Fossil fuels are being depleted at an ever-increasing rate. The extraction and consumption of oil, gas and coal contribute considerably to climate change and lead to instability and pollution across the world. Notwithstanding, governments and large corporations tenaciously cling to the fuels of the past. At the same time, millions of people have no access to modern forms of energy, and this stands in the way of their economic development.
Climate change threatens the all the planet’s inhabitants, but for many people in developing countries, climate change is already here. Of all groups in society, poor people depend the most on the state of their natural environment. Greater weather extremes and unpredictability can wipe out the livelihoods of small farmers and nomadic pastoralists, and food prices will soar as a result of poorer harvests. Women, who make up the majority of the poor, are most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. They are the ones who work the land, dealing with drought or salination, and who walk further and further from home to collect water or firewood.
Climate change is inextricably linked to poverty alleviation and economic development. The only way to reduce the use of the fossil fuels hat cause and aggravate climate, while at the same time guaranteeing the right of access to energy for all citizens, is to switch to clean, renewable energy sources.
BIOGAS: THE SOLUTION FOR INDOOR POLLUTION
Research done in China, India, and various African countries shows that one of the most effective solutions for health risks of indoor cooking in developing countries is to provide a clean, safe alternative to polluting fuels. Biogas is that solution. Cooking on biogas is over 90 per cent cleaner than wood and coal, which is why the Hivos and SNV Biogas Programme is not solely about providing rural households with energy, but also improving their health and the environment they inhabit, and freeing women and children from the time-consuming (and literally backbreaking) task of gathering wood for fuel.
RENEWABLE ENERGY SPINOFFS
The spinoffs of renewable energy are surprisingly versatile. Our biogas programmes have not only led to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions, but have enabled tens of thousands of rural households to become energy producers themselves.
Decentralised renewable energy systems also trigger local economic development, enabling local small entrepreneurs to start businesses. The construction of domestic biogas digesters and efficient woodstoves is a new market sector that provides qualified employment opportunities and growth areas for small enterprises.
Access to electricity from a local micro-hydropower plant, for example, creates new opportunities for micro- and small enterprises. As a result, corn mills become powered by electricity, small shops can refrigerate perishable goods, charging stations for mobile phones appear, and so forth. These are just some examples of what happens when people in disadvantaged areas obtain access to energy.
Hivos supports those who take action to improve their situation and control their lives, and we see that access to energy offers people clear opportunities to do just that: improve living conditions and start businesses.