Wednesday, 09 May 2012 14:35
On the need for action in Sub-Saharan Africa
In connection with the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, the NGO GERES is warning of the need to act as quickly as possible in sub-Saharan Africa, where 585 million people have no access to energy. Little by little, solutions are emerging to enhance energy independence and economic development, especially in Benin.
According to the World Bank, 50% of the population of the African continent lives below the poverty line. Yet without access to energy, hundreds of millions of people have no chance of improving their living conditions. Sub-Saharan Africa is a priority focus for GERES work.
Africa experiences major disparities in energy access. People living in the rural areas of the sub-Saharan zone have the greatest difficulty in accessing reliable, affordable energy. Firewood still accounts for 60 - 80% of energy consumption. Gathering this wood is an arduous, time-consuming chore, especially for women and some children. In addition, its mass use pollutes the air inside homes and degrades the environment. It exacerbates deforestation and causes respiratory diseases which kill several hundred thousand people every year (source AFD-BAF, 2009). It is therefore essential to create alternatives and develop the African continent's rich renewable energy potential.
Reducing poverty through access to sustainable energy: an example from Benin
Heavily dependent on its fossil fuel imports, Benin also suffers from poorly distributed access to electricity. Less than 30% of the population, most of whom live in rural areas, is connected to the grid (source: INSAE, EMICOV, 2007).
It is therefore vital to find solutions in respect of energy access, a vector of human development and precondition for modernizing the craft and food-processing sectors, which are themselves sources of income generation.
Armed with its field experience, GERES has come up with solutions to the problem of fuel poverty through the SETUP project. With a view to enhancing the income and energy independence of communities in isolated areas, the SETUP project seeks to add value to products after harvest through better access to energy services.For the project beneficiaries, like the members of the "KPONDEHOU" women’s co-operative in ZAKPOTA, their partnership with GERES represents "a supportive framework based on capacity building and establishing links between stakeholders in the supply chain". The co-operative has benefited from the installation of a multiservice platform and mobile equipment for processing cassava, palm fruit and groundnuts. In the medium term, the motors of these facilities will run on pure jatropha oil (thanks to action-research on biofuels conducted by GERES as part of its local supply chain approach).
The SETUP project has helped to improve the quality of food production and workers' daily output and income. 25 multifunction platforms and 44 standalone machines used to process food products have been put in place, together with 19 standalone machines operating with photovoltaic technology. 2,250 families or 13,440 people now have access to sustainable energy.
The 2012 Year offers an opportunity to refocus attention on sub-Saharan Africa, which still contains 45% of the world's population with no access to energy. Many reports over the years have deplored the energy gap in this region, but the situation is not changing quickly enough. It is therefore essential to step up activities aimed at the sustainable development of this region in partnership with local stakeholders in the collective interest.
Picture n°1 :Traditionally, the hulled groundnuts are winnowed by hand. Winnowing is an operation that consists of separating the nuts from the shells through the action of the wind. © GERES
Picture n°2 : Modern groundnut huller. Groundnuts are now hulled and then winnowed using motorized equipment 200 times faster than the manual operation. © GERES
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