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African skimmers (rhynchops flavirostris), Murchison Falls National Parc, Nile River, Uganda. Creative Commons Licence

Improving Energy Access through a district led approach

UGANDA, KASESE - WWF Uganda Country Office (WWF-UCO) is supporting the government of Uganda to increase access to clean energy alternatives through a district led approach dubbed the “Champion District Initiative”.

African skimmers (rhynchops flavirostris), Murchison Falls National Parc, Nile River, Uganda.  rel= © Coyotos

By Natalie Chifamba and Eddie Oketcho

The Champion District Initiative is a pilot scheme where WWF is showcasing tools and approaches of how engaging with local stakeholders at district level is a preferred approach to increasing energy access for off grid communities in Uganda.

According to Job Mutyaba, the Energy Manager at WWF UCO, he says the initiative that started in June 2012, focuses on increasing access to clean energy for cooking and lighting in a single district.

“The results and lessons we have learned from the Champion District are helping inform us how we can scale up clean energy access to the rest of Uganda,” he says.

Through the initiative, WWF aims to actualize the vision of a Ugandan district that is climate resilient and is powered by the effective use of renewable energy alternatives to meet most domestic, social and productive energy needs for human development in Kasese District. To explain why the initiative was set up, Mutyaba has this to say,

“According to the Uganda National Development Plan 2010, Uganda has one of the lowest electricity consumption per capita in the world (at 69.5 kWh per capita),” he says.

This means that Uganda’s electricity consumption per capita is 8 times lower than Africa’s average (578kWh) and over 40 times lower than the world’s average (2,752 kWh) per capita (NDP, 2010).

The government of Uganda, through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development seeks to meet the energy needs of its fast-growing population and economy in an environmentally sustainable manner (Energy Policy, 2002).

To this end, through the Champion District approach, WWF UCO is working to compliment government initiatives aimed at supporting communities that do not have access to national grip power.

For the Champion District, the target is 100% access to clean energy services for all domestic, productive and social needs in Kasese District by 2020.

While conducting a recent monitoring exercise in Kasese, the project team from WWF visited Muhindo Miriam, a single mother of nine. She told of how using solar light as opposed to using the Kerosene lamp had greatly brought joy and happiness to her home,

“Smoke with (from the) ‘tadooba’ (Kerosene lamp) was making the children get sick and it was affecting their breathing. But now my family is very happy,” she says.

The story of Muhindo is one that WWF hopes to replicate to the over 130,000 households in Kasese that the initiative targets, one household at a time.

Energy poverty afflicts the majority of people living in rural areas of Africa. Approximately 1.3 billion people do not have access to electricity (around 20% of the global population) and rely on Kerosene lamps or candles for lighting and on expensive dry-cell batteries to power radios for communications (IEA, 2011).

On the other hand, an estimated 2.7 billion people rely on traditional use of biomass (wood, straw, charcoal, dung) and another 400 million people depend on coal (mostly in China) for cooking and heating (around 40% of the global population).

If current trends continue, more people will be without access to modern energy services in 2030 than at present.

Increased access to modern energy services for the poor – for both productive and basic uses is a critical development and environment issue