Ethiopia – Green energy in the hands of women

The main income source in Ethiopia’s rural areas is farming. Many farmers have joined cooperatives to share the costs of activities throughout their value chain, such as the processing and transport of agricultural yield. Yet, they face many challenges when it comes to energy and water supply.

Working with coffee cooperative alliance OCFCU has given us the opportunity to promote sustainable and decentralised energy technologies with a focus on gender equality, not only by getting more women involved in management and technologies but also by showing the importance of planning projects in a gender-sensitive way.

Despite economic growth, improved access to education and health services as well as an increased electrification rate, more than 22 million people still live below the poverty line in Ethiopia, with an even higher number of people without access to affordable sustainable energy and affordable clean water. For example, many rural areas are still excluded from the electrification efforts or are unable to afford to be connected to the grid, leaving them with resources that are environmentally and health hazardous and expensive, such as kerosene for lighting, diesel for electricity generation, and the traditional ‘3-stone-technology’ for cooking with firewood. Women, who are mainly affected by the negative impacts of using traditional technologies, therefore need to be involved in the management of energy and water supplies at household and cooperative level.

Trained energy and water ambassadors

After a thorough needs assessment and on site trainings on sustainable technologies, management insights, financing mechanisms, marketing strategies and advocacy work with national and international experts, participating cooperative members have become trained energy and water ambassadors, most of them women.  These women are going to be qualified in the production of briquettes from coffee husks and other agricultural materials. A briquette producer machine will be provided to the community in order to create business opportunities and serving the coffee cooperative members with a permanent energy supply.

As ambassadors they will raise awareness within their cooperatives and communities and will be able to plan, operate, maintain and even sell energy technologies. This strengthens the cooperatives as well as households, creates new job opportunities, broadens economic activities and makes the cooperatives attractive to experts and young citizens in order to reduce the staff turnover and keep the know-how gained within the business and therefore the local region.

ICA Africa