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The Government of Zimbabwe has put in place Policy frameworks which have created a conducive environment for clean energy infrastructure to be put in place in response especially to clean energy and adapting and mitigating against climate change.
Tariro Chipepera, the Director for Community Development in the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development said this on behalf of the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Dr. Mavis Sibanda during the Modern Cooking Facility for Africa Stakeholder Engagement Indaba that was organised by Lanforce Energy today in Harare.
The National Renewable Energy Policy, The National Climate Policy and the Revised National Gender Policy all speak to this aspect of having clean cooking technologies. The National Development Strategy 1 and Vision 2030 both speak of access to energy by all by 2030.
Chipepera said Modern Cooking Facility for Africa stakeholders’ engagement indaba comes at the appropriate time as the momentum by the Government is being scaled up to invest more in clean cooking technologies with a focus on household level and institutional levels.
“The Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development acknowledges the good works being done by Lanforce Energy in the renewable energy space and well done for organising this indaba as you compliment Government efforts. We are hopeful that the funds that you have secured will have an impact on the targeted areas as you promote clean cooking using biogas generated from biodigesters with a by-product of organic fertiliser promoting smart agriculture as well,” Chipepera said
In Zimbabwe, 70% of women live in rural areas and they rely on fuel wood for household cooking and heating. Mornings are a very stressful time at the household level for women and girls. On top of completing household chores and getting their children ready for school, many women must handle the time-consuming task of collecting firewood which they need for cooking fuel, before they begin tending to the various productive activities they are engaged in for their livelihoods. Energy poverty is a challenge for people all over the globe, especially women, who are the primary users and producers of household energy and this is the same here in Zimbabwe. When energy is scarce, the burden of tedious tasks like collecting firewood, leaves, twigs, and dung for cooking fuel often falls on the women and the girl child of the households.
The Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Energy and Power Development came up with a programme titled the Institutional Biogas Programme which was implemented by the Rural Electrification Fund (REF), that saw the construction of biogas facilities at rural households which were off the main grid and this alleviated the burden on women and the girl child who used to walk long distances to fetch firewood. The programme also addressed the cooking needs of institutions such as schools, hospitals and prisons.
“REF is, therefore, an important stakeholder in information pertaining to institutional clean cooking as far as biogas resources are concerned. The Government also appreciates efforts being made by developing partners and community-based organisations which are promoting clean cooking technologies.
“There have been cookstoves programmes in the country which focused on solid fuels (mostly firewood) termed Improved Cookstoves (ICSs). In recent years, however, the focus also moved to Biogas after SNV Netherlands Development Organisation Implemented the National Domestic Biogas Programme from 2013 to 2015.
“This Programme resulted in the construction of more than 600 digesters in various parts of the country during that period and masons trained during the programme are reported to continue constructing more digesters. Some biogas programmes have also been implemented by various organisations including UNDP, Environment Africa, WWF and the ZRBF programme. There are also private companies such as Lanforce Energy and ONYX Blogas that construct digesters as a business. Therefore, biogas has become a clean cooking technology of choice that should be scaled up in both rural and urban areas,” Chipepera added.
Gender mainstreaming is central in clean cooking, mainly because most of the stove users are women and girls, especially at the household level.
In her testimonial today, Gogo Brandina Chaya (81) said she is using the biogas digester for clean cooking.
“In the past, my grandchildren did not like to visit me in the rural area of Zvimba because they did not like the smoke from burning firewood while cooking. Nowadays, they enjoy visiting and helping me to cook. Biodigesters don’t produce any smoke. I no longer have the burden of fetching firewood from the forests and mountains,” Gogo Chaya said.
Callisto Chimbindi, a farmer from Domboshava said with support from Lanforce Energy, he now uses cow dung to feed the biogas digesters.
“We constructed a large biogas digester that is able to power gadgets like refrigerators, radios, and TVs. Thanks to Lanforce Energy, we are able to pay for the construction of biogas digesters over a long period of time extending up to 24 months. We are indeed enjoying the benefits,” Chimbindi said.
Emerging studies are showing that it makes business sense to include women in the development of energy projects and that excluding women from development projects results in forgone market opportunities resulting in billions of dollars lost, globally per year.
Consideration of Gender dimensions and inclusion in the clean cooking sector is key with a focus on main key issues namely gender equality; youth; disability; affordability and community-wide benefits.
Chipepera said women and girl children, the youths and vulnerable communities should not only be considered as end users or clean cooking technology customers but as Clean Cooking technologies entrepreneurs. She said they should fully participate in the Clean Cooking Value Chains and be employed in the Clean Cooking industries.
The women and the girl children in Zimbabwe are facing the effects of climate change just like any other all over the continent and the world.
Chief Philemon Gore said as climate change presents mounting challenges, the need for climate-smart technology and renewable energy sources is becoming increasingly urgent. He urged the scaling up of biodigester facilities in the country as a way to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Testimonials from the women who have been interviewed in Murehwa, Buhera, Masvingo and Hurungwe who are now using biodigesters and improved cook stoves, spoke to improved free time on a daily basis and are now able to focus more on other productive activities and have some time to rest.
Judith Marera, the Chief Executive Officer of Lanforce Energy said the project culminated in a shared understanding of the barriers and opportunities associated with the use of biogas digesters.
“We have gained a deeper understanding of the multifaceted challenges that hinder clean cooking adoption, as well as the promising opportunities that exist for innovative solutions and partnerships. We have reiterated our commitment to working together across sectors and disciplines to create a conducive environment for clean cooking solutions to thrive.
We have outlined concrete action steps to address priority areas, including policy and regulatory reforms, financing mechanisms, capacity building, awareness-raising, and behavior change campaigns,” Marera said.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 dedicated to energy, sets the target to achieve universal access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking by 2030.
Speaking on the same occasion, Justice Zvaita, from the Zimbabwe Climate Change Coalition said to date, countries have pursued a variety of policies and programs in an effort to close the gap on clean cooking.
“Globally, cooking with open fires or simple stoves fuelled by kerosene, coal biomass such as wood, dung, and agricultural residues leads to almost four million premature deaths per year. In addition to poor health, unclean cooking practices are linked to poverty, environmental degradation, air pollution, gender inequality, and climate change,” Zvaita said.
Biogas production also contributes to environmental sustainability by diverting organic waste from landfills, where it decomposes and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Instead, biogas plants convert this waste into clean fuel and valuable digester, a nutrient-rich fertilizer that can boost agricultural productivity.