On 6th June 2017, I left rainy Edinburgh to sunny Kenya to assess the energy needs of the people in the countries’ marginalised communities in the North. I have gained a lot of classroom knowledge that was going to be very important in my analysis. I come from Kenya so my arrival was very smooth. After recovering from my long flight, I headed north to work on my Go Abroad challenge. I have had a lot of people ask if Kenya/Africa is a hot place. Nairobi generally experiences temperatures of 18-28 degrees Celsius, with mean temperatures of 25 degrees all year round. The case is different is the northern provinces of Kenya. When I arrived in Samburu, it was quite uncomfortable with the scorching sun. The daily temperatures were 35 degrees with some days going up to 38 degrees. A year in Scotland does not help in such conditions at all . I had to drink a lot of water to keep myself hydrated and stay inside from time to time.
The fieldwork location in Northern Kenya
The energy needs assessment went well. I conducted interviews with various women groups about their energy uses. My results showed that 38 out of the 41 respondents use unsustainable biomass in the form of fuelwood and charcoal for cooking. This was 93% of the sample population. Hydrocarbons were singled out as the main lighting solution by the research population.
The community interview sessions
From the research findings, community members, especially women and girls, averagely spend between 4-30 hours every week sourcing for energy for cooking. This chore is inherently a female role in African communities, denoting that women spend up to 30 hours every week in the bush sourcing for fuelwood. These women are denied a chance to involve themselves in other economically productive activities. Most of the women in these communities make the best beaded jewellery ever.
A Samburu woman making a beaded necklace
If this burden is lifted, these women will have up to 30 hours each week to engage in other income generating and leisure activities. The research findings of this field exercise are broadly consistent with existing literature on the challenges of energy access in SSA.
Girl empowerment poster in one of the community centres
Now that I am done with my MSc, I aim to apply the knowledge and skills gained in my next career phase. Eventually, I hope to come up with cutting edge energy solutions to the world’s poorest populations. I appreciate the grant from PGAF that made this possible. Thank you so much.
A lady that benefitted from a government of Kenya solar project