Rural women in Kenya and city dwellers will be some of the biggest beneficiaries if countries seal a deal at next week's climate change summit in Paris. Rural women, particularly, have for long endured pollution of household smoke from kitchens.
Experts expect one of the deals that will be reached will fund renewable energy and energy-saving jikos, that Kenyan rural women will benefit from. Energy is among the largest source of global emissions at above 60 per cent and it is expected that the energy-related emissions are expected to grow by 78 per cent by 2050 from 2005 levels if no further action is taken, as coal and natural gas are often used in meeting demand for energy. The share of transport in global emissions is set to double to 40 per cent by 2035, as the demand for cars is expected to increase, particularly in developing countries such as Kenya.
In March, a study conducted by University of Nairobi’s Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology in partnership with Gothenburg University, Sweden, and Columbia University’s Earth Institute showed that many residents of Nairobi breathe poisonous fumes. The air, the study said, could cause serious ailments including heart and lung diseases and cancer.
The study said the amount of cancer-causing elements in the air within the city is as high as 105 microgrammes per cubic metre. It said the quality of air Nairobi residents breathe is 10 times more dangerous than some of the safest environments. WHO’s threshold is 20 micrograms per cubic metre for key air pollutants. A deal to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, especially in public transport, could also be reached at the meeting. Players in the renewable sector are also leaving nothing to chance.
WHO says According to World Health Organization estimates household air pollution causes 14,300 deaths each year in Kenya. Sixty nine cent of all households still use firewood for cooking. Humanist Institute for development corporation regional office for Africa (HIVOS) in a report "The push and pull for SE4ALL" conducted in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, said women and children in Kenya spend four to seven hours walking in search for firewood. More than 80 per cent of Kenya’s urban population also uses charcoal with more than 30 per cent of the nation’s rural population using it to cook.
This huge reliance on biomass has dealt a major blow to forests, thereby contributing to climate change as forests are continually being destroyed. The destruction of forests has also disproportionately affected women. For instance, deforestation reduces availability of water, which means they spend more time in search for water. Stakeholders believe that renewable energy addresses women’s needs in cooking because it is less labour intensive, convenient and safer. Lartech Africa managing director Lamarck Oyath said access to land remains one of the biggest challenge facing renewable energy development in the country.
"Renewable energy and efficiency are the key pillars and energy infrastructure is build on land which is very difficult to access. It is high time this is addressed," he says. Oyath said an investor in Turkana had to put up infrastructure for 428 kilometres to tap power, which is expensive. However, many renewable energy projects in Kenya are facing problems.
For instance, the 61mw wind power project in Kinangop, Nyandarua County, has stalled over disputes. University of Nairobi director centre for international programmes and links Prof William Ogara says proper laws should stop cartels frustrating renewable energy ventures. "Policy and legislation should highlight roles of renewable energy. Energy services must be communicated, planned and challenges should be pointed out and how they can be addressed," Ogara said.