Power of Gender in Zimbabwe’s Energy Projects

April 8, 2015

A training workshop held recently by Hivos Southern Africa Hub in partnership with SNV, the Ministry of Energy and Power Development and the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanization and Irrigation Development highlighted the need to prioritise gender-related issues in projects that seek to address energy poverty in Zimbabwe. 

The Hivos Southern Africa Hub is currently working with these partners  to increase the uptake of biogas technology in Zimbabwe. The training workshop titled: “Gender mainstreaming for the Zimbabwe Domestic Biogas Programme,” stressed the fact that energy poverty denies people a basic standard of living and fosters a vicious cycle of poverty, particularly in rural areas. This cycle of poverty hits women and girls especially hard.

Energy poverty is defined as the lack of adequate modern energy for the basic needs of cooking, warmth, lighting, and essential energy for manufacturing, services, schools, health centres and income generation.

According to the World Bank, women in developing countries spend between 2 and 9 hours a day collecting fuel and fodder, and performing cooking chores. The collection of biomass to meet a household’s energy needs is the burden of women and girls. In addition, these sources of energy –  firewood, charcoal and animal dung, amongst others – burn inefficiently and give off noxious fumes that can cause serious respiratory disease and even death.

Yet when energy projects are introduced in rural communities, the focus is mainly on technical aspects at the expense of key factors such as gender, which affects participation in and adoption of new technologies.

The training emphasised that leaving gender-related issues unaddressed can result in the failure of energy projects.

“When we are planning and implementing activities, we have to do it with a gendered lens and mind. When you are doing baseline surveys, you have to make sure that you do them in a way that clearly identifies gender-related goals,” said Maria Tsvere, the facilitator.

“You must set all your goals with a gender lens to ensure that your tools and implementation plans are gendered. When you go out into the field, you also have to make sure you look at everything with a gendered perspective.”

Tsvere emphasised that cultural and social norms put the burden on women to procure traditional cooking fuels, and understanding this dimension is key when introducing projects at community level.

“The aim of the training is to update the gender skills of our project managers in order to enhance the quality and effectiveness of the biogas programme in Zimbabwe,” said Soneni Ncube, Hivos Southern Africa Hub’s Green Entrepreneurship Programme Programme Officer.

The five-year Zimbabwe Domestic Biogas Programme aims to establish a vibrant biogas sector that will benefit more than 67,000 households. The project follows a market-driven approach in promoting the dissemination of biogas technology.