking fuels and other simple energy solutions.
Chitetezo Mbaula is credited with halving the pressure on forests and reducing air pollution as it uses less firewood and emits less smoke.
The Green and Inclusive Energy Project directly supports the national and global Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) agenda spearheaded by the United Nations (UN).
It contributes to SDG target seven to ensure every person has access to affordable, reliable, and sustainable.
Renama, through Mphamvu-Now Campaign, has created a website, social media pages and other user-friendly digital platforms where the citizenry, policymakers and activists access useful information about the agenda for sustainable energy to reduce deforestation, poverty and climate shocks.