TANZANIA: Addressing Energy Crisis Through Alternatives and Efficiency at Household Level

Published on IPS, by Jessie Boylan, January 2, 2010.

DAR ES SALAAM, Jan 2 (IPS) – Tanzania’s electricity grid is fed by a mixture of natural gas, diesel and hydropower; however, over the past few years the country has experienced severe blackouts and power rationing in urban areas due to drought and subsequent low-water levels …

… Tanzania burns one million tonnes of charcoal each year; which amounts to clearing more than 300 hectares of forest every day to produce charcoal.

“Unfortunately the rate of cutting trees and replacing them is not proportionate,” said Sawe. “If you do the math, 300 hectares per day x 365 days equals…” 109,500 hectares per year.  

“We are only able to plant 25,000 hectares annually, so it is indeed a very serious problem for our environment.”

Sawe initiated TaTEDO – the Tanzania Traditional Energy and Development and Environment Organisation – in 1999, to put into practice knowledge he gained from working as the head of the renewable energy sector for the country’s energy ministry.

“One of the major problems is really the use of solid biofuels,” said Sawe, “which includes the use of firewood and charcoal, of which the technology and use is very inefficient.”

The stoves most commonly used in Tanzania – three-stone fireplaces for wood and metal stoves that burn charcoal – waste more than 85 percent of the energy potential of their fuel.

“The number of people who are dying, particularly women and children, from inhaling the smoke is increasing,” Sawe adds. “The World Health Organisation says that more than 75 people are dying daily here in Tanzania from inhaling smoke while with these inefficient technologies.”

But making changes is complicated by overlapping factors including gender and poverty, according to the Household Energy Network (HEDON).

The gendered division of labour usually means that women are responsible for most domestic tasks; women and children are worst affected by the health impacts of smoke inhalation for example.

But women’s influence on decision-making in the household is limited by their economic dependency on men. According to the UN-HABITAT, where women are economically empowered, they are more likely to adopt better technologies to change damaging energy practices and improve the living conditions of their families.

In the rural village of Igunhwa in the Mwanza region of northern Tanzania, several women’s groups have been formed to take advantage of micro-finance schemes and construct more efficient mud stoves designed by TaTEDO. (full text).

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