The goal of this periodic blog (EfD) is to promote information exchange on access to quality energy services in developing countries including renewable, modern, biomass and household energy.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gender, Energy and Development

Energy is often thought of as poles, wires, and transmission lines. However, the only reason for this infrastructure exists is that they provide some sort of service to industry, businesses, and households. The same can be said for gas pipelines, large storage tanks for liquid petroleum gas and other types of energy. People, businesses, and other organizations pay for all of these energy services. That is the only reason that they exist at all.

Fuelwood Collection Hyderabad India Credit D Barnes
Fuelwood Collection S. India by  D Barnes
So it is somewhat surprising that gender is often overlooked in the provision of energy services in developing counries. Electricity certainly has an impact on women and girls in developing countries through making the home environment more livable, encouraging girls to attend school, and reducing household drudgery. Rural electrification and electricity access now is recognized as a significant priority in many developing countries, especially those in S. Asia and Africa. But while attention often is paid to the wires and poles, is there enough attention to appliances operated by women including fans, small refrigerators, spice grinders, rice cookers, toasters, and others?

Also somewhat overlooked in the energy development business is that women and girls also can be the main suppliers of household energy in developing countries. There have been numerous studies documenting that woman and to a lesser extent men spend much time collecting most of their cooking fuels from the local environment. This fuel collection is time consuming and diverts time from both income earning or other household activities. In addition, the literature on the adverse health impacts of indoor air pollution resulting from burning biomass fuels on open fires or low quality stoves has become very well documented during the last 20 years. Finally, cooking fuels in developing countries contribute about 1 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere every year, and yet there is barely a mention of household fuels in the climate change debate.

See more below the break.

Why is there not as much attention to these issues in development agencies? Opinions welcome. In the meantime, some relevant links are supplied below.

Here is a recent article in The New Yorker Magazine with the great title Hearth Surgery about indoor air pollution and improved stoves in Guatemala and their long term implicatons for health.

Also see my longer report on The Impact of Energy on Women's Lives in Rural India published in 2004. For more information see favorite sites, especially WHO, Energia, and Partnership for Clean Indoor Air.

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