Women's energy channelled for the community

OBI, Organisation for Bio Initiatives, promotes energy access for rural communities in Zambia: economically beneficial, improving local wellbeing, and, if renewable energy sources are used, environmentally friendly. A national hype on Bio-fuels exists since the new Energy Policy is in place and a market framework for bio-fuels is under construction. OBI however, focuses on the oil of the Jatropha tree in its pure form for rural benefit.

Following the example of Mali

In Mali it has been proved that energy access for rural communities is possible in a technologically simple manner. Groups of women started providing energy services like battery charging, irrigation, milling, and welding, to the community by using a by using a Diesel-generated Platform. Recently, more and more groups have started replacing the Diesel that they had to buy by Jatropha oil that they can produce by themselves.

Advantages of small scale implementation
  • Access to energy using Jatropha-oil can benefit the communities in different ways:
  • Direct cash for rural communities because of an emergence of energy-related business opportunities;
  • Local benefits of Jatropha by-products such as fertiliser, oil for lighting, biogas for cooking, medicine, soap, candles, etc.;
  • Self-sufficiency in energy-supply and therefore more reliable access to energy.

Furthermore, planting of Jatropha on community level can have environmental advantages:
  • The use of Jatropha as a natural way of fencing against cattle and as land demarcation;
  • No big land clearings for Jatropha plantations that destroy our natural habitat;
  • The use of Jatropha by-products as fuel instead of wood/charcoal
  • Partial replacement of chemical fertiliser by organic fertiliser.

Working with women

Working with groups of women has the advantage that they can share the tasks involved in transforming a Jatropha-seed into an energy service. Besides, women can take up economic activities for the local or bigger market, like soap production, candle making, and making of Jatropha-lamps, that transpire from the introduction of Jatropha. The extra workload for the women that these activities will bring along, will be compensated by mechanising some of the heavy household tasks, like pounding maize and fetching water.
Women in rural areas get access to an income of their own, to invest in themselves and their children, to contribute to the household, and to give them a stronger position in case anything happens with their husband. The women provide energy services that are beneficial for the entire community. Moreover, the learned skills give them the opportunity to teach others and to expand rural energy access.

Headmen and women of three villages around Lusaka have reacted very enthusiastic when OBI visited them last week explaining our intentions to work with groups of women on Jatropha.

A follow up meeting is on the agenda for the month of August.
Groups of women interested to learn more about the Jatropha programme that OBI is intending to launch, are cordially invited to contact Margo Schouten, Programme Manager of OBI, cell phone number 0979 275710, or Field Operator Joseph Kangende on 0966 707565.

Email: obi at