The struggle against the unsustanable usage of woodfuel through the promotion of alternative energy sources in Peri-Urban Areas
Mwape, Chongo Susan
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Zambia, like most developing countries, relies heavily on woodfuel as the major source of energy for cooking and heating. Over two thirds of the country’s population either dwell in areas that are very far away from the national grid or have not been electrified for reasons ranging from lack of capacity by the service provider or lack of resources by part of that population to access the facility. Being a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol and a member of the United Nations (UN), Zambia has to find ways of reducing on the Green House Gas (GHG) emissions resulting from the negative effects of excessive charcoal production and usage like deforestation and climate change, while ensuring that the UN initiative of providing ‘sustainable energy for all’(SE4ALL) is met.The Government of Zambia has realised this need and has embarked on a program to promote alternative energy sources which are not only affordable but also environmentally friendly and sustainable. Taking cross cutting issues such as gender into account, the government reviewed the 1994 National Energy Policy (NEP) to include emerging issues such as renewable energy. The government has since been trying to implement this policy through a number of actions such as encouraging investment in the sector, but has not produced the desired results of ensuring the adoption and sustained use of renewable energy technologies (RET’s) among the energy poor.The aim of this study was to assess the knowledge levels of the people living in peri-urban areas of the alternative energy sources available to them. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data among residents of one of Zambia’s peri-urban areas in Copperbelt Province. Interviews were also conducted among government officials to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of government’s promotional strategies. A checklist was also used to assess the performance of previous attempts by government to promote RET’s and establish the reasons behind the success and/or failure of the different technologies.From the study, it was established that attempts at promoting renewable energy technologies by the government and other development promoters have not yielded the desired results. Apart from not having the resources to access the widely promoted Solar and Wind energy sources, people in peri-urban areas are either unaware of the availability of other RET’s (their existence and how they work) or the policies enabling their accessibility to the public. The study demonstrates that empowered with adequate information, the energy poor sector of society are ready to try out alternative energy sources if they will prove to be more affordable and available as they are aware that charcoal is not only becoming scarce but also expensive.