Gender, energy, and empowerment: a case study of the Rural Energy Development Program in Nepal

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Gender, energy, and empowerment: a case study of the Rural Energy Development Program in Nepal
  See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: Gender, energy, and empowerment: a casestudy of the Rural Energy DevelopmentProgram in Nepal  Article   in  Development in Practice · May 2011 DOI: 10.1080/09614524.2011.558062 CITATIONS 3 READS 128 1 author: Ishara MahatUniversity of Ottawa 17   PUBLICATIONS   37   CITATIONS   SEE PROFILE All content following this page was uploaded by Ishara Mahat on 20 December 2016. The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file. All in-text references underlined in blue are added to the srcinal documentand are linked to publications on ResearchGate, letting you access and read them immediately.  Gender, energy, and empowerment:a case study of the Rural EnergyDevelopment Program in Nepal  Ishara Mahat   Rural women in general, and mountain women in particular, are greatly involved in managinghousehold energy systems in Nepal. Alternative energy technologies have a high potential toreduce women’s workloads and improve their health status, as well as increasing efficient energy supply. Interventions in rural energy are primarily aimed at reducing firewood useand increasing economic growth through rural electrification, rather than aiming to reducehuman drudgery, especially that of women. Hence, such intervention takes place without con-sidering the needs, roles, interests, and potential of rural women, even though women are the primary users and managers of rural energy resources. This article aims to analyse the gender implications of rural energy technologies in Kavre district, where the Rural Energy Develop-ment Program (REDP) has been implemented, especially in terms of saving women’s labour and increasing socio-economic opportunities for women. Genre, e´  nergie et autonomisation : une e´  tude de cas du Programme de de´ veloppement del’e´  nergie en milieu rural au Ne´  pal   Lesfemmesruralesenge´ ne´ ral,etcellesquihabitentdanslesre´ gionsmontagneusesenparticulier, jouentunroˆ letre`simportantdanslagestiondessyste`mese´ nerge´ tiquesdesme´ nagesauNe´  pal.Lestechnologies alternatives de production d’e´ nergie pre´ sentent un important potentiel de re´ ductiondes charges de travail des femmes et d’ame´ lioration de leur e´ tat de sante´  , ainsi que d’augmenta-tion de l’approvisionnement efficace en e´ nergie. Les interventions dans le secteur de l’e´ nergie enmilieu rural visent principalement a` re´ duire l’utilisation du bois de feu et a` intensifier la crois-sance e´ conomique a` travers l’e´ lectrification rurale, au lieu de viser a` re´ duire le travail humain pe´ nible et ingrat, en particulier parmi les femmes. Par conse´ quent, ces interventions ont lieusans tenir compte des besoins, roˆ les, inte´ reˆ ts et potentiel des femmes rurales, alors que les femmes sont les principales utilisatrices et gestionnaires des ressources e´ nerge´ tiques rurales. Le but de cet article est d’analyser les implications selon les sexes des technologies e´ nerge´ tiquesrurales dans le district de Kavre, ou` le Rural Energy Development Program (REDP) a e´ te´  mis enœuvre, en particulier sur le plan de la re´ duction de la charge de travail pour les femmes et del’augmentation des opportunite´ s socioe´ conomiques pour les femmes. Geˆ  nero, energia e empoderamento: um estudo de caso do Programa de Desenvolvimento de Energia Rural no Nepal   As mulheres rurais em geral, e as mulheres da montanha em particular, esta˜ o imensamenteenvolvidas na gesta˜ o de sistemas de energia familiares no Nepal. Tecnologias alternativas de  ISSN 0961-4524 Print/ISSN 1364-9213 Online 030405-16  # 2011 Taylor & Francis  405  Routledge Publishing DOI: 10.1080/09614524.2011.558062  Development in Practice, Volume 21, Number 3, May 2011  energia teˆ m um grande potencial de reduzir a carga de trabalho das mulheres e melhorar suascondic¸o˜ es de sau´ de, e tambe´ m de aumentar o fornecimento de energia eficiente. Intervenc¸o˜ esna energia rural visam principalmente reduzir o uso de lenha e aumentar o crescimento econoˆ m-ico atrave´ sdaeletrificac¸a˜ o rural em vezdevisarareduc¸a˜ odo fardo humano, especialmente odasmulheres. Assim, tal intervenc¸a˜ o ocorre sem considerar as necessidades, tarefas, interesses e potencial das mulheres rurais, mesmo sendo as mulheres as principais usua´ rias e gerentes dosrecursos de energia rural. Este artigo visa analisar as implicac¸o˜ es de geˆ nero das tecnologiasde energia rural no distrito de Kavre, onde o Programa de Desenvolvimento de Energia Rural(REDP) tem sido implementado, especialmente em termos de poupar o trabalho das mulherese aumentar as oportunidades socioeconoˆ micas para as mulheres. Ge´  nero, energı´  a y empoderamiento: un estudio de caso del Programa de Desarrollo de Energı´  a Rural en Nepal   Las mujeres del campo en general, y las mujeres de la sierra en particular, administran activa-mente los sistemas de energı´ a dome´ sticos en Nepal. Es posible que las tecnologı´ as de energı´ aalternativas puedan reducir el trabajo de la mujer, mejorar su salud y hacer ma´ s eficiente eluso de la energı´ a. Las obras de los sistemas de energı´ a en el campo esta´  disen˜ adas parareducir primero el uso de len˜ a y potenciar el crecimiento econo´ mico a trave´ s de la electrificacio´ nrural, y no para reducir el trabajo pesado, mucho menos el de la mujer. Por lo tanto las obras serealizan sin tomar en consideracio´ n las necesidades, el papel, los intereses o el potencial de lascampesinas, aunque e´ stas sean las principales usuarias y administradoras de los recursos ener-ge´ ticos del campo. Este ensayo analiza distintas consideraciones de ge´ nero de las tecnologı´ as deenergı´ a rural del distrito de Kavre, donde se lleva a cabo el Programa de Desarrollo de Energı´ a Rural (REDP en ingle´ s), en particular la disminucio´ n de la carga de trabajo para la mujer y elincremento de oportunidades socioecono´ micas para la mujer. K  EY  W ORDS : Gender and diversity; Labour and livelihoods; South Asia Introduction Women comprise more than half the population of Nepal but lag behind in every socio-economic, legal, and political sphere of life. Coinciding with the large geographic variationacross the country, there exist considerable differences in the traditions and cultures of differentethnic communities in terms of women’s mobility, marriage options, access to resources, andsocial status (Acharya 2001; Bhattachan 2001). Gender-based differences are very commonamong all ethnic groups, but the degree of disparity varies (NESAC 1998). Gender-based exclu-sions exist in terms of education, health, social, economic options, and political opportunities.This is particularly the case for rural women.More than 80 per cent of people living in rural areas of Nepal depend on traditional fuel(firewood,agriculturalresidue,andanimalwaste)forfulfillingtheirhousehold’senergyrequire-ments, which are primarily managed by women. In addition, women are largely responsible forhulling and grinding activities, using indigenous technologies. The majority of traditional fuelcomes from firewood, and only a small proportion from animal waste and agricultural residue(WECS 2006). Only about 14 per cent of the total population has access to electricity, andaccess in rural areas falls to a mere 3 per cent (Banskota and Sharma 1999: 107).Excessive use of biomass energy is not only a threat to the environment, because of thedemands that it makes on forest resources, but also reduces agricultural productivity, since406  Development in Practice, Volume 21, Number 3, May 2011  Ishara Mahat   agricultural residues and animal waste are removed from farms to be used in the fireplace.This situation is worsened by the low-level efficiency of these fuels, which are also a healthhazard due to the increased air pollution when they burn. This particularly affects ruralwomen, who do most of the cooking (Amatya and Shrestha 1998).There are alternative energy technologies (AETs) that offer significant potential in terms of reducing women’s drudgery, improving health conditions, freeing time for involvement inincome-generating, social, and community development activities for their self-enhancementand empowerment. These alternative energy technologies are renewable; they include biogasplant, improved cooking stoves, micro-hydro power, and solar photovoltaic power (Amatyaand Shrestha 1998: 88).The major purpose of this article is to analyse the socio-economic implications of ruralenergy technologies, especially in terms of reducing human drudgery and providing womenwith opportunities for socio-economic enhancement. I conducted a case study of REDP(Rural Energy Development Program) sites to assess whether REDP has been successful interms of its gender focus within its decentralised energy-planning framework. Rural Energy Development Program in Nepal The Rural Energy Development Program (REDP) was initiated jointly by the United NationDevelopment Program (UNDP) and His Majesty’s Government of Nepal in August 1996,with the aim of improving rural livelihoods through the promotion of rural energy systems,primarily with micro-hydro systems as an entry point (REDP 1999). At the same time, REDPhas promoted other alternative rural energy technologies such as biogas with toilet-attachedplants, solar photovoltaic systems, and improved cooking stoves.REDPconsiderscommunity mobilisation asanessential vehiclefor theactiveinvolvementof local people in projects to promote sustainable rural development. As a process of communitymobilisation, the REDP forms community organisations (COs) of men and women, involvingone male and one female from each household. Women are equally involved in village-levelenergyplansandprogrammesbymeansoftheirparticipationincommunityorganisations(COs).The REDP adopts a decentralised approach in its rural energy planning. To facilitate this, ithas established a district energy committee (DEC), representing line agencies from the variousgovernment and non-government institutions.Kavre is one of the first districts in Nepal where the REDP has promoted and implementedalternative energy technologies – such as micro-hydro plants, solar plants, biogas plants, andimproved cooking stoves (ICS) – with the aim of providing efficient energy to the rural house-holds. Currently there are 25 districts where REDP has been implementing rural energy projects(REDP 2006). REDP, employing a holistic approach, puts emphasis on social-capital building,environmental management, and income generation. Women’s participation and empowermenthas been an important principle of REDP. It encourages women’s participation in its activitiesfrom the very beginning by forming COs of men and women. The COs are responsible formobilising savings and undertaking community-development activities such as road andcanal construction, and installing community taps. Gender and rural energy Gender planning provides conceptual frameworks and methods to devise gender-sensitivestrategies for the design, implementation, and evaluation of development projects (Patel andAhmed 1996). Gender mainstreaming in development planning is critical for determining theextent of participation of men and women in development interventions.  Development in Practice, Volume 21, Number 3, May 2011  407 Gender, energy, and empowerment   Rural energy is one of the central areas where women’s roles and responsibilities should notbe underestimated, since women are the ones directly involved in consumption and manage-ment of energy resources (Cecelski 2000; Skutsch 1995). In rural areas of Nepal, energy needs at the household level are directly related to women’s workloads and their time. Forinstance, every day women in rural mountain areas still spend five to six hours collectingfirewood and two to four hours processing grain (Mahat 2004). Women’s metabolic energyis often ignored by rural energy planners. For instance, water mills for grinding grain are recog-nised elements of the energy sector, unlike women doing the same task with other indigenoustechnologies. Ignoring human energy puts women in particular at a disadvantage, since womenprovide more labour and longer hours in managing the household energy system (Cecelski2000; Clancy 1997). There have been reported cases of rape during firewood collection,especially in areas of civil disturbances (Cecelski 2004). In addition, uterine prolapse andfrequent miscarriages among rural women in Nepal are attributed to carrying heavy loads of firewood (Earth and Staphit 2002). A study in Nepal indicated that the highest proportion of infant mortality is associated with acute respiratory infection, which is mainly caused byindoor air pollution (Pandey 2003). Furthermore, girls are often kept out of school to assistin wood collection (Clancy 1999).Another important issue in the energy sector is the gendered access to, and control over,energy resources and technology. Women rarely have control over resources and technology,even if they have access to them. For instance, in Nepal, the operation of biogas plants(mainly mixing dung with water) is a women’s task, while men select the location for installingthe biogas plant. Yet women’s involvement in selecting the location is very important, sincethey are the ones involved in operating the gas plant: for example, fetching water and dung,and so forth.Since women and men have different roles, needs, and interests, rural energy technologieshave different implications for, and impacts on, men and women. For example, women valuethe convenience and smokeless state of a biogas plant, while men value the manure benefitand the social status of having the plant (Dutta 1997; Mahat 2004). The installation of biogas plants has direct positive effects in terms of cooking, collecting water and firewood,and cleaning utensils; but at the same time, it adds to women’s workloads in the collectionof water and grasses for stall-feeding and changes the working structure of women (Gongaland Shrestha 1998). Hence, the positive and negative consequences of being able to usebiogas must be compared at the planning stage from a gender perspective.Energy analysts and policy makers at the macro-level have not paid enough attention togender issues, and the scant attention that has been paid is confined to the household sector(Parikh 1995: 746). However, much of women’s work is done outside the domestic sector:they are involved also in agriculture and food processing, services, and manufacturing (Cecelski2000). Women play key roles in the collection, management, and use of energy resources andtechnologies, and thus their knowledge and skills become immensely important in planning anddesigning rural energy technologies. Despite knowing this, the majority of energy planners(normally male) rarely sit down with the women for whom they are planning and discuss theproblems from their perspectives (Skutsch 1995: 3). Women’s expertise in the managementof energy resources has been discounted as irrelevant to energy policy and planning(Cecelski 1995).Rural energy policies in Nepal are mostly influenced by an interest in reducing firewoodconsumption and increasing modern energy supplies in rural areas, rather than saving thehuman energy – mostly supplied by women – that could be best utilised for other productiveactivities, such as knitting, weaving, and other cottage industries, which would help women togenerate more income. Hence, women have  practical needs  interms of meeting daily household408  Development in Practice, Volume 21, Number 3, May 2011  Ishara Mahat 
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