By Paul Ndiho
December 29, 2010
Mali is one of West Africa’s poorest countries, but it has started a solar power revolution in the countryside, promoting clean energy to improve the lives of women, reduce poverty and safeguard the environment.
These women in rural Mali are involved in effort to meet the country’s energy needs while protecting the environment. They’ve left their old jobs of cutting down forests, and started their own community plant nurseries instead.
“Now the forest is re-growing and our work does not take as much effort as chopping down trees.”
Fanta Cisse and other women in Mali’s remote forest regions are receiving financial and technical assistance to start the plant farms through a government project, backed by the World Bank. The project has placed about 874,000 hectares of land under the management of community groups to produce a sustainable supply of wood for cooking and heating.
“Most of the women are leaving the exploit of forest wood for the nursery which is producing trees and vegetables and they make more with less effort and the forests are preserved.”
Toure Cheick, a Malian Energy and Electrification official, says the project is also making life safer for women and children around the country.
“Cooking fumes are a major health problem for one point six million women and children around the world who get sick or die from them annually; this corresponds to 38,100 women and children in Mali a year.”
Mali’s energy project is broad-based, supporting the production of improved cooking stoves. And this solar power station in Kimparana is the first of its type and scale in West Africa. Solar power now provides light for nearly nine-thousand homes and buildings in Mali. 40-year-old welder Sinna Bagayogo lives in Kimparana.
“It’s made it possible to work here; we used to have to go to another town.”
The solar power station, he says, is providing the energy he needs to operate his business closer to home. Analysts say that Mali’s renewable energy initiative will improve the lives of more than 70 percent of Mali’s people who depend on subsistence agriculture.