The more central energy is to our lives, the more crucial it is to provide equal access and distribution for all to secure Kenya’s future.
Increasingly, what we are realizing is that this accessibility is made problematic and the lack of it exacerbated by the growing poverty gap in spite of modern technological advances.
Yet, access to electricity remains one of the foremost indicators of advancement and equity in many developing economies.
Sustainable development in any society is dependent on equitable distribution of resources — key among these being energy — and we must be sure of our capacity as a country to provide this in order to realize our own development goals.
Ensuring economic sustainability means increasing the participation of women, mainly affected by poverty, in economic activities geared towards improving our livelihoods and GDP.
However, because poverty is gendered, it means that currently the reality is that men and women do not have equal access to energy.
The division of labour which is also gendered, is also a major contributor to the energy poverty because of historical perceptions of Women’s labour and contribution to the economy Vis a Vis that of men.
The division of labour determines who accesses energy and whose labour is given priority in terms of energy consumption. This has an impact on skill enhancement, capacity to produce or grow labour and the gains expected.
Kenya is one of the countries in Africa that has shown leadership in embracing renewable energy and dedicating substantial resources towards finding sustainable energy solutions.
We have seen deliberate efforts to encourage accelerated investment in renewable energy development for instance, by formulating a feed-in-tariffs policy for independent power production in clean energy.
But how do we ensure equitable distribution of renewable energy once we increase production? How do we use renewable energy as a vehicle for equitable growth across the country? By focusing on women’s access and consumption of it.
According to the United Nations, women spend an approximate 14 hours a day on both economic and domestic tasks. On average, they take up 53 per cent of the total burden of work in developing economies.
This is more evident in rural areas where women will spend their long hours tending to their families both as bread winners and caretakers.
Giving these women access to energy, through renewable energy, means preserving their human capital and consequently improving the quality of their lives.
Strenuous tasks such as water hauling, cooking and cleaning chores, for example, will be made more manageable, increasing these women’s capacity to be more productive for their own development and that of their families.
A 2013 World Bank study showed that 80 per cent of farmers in Kenya are women and a good number of them are either the main bread-earners or contribute significantly to the well-being of their families through their farming activities.
However, agri-business has over the years faced a lot of challenges especially with harsh weather and unpredictable weather conditions, high cost of input and transport as well as high cost of energy.
This has negatively impacted the land and labour in agriculture and for women especially, the possibility of earning substantial incomes through farming.
The introduction of renewable energy solutions however has come as a relief for some of them.
Not only is it more affordable, but it offers a way for them to mechanise some of the farming activities that are laborious and lengthy.
Phylis Wakiaga is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers.