Promoting Gender-Smart Energy Solutions in Burkina Faso: Empowering Women and Advancing Sustainability
Burkina Faso, a country grappling with limited access to electricity from the main grid, has taken a significant stride towards inclusivity and sustainability. With a mere 19.2% national electrification rate in 2017, the need for transformative solutions was undeniable. Notably, this energy disparity disproportionately affected women, men, and vulnerable populations across the nation. However, a ray of hope emerged through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which ignited change by championing gender-smart energy solutions. Since its implementation in 2017, the energy gender policy of ECOWAS has paved the way for equitable energy access and gender integration in the energy sector, creating a promising path toward universal energy access.
In recent years, Burkina Faso has witnessed a transformative shift in its energy landscape. Through off-grid energy sources like solar home systems (SHS) and solar lanterns, the country has made commendable strides in enhancing energy access for its citizens. This marks a remarkable improvement compared to the past when reliance on the national grid for electricity was a distant dream for many. Despite these positive strides, challenges persist, particularly for women who continue to bear the burden of traveling long distances to collect firewood and edible plants. This practice not only strains women’s livelihoods but also exacerbates biodiversity loss and nutritional deficiencies in the region.
In a bid to combat energy challenges in remote rural areas, the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund partnered with Sida Sweden to implement the REACT SSA programme. This strategic partnership has been a driving force behind private sector innovation and investment in addressing Burkina Faso’s energy-related obstacles. Notably, Poceram SARL, a woman-led company nurtured by AECF’s support, stands as a shining example of gender-smart solutions within the energy sector. Specializing in manufacturing improved cook-stoves and terracotta bricks, Poceram SARL has emerged as a transformative force that empowers women while promoting sustainable practices.
At the heart of Poceram SARL’s accomplishment is its commitment to empowering women through sustainable practices. Collaborating closely with women who supply the company with raw materials such as cassava peelings and coconut shells, Poceram SARL produces eco-friendly briquettes for their improved cook-stoves. These stoves not only enhance efficiency and safety compared to traditional alternatives but also mitigate health risks associated with biomass smoke. By equipping women with eco-stoves, the ripple effect of reduced health hazards and financial savings creates a platform for women to invest in their own businesses and undertake productive endeavors.
AECF’s support has propelled Poceram SARL’s remarkable expansion, resulting in a noteworthy increase in their workforce from five to 17 employees. Notably, this growth reflects a commitment to both gender equality and youth inclusion, with 12 of the new employees being women and 14 being young individuals. Prioritizing training for retailers and offering technical assistance, Poceram SARL underscores their dedication to inclusivity and gender-responsive practices. This ethos aligns seamlessly with the principles of gender lens investing, championing a holistic approach that addresses disparities and fosters inclusiveness.
Poceram SARL’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of gender-responsive initiatives in the energy sector. Bolstered by AECF’s support, the company achieved an outstanding feat, selling 11,717 cook-stoves in 2022. These stoves, distributed through 58 points of sale, reached over 212,000 households. Mrs. Adeline Tendereogo, a satisfied user, attests to the remarkable efficiency of these stoves, mentioning that her charcoal consumption has been significantly reduced. She enthusiastically shares, “The charcoal I used for one day now lasts for three days with the new stoves.” This achievement underscores the profound impact of gender-smart solutions, uplifting women economically while fostering environmental sustainability.
In the heart of Burkina Faso, this brighter and more inclusive future is a result of the harmonious fusion of gender equality and sustainable energy solutions. The country’s journey toward gender-smart energy solutions remain an inspiration to nations worldwide. Through collaborative efforts and innovative approaches, Burkina Faso is transcending energy disparities, empowering women, and nurturing environmental sustainability. As Poceram SARL’s story demonstrates, when women are at the forefront of change, empowered with tools for transformation, entire communities thrive. The path to universal energy access is illuminated by initiatives that not only power households but also empower lives.