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Kwimba district for cheaper sustainable energy

Bariki Kaale who is the Chairperson of the Tanzania Specialist Organisation on Community Natural Resources and Biodiversity Conservation (TASONABI) says that in 2011 Kwimba district in collaboration with TASONABI and other stakeholders have initiated a programme for construction and use of improved biomass stoves.   Community acceptance on use of improved biomass stoves has been very high. Users of improved biomass stoves in sample villages have confirmed that the improved stoves have reduced firewood consumption and they are positively contributing to economic development of the society.  

While following the government’s course of promoting advanced technology and modern methods of production and communication, TASONABI also acknowledges the value and applicability of traditional knowledge and practices.  A forum of over 100 professional members - most with postgraduate qualifications - provides a wide spectrum of skills and expertise in rural energy, natural resource management and community development.  

Under Kaale’s supervision, TASONABI has conducted various studies related to efficient use of biomass fuels covering improved charcoal stoves, improved firewood stoves, efficient production of charcoal, Participatory Forest Management (PFM) covering Joint Forest Management (JFM) and Community Based Forest Management (CBFM) in Tanzania and within the Southern Africa Development Cooperation (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC) between 2002 and 2011.

Most recent studies covered promotion of affordable, efficient and reliable modern energy services to rural communities in Mwanza, Kigoma, Tabora and Kilimanjaro regions.    Overall Objective of the proposal is “to contribute to increased access to improved, affordable and sustainable energy services for rural and peri-urban poor in Kwimba District. “Specific objective is to establish sustainable production of energy efficient improved cook stoves within the context of current local livelihood and energy use patterns that meet the needs and demand of poor women and men in rural and peri-urban areas of Kwimba district including a test drive of pro-poor carbon financing mechanisms,” says Kaale.  

By end of 2010 Kwimba district had an estimated total population of 377,329 people. The area of the district is 3,903 km2 with a population density of 81 people per km2.  Administratively by end of 2010 the district had 5 divisions, 30 wards, 115 villages and 802 home lets (vitongoji).  Other demographic information with existing number of institutions in bracket that are currently using biomass fuels for cooking are: primary school (150), Secondary Schools (31), Hospitals (2), Health Centres (5) and dispensaries (31).

The district had a total employed manpower of 2,683 workers, covering different disciples with an exception of energy that has no portfolio within the district established manpower scheme. Biomass fuel is the main source of energy in Kwimba district of which 99.26% of the total population depends on it with little opportunities for alternative energy sources due to low paying ability (Table 2). Kwimba district biomass fuels supply potential on sustainable basis by end of 2010 were around 51,823 m3,  however biomass consumption in 2010 was around  410,692 m3.   Matching the supply and consumption figures, the district had a deficit of 356,868 m3 of biomass fuels per year – that was met through unsustainable harvesting of existing forest resources.   

According to Kaale, main consumers of biomass fuels for cooking in Kwimba district and their consumption contribution in per cent are: households (91.3%), Service centres: hospitals, schools, colleges and prisons (5.4%), Hotels/food vending (1.3%) and brick burning (2.0%). The estimated total biomass fuels consumption for year 2010 was around 410,692 m3  using in-efficient stoves with average energy efficiency of 7-10%.  

Effective use of efficient biomass stoves with energy efficiency of 25-30% could reduce the current biomass fuels consumption by at least 50% with high economic and environmental conservation values.   Some efforts of promoting construction and use of efficient biomass stoves in Kwimba district were initiated by the Forest division in mid 1990s. Few women groups have also initiated pottery activities including production of portable charcoal stoves.  

Unfortunately due to low support from the District Council, these efforts are still at infancy stages as over 99% of the total consumers of biomass fuels for cooking in Kwimba district are using in-efficient three stone firewood stoves.   However due to existing scarcity of energy for cooking, majority of biomass fuel consumers have indicated high willingness of constructing and using improved biomass stoves if facilitated with technical support.   

Kaale says that the district has no specific strategies for managing energy demand.  However, through Ministry of Energy and Minerals and REA the district initiated a programme of promoting construction and use of improved biomass stoves in year 2011 of which TASONABI participated and intends to sustain the initiated efforts. Ability to pay was assessed based on existing fuel switch opportunities in Kwimba District. Fuel switch refers to energy consumer, changing from one source of energy to another, depending on availability and affordability.  

Upward fuel switch is attained if a consumer moves from lower quality energy to a higher quality energy for example changing from use of firewood to LPG or electricity.   “Downward fuel switch occurs when an energy consumer changes from using high quality energy like electricity to low quality energy like farm residues. Main vision for Kwimba district is to attain progressive upward fuel switch, mainly for cooking,” he says. 

Experience shows that consumption and choice of energy sources by the majority of the Kwimba District population is influenced by various socio-economic and cultural issues that could encourage up-ward fuel switch from traditional fuels like firewood and farm residues to modern energy services like electricity or vice versa.   Up ward fuel switch in Kwimba district will be influenced by enabling district and national policies, strategies and programmes on scaling up the use of modern energy services.  

Aspects to be monitored that could influence fuel switch in Kwimba district include: accessibility, affordability, reliability, flexibility, low pollution and enabling capability for upward fuel switch.    In most cases, biomass fuels are accessible to 99.2% of Kwimba district population although the supply potential of biomass fuels is dwindling fast as illustrated earlier. Observations showed that accessibility of commercial energy sources like LPG, electricity and kerosene to the majority of the Kwimba district community is low (less than 1%). 

According to Kaale, majority of people should be able to afford the energy services. As reported earlier, majority of Kwimba District population are unable to afford the use of commercial energy sources like electricity and petroleum products to meet their major energy demand for lighting and cooking due to low income. Currently, the district has an installed electricity capacity of 10 MW but the district electricity peak demand is less than 1 MW.    

People prefer energy sources that are reliable. Experience has shown that the most unreliable energy sources in Kwimba district are electricity and petroleum products.  Un-reliable supply of commercial energy sources is a major limiting factor and challenge for energy development in Kwimba district.   Flexibility - An energy source that can be used to perform different activities i.e. cooking, heating and lighting is given high priority if affordable and its supply is reliable. In this case electricity and petroleum products are priority alternatives to traditional in-efficient use of solid biomass fuels. 

However, it should be noted that with sustainable supply of biomass fuels, the district could use biomass for generating electricity and production of bio fuels.  Enabling capability for upward fuel switch - Energy vision by majority of Kwimba district population is to be able to switch upwards from unsustainable traditional biomass fuels to commercial energy sources.  

Achievement of the vision will depend much on adopting a realistic energy development strategy. Based on Kwimba district socio-economic and energy development history, the most realistic energy development path is to start with accessible and affordable energy sources that will create an enabling environment to the majority of the poor to attain upward fuel switch from traditional to commercial energy sources with sound environmental conservation.  

Sustainable production and efficient utilization of biomass fuels that could be achieved through local communities’ participatory development efforts could be a priority option for creating an enabling environment to attain upward fuel switch in the District.

KOMBO Kombo is remembering his wife who died ...

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Author: DEOGRATIAS MUSHI

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