A framework aimed at expanding the frontiers of African women's involvement in renewable energy is to be launched tomorrow in Nairobi, Kenya.

The framework, which seeks to reduce the access to energy deficit suffered by African women, is an initiative of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with UN Women, the African Union and the Pan African Parliament.

In attendance at today's panel sessions on "innovative solutions to empower African women in energy sector" and "the implementation of of the Libreville outcome statement" were representatives of UN agencies, African Union and its organs, development partners, regional economic commissions, private sector, women entrepreneurs, scientists and African civil society groups led by the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).

Dr Joanes Atela of the African Center for Technology Studies said over 70 per cent of Africans don’t have access to clean and sustainable energy, adding that this energy poverty is driven by economic poverty.

“There is a close relationship between access to energy and socio-economic development,” he said.

Dr Atela noted that women are at the center of energy needs in Africa, adding that women’s needs are much more critical in national and regional development.

Panelists and participants identified access to finance, high interest rates, absence of enabling policies and poor implementation of existing policies as some of the challenges facing African women in the energy sector.

African women's involvement in decision-making and policy processes in the energy sector remains very low in spite of increased focus on the sector.

According to experts, African women disproportionately bear the burden of energy poverty as they face significant health and safety risks from household air pollution, heavy fuel loads and lack of lighting.

Women, experts agree, can become powerful agents of change in the transition to clean energy by assuming roles in sustainable energy entrepreneurship. They can also become essential drivers in avoiding future emissions by actively contributing to climate change mitigation.

Some of the solutions the framework seeks to provide include investing and promoting clean energy and energy efficiency; innovative financing schemes; and education, research and development.

Others are technology development and transfer; partnership opportunities to finance innovation; policy harmonisation; institutional and legal measures and reforms. The framework is expected to also tackle issues of land and environment degradation, pollution, social inequality and poor legislations.

Today's sessions acknowledged the urgency in building synergies on sustainable access to finance, leveraging on cross-cutting policies where technology and finance can work together; and building the capacity of institutions that are good in generating data that can influence policies.

The framework will be launched on Sunday the 3rd of December 2017 ahead of the UN Environment Assembly, the world's highest-level decision-making body on the environment, which will hold in Nairobi, Kenya, from 4-6 December 2017.


NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - A Swedish development agency has released a challenge fund worth $48 million to help over 50 private companies with innovative ideas reach the market with various off-grid power products and clean cooking solutions for poor rural families in seven African countries.

The Sweden International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), on November 30, 2017 signed an agreement with the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), through which companies in target countries will submit their business proposals for vetting, starting from June 2018.

“The idea is that companies supported (by this initiative) are (being) prepared to take risks, which they otherwise would not take,” said Anna Jardfelt, the Swedish Ambassador to Kenya, adding that successful companies must provide at least 50 % of the proposed budget.

The initiative known as Renewable Energy, Adaptation and Climate Change Technology (REACT) will see small and medium size companies receive up to $1.5 million grant each to implement projects that will largely benefit women and children in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

“We hope that the new business models developed in East Africa, providing electricity to millions of people off the national grid, will rapidly be taken up in Liberia and generally in West Africa, promoting learning across the continent,” said Elisabeth Hårleman, the SIDA Head of Development Cooperation – Liberia.

The background to REACT is that around 510 million people, who form 60% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to electricity and are forced to rely on karoseene, fire wood or batteries – solutions that are expensive, unreliable and environmentally unsustainable.

According to Victor Ndiege, the Portfolio Manager for REACT, it is evident that the population without electricity will increase steadily until at least 2025.  “To worsen the scenario is the high cost of grid extension to remote areas of the continent,” he said.

Studies have shown that African households and small businesses spend over $17 billion on lighting, mainly kerosene, with many households spending up to 30 percent of their disposable income on fuel purchase.

Studies have further demonstrated that wood and charcoal make up about 90 percent of the primary energy supply in Sub Saharan Africa, presenting environmental and livelihood challenges as nearly 4 million hectares of forest are lost each year, adding to the degradation of water catchments and soil erosion.

The REACT programme therefore targets scalable renewable energy technologies in hydropower, solar energy, biomass and wind generation.

“Although the private sector has had some success in developing business models and technologies to address these issues, they still face high risk and market failures that limit innovation and slow down the scale-up of proven business models and technologies,” said Ndiege.  

According to AECF, innovation to improve market access for the poor in Sub Saharan Africa is hampered by a wide range of challenges amongst them: a poor investment climate, lack of competitive pressure for businesses to innovate; pervasive market failures and a lack of information on the needs of the poor; and uncertainty over the commercial returns to pro-poor innovation.

The AECF and Sida will therefore work with private sector companies to improve market systems and facilitate the impactful exchange of quality renewable energy products in rural areas within the target countries.  

“Endorsements, financial and technical support to innovative business ideas by a credible intermediary like the AECF, largely contribute to offsetting cycling business risk associated with rural markets.” said Ndiege.

Overall, the funding challenge, which is also open to companies based elsewhere but are willing to invest in target countries, is expected to stimulate impactful benefits to over 300,000 households in the region.

The support is part of Sweden’s special efforts to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency in Sub Saharan Africa and its commitment to mobilise one billion dollars over the next ten years as per the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(PAMACC News) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number six is about ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

However, the noted increase of droughts, both in frequency and intensity blamed on climate change have resulted in increased incidences of water related conflicts due to high demand.

Some of the noted misunderstandings and conflicts range from, and are a result of water blockages in form of weirs for gardening, overgrazing, to river bank cultivation leading to silting, threatening the very existence of particular water bodies on which the communities depend for their domestic use, and in some cases, animal drinking points.

With this in mind, experts believe support and strengthening of the participation of local communities in water and sanitation management—a key strategy under SDG six, should be a matter of urgency. Therefore, as the global community raises water to the top of its agenda, countries are following suit.

“The new water Act empowers the community to have a greater say in the management of water resources in their catchment,” says Rowen Jani of the Water Resources Management Authority, an established national Agency charged with the responsibility of planning for, and ensure the sustainable and rational utilisation, management and development of water resources.

Jani, who is Manager for the Kafue River catchment, adds that climate change has added extra pressure and demand for water among different users, hence, “the Act’s insistency on community participation in the management of these resources.”

Until 2011, Zambia’s water governance system remained centralised such that there was little involvement of the local communities in the management of water resources in their localities.

But the reforms in the water sector, allowed for the 1949 Water Act to be replaced by the Water Resources Management Act No 21 of 2011 which provided for the establishment of WARMA.

It is this Act which provides for decentralisation of water resources management. And at the lowest community level, it provides for the establishment of Water Users Associations (WUAs)—non-profit organisations that are initiated, and managed by a group of primary water users and other interested water stakeholders, along one or more raw water sources (hydrological sub systems) regardless of the type of use.

“The objective of the WUAs is to ensure the management, development and protection of raw water sources and their ecosystems within designated boundaries,” explains David Banda, Community Engagement Officer at WARMA’s Kafue Catchment management office based in Mazabuka, Southern Zambia.

Other than understanding the actual problem and the urgency of solutions, WUAs present a platform for different water users (regardless of size) to come together to establish their water priorities and jointly agree on respective actions to ensure water is accessible in good quantity and quality, thereby preventing and reducing possible conflicts.

According to Emmanuel Mumba, Acting Director of Legal Services at WARMA, once the Statutory Instrument (SI) is issued, “some of the key functions of WUAs would be to promote the participation of the community in water resources management and ensure gender mainstreaming in decision making processes relating to the use of water; and investigate and deal with disputes relating to the use of water as may be prescribed.”

And the traditional leadership is elated by this policy reform which they believe would dramatically transform the management of water resources in their localities, which has been a historical preserve of the central government.

“I must commend government for this remarkable decision to undertake reforms in the water sector,” said Tyson Hamaamba, Ngambela for Chieftainess Choongo, during a community stakeholders’ meeting to prepare for the formation of WUAs for various water resources in Southern Zambia’s Kafue Catchment. “It is the first meeting of its kind where we are called as community members and traditional leadership to plan and get involved in the management of our water resources.”

With Agriculture dominating rural life, one of the hardest people with climate induced water challenges among community water users are smallholder farmers, and improving water security for this group has become a pre-occupation of most development actors as they aim to safeguard food and nutrition security.
And one such organisation is SNV—the Netherlands Development Organisation which is implementing a Water Smart Use project, supporting 1, 200 small-holder farmers in the Lower Kafue sub-catchment.

“The main objective is to strengthen local water resources management and enhance climate sensitive water use at farm level,” says Nina Mukubesa, Water Governance officer at SNV. “We aim to establish demonstration sites and train farmers in water harvesting, storage, and irrigation, as well as soil management and agroforestry, with a focus on water use efficiency for their crop production,” emphasising the importance of adaptation to the changing weather pattern.

Whereas the SI is yet to be issued, partners such as GIZ, the German Society for International Cooperation, stepped in to offer support to WARMA to undertake community stakeholder meetings in readiness for the formation of Water Users Associations.

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (PAMACC News) - Illegal logging and poaching has fuelled the rapid disappearance of commercially viable forest resources and threatened indigenous livelihoods in the Congo Basin Forest region in Africa. However, development stakeholders in the continent are coming together to reinforce forest governance through capacity building of actors in the sector.

“The key to forest protection is governance. Strengthening the capacity of government officials, private entities and civil society orgainasations in forest law enforcement in this sub region will enable the sustainable management of such resources,” said  Mfou'ou Mou'ou Bruno, Director of Forest, Ministry of forestry and wildlife in Cameroon, at the opening of a training workshop in Yaounde on November 13-16,2017.

The workshop on forest law enforcement, governance and fair trade for west and central African sub-regions was jointly organised by the African Forest Forum, the African Development Bank and the Cameroon Ministry of forestry and Wildlife.

Cameroon's Forestry and Wildlife officials say, the Congo Basin occupies much of the middle of the African continent, straddling the equator from Gabon to Uganda, Cameroon to Angola. At 200 million hectares, the Congo Basin rain-forest is second only to the Amazon in size, and provides habitat for endangered animals found nowhere else such as bonobos, gorillas, and okapi. Protecting these important resources is therefore imperative, according to experts.

"The increased trade in forest products is an indicator that African forests play an important role in national and global economies. However, despite the political will and the laudable efforts of national, regional and international institutions, the exploitation and illegal trade of forest products continues to rise to alarming proportions in many African countries and especially the Congo Basin Forest region," Bruno said.

Africa Forest Forum (AFF) also called for a rapid solution pathways in forest protection in line with UN startegic plan. A report by the forum points out that the United Nations General Assembly has this year adopted a forest strategic plan  for 2017-2030 as well as the Quadrennial Programme Actvities 2017-2020.

The Yaounde capacity building workshop was therefore in readiness for the implementation of the different action plans to ensure better forest governance.

"Good forest governance is a crucial component of environmental sustainability that ensures benefits derived from forest including ecosystem goods and services contribute to national economies and livelihoods," says Mahamane Larwanou, senior programme officer - AFF.

The forest governance capacity programme is in line with AFF project called, “Strengthening Sustainable Forest Management in Africa”.
The project accordingly seeks to generate and share knowledge and information through partnerships in ways that will provide inputs into policy options and capacity building efforts to improve forest management in a manner that better addresses poverty eradication and environmental protection in Africa.

One of the key project objectives is to facilitate  and harmonize  evidence-based policies, regulation and governance mechanisms to strengthen public and private institutions to effectively support sustainable forest management and transparent trade.

The ultimate ambition of the programme is therefore is to prepare a future in which stakeholders in the African forest sector will have the capacity, the tools and the knowledge to face the new challenges.

"The Government of the Republic of Cameroon, like other African governments, is committed to building human capacity to support actions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, because we believe that capacity building is an important part and key to sustainable forest management services,"Bruno said.

Experts say since Cameroon signed the EU-Forest Law and Governance Programme in 2010, the government's commitment along with its European partner, to implement this bilateral trade agreement, which aims to combat illegal exploitation of timber and improve governance within the sector has continued to dwindle, which calls for some important reforms or measures in the management of the sector by the different actors.


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