Participants in a workshop have prevailed on governments in Africa to provide energy to rural areas to boost economic activities.
They said that would also help the people to put their entrepreneurial abilities to good use, while helping them in their farming and other activities aimed at reducing poverty among rural dwellers.
The participants made the call during discussions at a two-day workshop on energy, food and water. It was organised by Smart Villages Initiative, a non-governmental organisation.
The workshop, being attended by energy experts, civil society organisations and selected journalists from West Africa, is meant among other things to find ways to synergise energy, water and food to achieve greater and more efficient results, particularly for the rural people.
They maintained that energy was a very important resource that had the potential to spark other activities within the economic chain in rural areas.
In the area of farming, the participants were of the view that without energy there cannot be an all-year-round farming.
According to them, issues such as post-harvest losses and the lack of storage facilities were also major challenges that arose because of the lack of energy.
They maintained that in all that, women became the most vulnerable and noted that unless some drastic measures were taken to reverse the trend rural dwellers would continue to languish in their present poor state.
It is against this background that the participants have called on governments to initiate deliberate policies to address the challenges of rural people, particularly the farmers.
They mentioned solar systems and noted that although the initial cost might be high, the medium to long-term benefits were significant.
The participants said it might be practically impossible to reach all the rural areas with electricity from the national grid. However, providing off-grid energy systems could be accepted.
African governments needed to build the capacities of rural women to make them more resourceful and relevant to their societies.
The West African Coordinator of Practical Action, Madam Mary Allan, said the “focus on productive uses of decentralised energy alongside household and community services was key.”
About Smart Villages
The Smart Villages Initiative is a three-year project based at the Cambridge University, designed to provide the first globally relevant survey of the potential of renewable energy to create sustainable vibrant off-grid communities in even the remotest of regions as an alternative to urban migration.