Faustina Araba Boakye

Women's Investment Committee

Board Member

Special Report on the Formation of the Grassroots Women Energy and Climate Entrepreneurs Network - West African Region

Background

“Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls” (Agreed Conclusions of 62nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women) calls for increased support for the adaptation work of rural women, who represent the majority of small-scale entrepreneurs in the agriculture and energy sectors in developing countries. Their livelihoods are disproportionately affected by climate change.

 

However, conventional energy policies, finance, programmes, and activities tend to focus on international actors and organisations with limited attention to grassroots communities and organisations.  This misses out on vital opportunities to draw on local knowledge, understanding, and contribution to energy service delivery.

 

This also limits the efforts of local women entrepreneurs to be leaders and champions to scale up existing women enterprises.   What has been achieved by women energy entrepreneurs are eroded by the challenges they face, particularly climate finance at both local and national levels.

Women's entrepreneurship and economic empowerment in the sustainable energy sector is minimal.  Energy planners have traditionally equated women’s interest in energy with cooking. Nevertheless, when women are empowered, the benefits have been shown to have significant multiplier effects for increased incomes, higher investment in children, health and nutrition and better opportunities for their families, communities and national economies (EU, 2017).

 

Challenges of access to Finance is a major hindrance to women’s engagement in fighting climate change and energy poverty. Empowering grassroots women energy and climate entrepreneurship and maximizing the productive use of energy initiatives will enable scaling up production and address gaps in opportunities for women.

It is important to understand the benefits that arise when grassroots organizations and communities are embraced, engaged and empowered as catalysts actively striving for, and working towards, Sustainable Development Goal 5 & 7. What solutions and opportunities are there to empower them to scale up their enterprises and companies to contribute to SDG 5, 7 and 13, 17?

According to the Women and Gender Constituency of the UNFCCC, significantly scaling up public climate finance will ensure that by 2020, at least 20% of all projects funded through climate finance mechanisms will have a primary goal of reducing gender inequalities.  Municipal and Metropolitan and District Assemblies (MMDAs & DAs), Government and funding agencies should be intentional about supporting women's energy and climate entrepreneurs to contribute their quota by budgeting for gender and climate funding.

Gender Action Plans should be included in the NDCs and Green Climate Funds being administered locally. Local World Bank and African Development Bank projects should target Women-led and Women-owned enterprises and companies.  Women should be included in Energy and Climate boards in the governance and leadership of energy projects Partnerships with CSOs/ Donor agencies should be developed between Empowering grassroots women energy and climate entrepreneurs and maximizing productive use of energy (PUE) Initiatives will enable scaling up production.  PUE is any use of electricity that: improves the financial situation.   It contributes to the development of the community and the nation; ensures an increase in the number of enterprises (MSMEs) or other users connected to national grids or new mini-grids; and increases in rural and stand-alone energy systems.

PUE will not happen organically. Communities need hand-holding support (financial, technical and managerial) support and are key to get grid/off-grid connected infrastructure financially sustainable. PUE must there be integrated within national and sub-national energy planning, in the last mile, and should be designed in an inclusive way -providing communities with support and linkages to the external markets.

 

Global Context

Science strongly supports the fact that deforestation is changing weather patterns, causing soil erosion, and depleting plant and animal life.  Currently, much of this is done in ovens that are fueled by wood.

The combustion of fossil fuels releases from wood fires releases greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, with potentially serious costs to the global economy and environment.  Increasing GHG concentrations are likely to cause large negative economic impacts in the future. 

A major threat to West Africa’s ability to grow and prosper is deforestation.  The demands of massive population growth, and the inefficient conversion of wood to charcoal, have outstripped Ghana’s forest’s ability to regenerate. 

Deforestation is an environmental crisis. Its far-reaching effects include:

  • The decreasing availability of firewood.

  • Removing the trees from an area is to remove its source of life.

  • Forests protect the soil against erosion and reduce the risks of landslides and avalanches.

  • Forests increase the rate that rainwater recharges groundwater as well as control the rate that water is released in watersheds, helping sustain freshwater supplies.

  • Forests affect the climate. The occurrence and strength of floods and droughts increase when they are eliminated.

  • Forests are an important source of oxygen.

  • Forests store large amounts of carbon that are released when trees are cut or burned.

 

 

Ghana Context

The rate of deforestation in Ghana is among the highest rates in Africa and the world, at 2% per annum. This high rate of deforestation is of major national concern as forests provide many ecosystem services and functions that support the country’s predominantly agrarian economy. Ghana is a net emitter of CO2 emissions, which contributes to the global imbalance of greenhouse gases.

According to the Energy Commission, Ghana is relatively well endowed with a variety of energy resources: Biomass, Hydrocarbons, hydropower, Solar and Wind. Woodfuel accounts for over 70% of the total primary energy supply and about 60% of the final energy demand. The supply of primary woodfuel in 2009 was estimated to be 20 million tons.

The demand for wood puts Ghana’s forests under tremendous pressure. Current levels of wood fuel consumption far exceeding forest growth.  The charcoal production process contributes heavily to this deforestation and is responsible for the high emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Charcoal is produced in simple earth-mound kilns with carbonization efficiency below 20%. The cutting of trees for woodfuel leads to severe deforestation, especially in areas of population disruption and relocation and air pollution. 

 

Women & Energy: Productive Uses of Clean Energy in Ghana

Women bear the brunt of most of these resulting negative emissions and pollution from lack of clean energy in households and in entrepreneurship ventures, deforestation, the use of inefficient fires for heating, lighting and cooking and indoor air pollution that results from cooking and food processing.

Women’s health is damaged by indoor air pollution (smoke, particulates, burns, etc.). These include childhood acute lower respiratory infections, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, prenatal mortality, low birth weight, and cataracts.

The majority of those exposed to IAP are women and their young children because women rely on natural resources to provide the fuel and energy necessary for energy security and income.  Smoke from indoor cooking fires kills one person every 16 seconds in the developing world.

The absence of clean energy poses a great challenge to women’s entrepreneurship projects and energy access.  Oil and crop processing, cooking, baking and pastry making use fires that also pose hazardous to women’s body and health.   Evidence shows women and children have suffered from heart and high blood pressure, eye infections and cataracts, blindness, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. 

 

Air pollution from cooking with solid fuel is a key risk factor in childhood acute lower respiratory infections as well as in many other respiratory, cardio-vascular and ocular diseases. Exposure to indoor air pollution (IAP) is responsible for several deaths per year in Ghana.  Cookstove emissions result in IAP and other harmful emissions, leading to both acute and chronic health issues among women and children in millions of homes.

Women’s issues impact all aspects of clean cookstove efforts, disproportionately affected by indoor air pollution (IAP), and are also critical stakeholders in developing and implementing solutions.  The use of clean cookstoves has the ability to reduce impacts on natural resources, allow ecosystem services to remain intact, and further secure health and safety for women, children, and communities.  It further secures natural resources, and other benefits from natural resource availability will be realized by women, such as the availability of cleaner water, food, and medicine. 

Women's entrepreneurship and economic empowerment in the sustainable energy sector is minimal.  Energy planners have traditionally equated women’s interest in energy with cooking. Nevertheless when women are empowered, the benefits have been shown to have significant multiplier effects for increased incomes, higher investment in children, health and nutrition and better opportunities for their families, communities and national economies (EU, 2017).

From the above situation, the government of Ghana, NGOs and donor organizations have sought various ways to address these issues.

Investment in renewable energy in Africa is critical to restore ecosystems that can contribute to reducing carbon emissions. To improve the health of local people especially women, and children as well as improve biodiversity for wildlife.

Women’s health is damaged by indoor air pollution (smoke, particulates, burns, etc.). These include childhood acute lower respiratory infections, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer, prenatal mortality, low birth weight, and cataracts. The pictures shows women cooking in Ghana, West Africa in 2020.

A major threat to West Africa’s ability to grow and prosper is deforestation.  The demands of massive population growth, and the inefficient conversion of wood to charcoal, have outstripped Ghana’s forest’s ability to regenerate. 

Recommendations

(1) Gender equality principles should be integrated in the development of funding. Promote women’s participation in climate fund-related country coordinating mechanisms to determine national funding priorities.

(2) Small-scale investments, especially for women’s groups and women entrepreneurs have the potential to enable them to play a key role in sustainable in-country transformation.

 

(3) Ensure gender equality and women’s empowerment are anchored as cross-cutting guiding principles in all climate funds.

(4) Develop and replicate mechanisms to significantly increase direct access to smaller scale finance, both grants and loans for community level. Urge all climate finance mechanisms to establish clear gender criteria in screening proposals and assessing performance for all projects.  Increase the accountability of climate finance mechanisms for gender equality.

 

Purpose

The objective of the creation of a women’s grassroots network is identify and address challenges confronting Women Energy Entrepreneurs in scaling up in the energy value chain.  It is worthy in work in groups than singly.  Bringing together women entrepreneurs already in the energy sector in rural and local areas, empowering them in the energy value chain will provide business opportunities for women in a changing energy value chain.

 

Advancing gender equality, social inclusion, and women’s empowerment in the sustainable energy sector enhances clean energy access for the poorest people, who will not be reached by business as usual; by unlocking finance from private and public sources, strengthening collaborations and connections between stakeholders in the energy, gender and social justice sectors and increasing women’s full participation in sustainable energy solutions.

Organizations like the People Centered Accelerator (PCA) of the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), has been formed to respond to the underrepresentation of women and other marginalised groups in the consultation and movement to secure a sustainable energy future.

 

 

Goal

  • Create a network that brings together women of diverse business and entrepreneurial scale into the energy-environment-climate change-agriculture and water nexus for a viable and sustainable participation in addressing climate change and contributing to SDG 7.

 

 

 

Objectives

  • Identify, raise and advocate for key needs in women entrepreneurship issues within national and local grassroots communities

  • Engage grassroots organization with international bilateral and multilateral organizations for support of women entrepreneurship in the energy, environmental and climate sectors.

  • Build capacity of women to diversify trading and businesses to include adaptation and mitigation projects and programs to help address climate (Solar, Clean Cookstoves, Irrigation, Off-grid energy technology, etc)

  • Mobilise resources through partnerships with finance and door institutions for grassroots energy access projects In local and rural areas of Africa

  • Networking, capacity and knowledge building of women grassroots enterprises to carry out efficient energy access projects to achieve SDG 7.

  • Assess achievement of women energy entrepreneurs so far, the challenges they face and what solutions and opportunities to empower them to scale up their enterprises and companies.

 

 

Target: 

  • Women in Energy Business

  • Women in Clean Cooking and Fuels entrepreneurship

  • Market women (Food, Clothing, Distribution, etc)

  • Women in the Corporate sector (Banking, Finance, Insurance)

  • Rural women small-holder farmers, traders

  • Rural Women cooperatives in the agricultural sectors

  • Women in Solar entrepreneurship (Lighting, cooking, heating, etc)

  • Women commoditydistributors (Haulage, Freight-forwarding, Logistics, Supply chain, etc)

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