The Chronicle Gambia

Montpellier Panel Releases Report on State of Rural Energy Supply in Africa

The Malabo Montpellier Panel, which consists of seventeen international experts in agriculture and related fields, has released a report on Tuesday in Banjul listing  the six leading African states that have made some progress in terms of providing energy accessibility to rural farmers and women.

Ethiopia, Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, South Africa and Zambia are considered the six leading nations to have made a breakthrough in rural energy supply.

“Under the Malabo Declaration, African governments have committed themselves to increase the use of reliable and affordable mechanization and energy supplies, including agricultural inputs. Africa is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services by 2030,” said Gambian-born Professor Muhammadou M.O. Kah, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost and Professor of Information Technology and Computing at the American University of Nigeria and Member of the Malabo-Montpellier Panel.

According to Kah, the report offers valuable insight and recommendations to help hasten Africa’s journey towards universal energy access.

Investing in new off-grid and mini-grid technologies to extend energy access across Africa will be instrumental in helping smallholder farmers to meet rising food demands, according to a new report.

Joachim von Braun, co-chair of the Panel, Gambia’s Agriculture Minister Amie Fabureh (middle) Ousmane Badiane, co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel

The report states that Africa accounts for just six percent of the world’s energy demand, despite hosting 20 percent of the global population, leaving rural areas relying on manpower for as much as 80 percent of the energy used in farming.

“As demand for food continues to grow globally, universal access to energy will become an urgent necessity, both for the production, processing and consumption of more nutritious food,” said Ousmane Badiane, co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel, which met in Gambia for the Malabo Montpellier Forum.

He added that access to reliable, affordable and sustainable sources of energy to prepare land, plant, harvest, process, distribute and cook food, will ensure that Africa’s agricultural sector can respond to this demand, all within the context of climate change and increasingly scarce natural resources.”

The experts highlighted opportunities for greater energy access to transform the livelihoods of the rural poor, reducing the drudgery of their work and generating higher incomes.

The report states that the rapid spread of off-grid and mini-grid solutions for renewable energy offers hope that Africa can leapfrog outdated and dirty technologies, with almost five million families installing solar home systems in 2018, the authors said. Overall, it added, cooking accounts for more than 70 percent of household energy usage in Africa, compared with less than 10 per cent globally.

“Africa is the highest consumer of traditional solid biomass such as fuelwood, charcoal and farm residues, including animal dung, in the world,” said Joachim von Braun, co-chair of the Panel who serves as director, Center for Development Research (ZEF) at the University of Bonn in Germany.

“For those cooking indoors in poorly ventilated spaces, this means daily exposure to noxious fumes and the burden of collecting fuelwood – falling heavily on women and girls. Improving Africa’s energy access, then, is also a public health issue.”

The report’s recommendations include designing integrated approaches to energy strategies and policies for agriculture, to ensure that energy access targets benefit rural areas and are consistent with the overall development strategies adopted by African countries.

Scaling investments in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, adopting gender-responsive energy strategies that involve women in the design and implementation stages, to ensure new technologies and tools to fulfil their needs and benefit their families, rural communities and the broader economy.

Reacting to this report, The Gambia’s Agriculture Minister Amie Fabureh described the Banjul forum to be timely.  She admitted that Banjulinding Women Garden which has 22 hectares is able to cultivate only five hectares due to insufficient energy supply.

Amie Fabureh

“We will try our best to make sure that these gardens are equipped with solar system. I will discuss with private sector present here so that they can help our women farmers.”

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