A new initiative seeking to upscale the use of renewable energy resources has been launched in five counties.
Energia Kenya is raising awareness on gender and energy conservation besides lobbying county governments to enact laws that promote green energy use by communities.
The first phase of the programme has been an attempt to have energy and gender issues included in respective county integrated development plans and to enable stakeholders to share experiences.
Through the initiative, communities can now embrace appropriate renewable energy resources as a means of environmental conservation in the wake of climate change and dwindling agricultural productivity and poor health conditions that affect women and children arising from exposure to smoke.
So far, stakeholder forums have been ongoing in Kajiado, Nakuru, Kisumu, Kakamega and Kisii counties, with the focus being on using local resources to address energy challenges.
In East Africa, over 81 per cent of the population lives without access to modern energy, and less than 40 per cent in urban areas have access to electricity.
According to Mr Noah Lusaka, the coordinator for Energia Kenya network in Kajiado County, rural communities should be supported with appropriate and affordable green energy solutions to avert the effects arising from using fossil fuels.
Lusaka urged the Kajiado county government to develop gender sensitive energy policies to enhance speedy energy entrepreneurship.
At a gender and energy sensitisation forum in Kajiado last week, it emerged that local communities and especially women and children were particularly vulnerable to respiratory diseases arising from exposure to smoke and other energy challenges.
Speaking during the forum, Mr Titus Koote, Kajiado County’s chief officer for Roads, Transport and Energy urged stakeholders to support the county government in developing energy solutions for pastoral communities since connection to the national power grid is a challenge because they keep on moving from one place to the next.
Kajiado County Executive Member for Health Gladys Marima said: “We need to make energy cheaper and available.
County governments require support from NGOs and private sector. They should come forward with policy recommendations on gender and energy.
“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” she added. Mr Timothy Seyiore, an MCA, said: “Everybody in my village now has a phone and many families are using M-kopa solar energy for lighting at night and charging phones because its affordable.
We need to sensitize more communities on how to best harness solar energy especially for lighting at night to replace paraffin.
During the Kajiado forum, Mr John Sironik, a local elder from Kiserian slaughter house engaged in commercial biogas production, showcased how biogas was changing lives due to cost implications, environmental and economic benefits. Energia Kenya network was established in 2002 to enhance networking on gender and sustainable energy resources and operates under Practical Action.
The Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) is a member of the network and hosts the programme in Kajiado County.