In recent years, the University of Strathclyde (UoS) has worked with Community Energy Malawi (CEM) to increase political awareness and will towards integrating energy into local and national policy of Malawi. Through the creation, blueprinting and piloting of District Energy Officers (DEOs) a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the benefits and challenges has been built regarding renewable energy access in the country.
On the back of recommendations from work during 2017/18 – developing a strong stakeholder network and mapping energy access and use in Balaka District – one recent activity was to encourage the mainstreaming of energy through a training session delivered in July 2018.
The training session involved 30 participants from across Balaka District including civic education coordinators and district councillors (from departments of health, agriculture, community development and forestry) and covered the following areas:
- District Development Planning and Budgetary process
- The VAP process
- Introduction to energy
- Introduction to the DEO Trial and Renewable Energy awareness
- Mainstreaming energy in VAP – experiences of extension workers
It was found that increases in demand for energy products are hindered by several factors: lack of availability of quality solar products, lack of energy officers with which to raise and discuss concerns; the inability to maintain discussion of district energy challenges beyond the training sessions; and the inability to monitor and track the work and progress of DEOs.
As a result of these findings the following recommendations were made:
- A reporting template should be made available to the trained officers.
- (Semi-)annual review meetings with trained officers to evaluate the impact of the training.
- The possibility of instituting an energy committee at the district level should be explored.
- Increase the availability of quality energy products through a CEM trading branch in Balaka.
As a result of the training the participants developed a general work plan, geared towards mainstreaming energy in Balaka. It is intended that each trained NICE officer will be supported by two trained extension workers to enhance mainstreaming of energy in the VAP process. Participants are ready to conduct several meetings at grassroots level to disseminate energy information and intend to have a review meeting at the end of the year to discuss and share how they have fared.
It is hoped that through these activities, Balaka will become the first district to mainstream energy in its development plans; if successful the district has the potential to act as a powerful example to others across Malawi and beyond!