Rural electrification as a public policy intervention in improving households’ standard of living: the case of Senanga district

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Ngoma, Jason
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The University of Zambia
Reducing poverty levels and creating an enabling environment for socio-economic development in rural areas has been on the development agenda of successive governments in Zambia. Literature shows that in Zambia, rural areas have for a long time lagged behind in terms of development. Standard of living has considerably remained low for many years in many rural households. As a result, deliberate efforts have been made over the past years by the government to improve households’ standard of living in rural areas through electrification. In the process so many rural District s have been connected to national grid. However, one wonders how electrification of rural areas has affected standard of living. What is not known is whether rural electrification is indeed a panacea to improving standard of living in rural Zambia. Therefore, this study sought to investigate the contribution of households’ electrification to improving standard of living in Senanga District . Specifically, the study sought to examine the effectiveness of the policy implementation framework for electrification of households in Senanga District . The study further sought to investigate the contribution of household electrification to domestic income; to investigate how electrification had impacted livelihoods of households; and to investigate the contribution of electrification to households’ access to social goods in Senanga District . The research was a descriptive case study and utilised mixed method approach. A total of 106 participants involving electrified households and key informants were utilised. Multistage sampling method which involved the use of cluster, weighted stratified, purposive and convenient sampling methods was used to select electrified households. Key informants were selected purposively. Self-administered semi-structured questionnaires were used for electrified household while interview guides were used to collect primary data from key informants. Quantitative data obtained from questionnaires was analysed using Statistical Package for Social Science (SPPS) and Excel spread sheet. On the other hand, qualitative data from questionnaires and interview guides was analysed using content analysis method. The key findings of the research show that electrification of rural areas via grid extension is not a perfect model to improve standard of living. The findings of the study also show that the various players in the electrification of households are faced with several challenges that deter v their smooth operations hence adversely affecting the electrification rate and households’ access to electricity in rural areas. Some of the challenges been faced include: households’ low incomes, low electricity tariffs, dispersed settlements, inadequate funding and centralization of electrical materials among others. The study also finds that rural households seldom use electricity for domestic business activities. Generally, the study finds the contribution of electrification towards improving rural standard of living through improved livelihoods negligible. In relation to households’ access to social goods, the study finds the contribution of electrification towards improving households’ standard of living through improved access to healthcare, clean water and sanitation insignificant. However, the study finds significant positive impact of electrification towards improving rural standard of living through improved access to information, communication and entertainment, preservation of foodstuffs and enhanced access to education and physical security of households. Based on the findings, government through Rural Electrification Authority (REA) need to consider and promote cheaper and affordable sources of renewable energy such as Photovoltaic systems for rural areas. Government should also consider reducing connection charges for rural households and introduce electricity tariffs that reflect socio-economic status of rural communities. Furthermore, there is need for government to enhance capacity of local institutions such as District Councils in rural areas to accelerate electrification rate. District Councils must be involved in the provision and management of electricity in rural communities. There is also need to decentralise operations of REA to rural District s. Keywords: rural electrification, standard of living, public policy intervention, rural development
Rural electrification--Zambia , Rural development--Zambia