In developing countries some 2.5 billion people are forced to rely on biomass—fuelwood, charcoal and animal dung—to meet their energy needs. These people are energy poor, in that they have an absence of choice in the energy they access or use in their daily lives. Therefore, biomass plays an enormously important role in the lives of the rural poor in these developing countries, in the form of wood for cooking and heating.
To mitigate this need, the UN General Assembly designated 2012 as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All with three interlinked objectives: to ensure universal access to modern energy services; to double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and to double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
In January of 2015, given the importance of energy in climate change mitigation, reducing poverty, and meeting the United Nations sustainable development agenda, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect with clear targets for all countries to adopt in accordance with their own priorities and the environmental challenges of the world at large.
ENERGY & THE GENDER GAP
One of the key aspects of economic poverty is related to energy. Energy poverty, which disproportionately affects women who are primarily responsible for collecting fuel and water at a community level, can benefit greatly by the use of modern biomass energy sources. However, besides household energy consumption, women are also capable of improving the livelihoods of their families through various small-scale entrepreneurial projects that use renewable energy.
THE LANKAN PERSPECTIVE
In Sri Lanka, rural women play a significant role in economic and social development, contributing to the wellbeing of their families. Many of these women manage their household expenses and family commitments through small scale entrepreneurial businesses which can depend on biomass energy due to affordability and the availability of fuelwood. As such, the empowerment of women in Sri Lanka is vital for their development.
To alleviate this problem, an islandwide renewable energy project called Promoting Modern Sustainable Biomass Energy conducted by the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy together with the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority and supported by the FAO and UNDP provides islandwide energy services and programmes to promote women’s skills development and employment.