By Daniel Chigundu
PROPORTIONAL Representation legislator Fanny Chirisa has called on Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo to prioritise renewable energy in his 2018 national budget as a way of reducing pressure on the environment.
Owing to limited energy sources in the country, the majority of people have largely been turning to firewood which has resulted in depletion of forests and has health effects to women.
Since independence, Zimbabwe has depended heavily on hydro and thermal power, but these sources have not been adequate to cover the entire country and at some time people have had to do with serious load-shedding.
Speaking in the National Assembly, Honourable Chirisa said the Energy Policy commitment and the Blue Book are not speaking the same language, adding that the 2018 budget should do more to support clean energy.
“Mr Speaker Sir, I am saying 2018 National Budget should support clean technologies to reduce the zero dependencies on traditional forms of energy…There is also need to increase the share of renewable energy on the national energy needs.
“…the 2018 National Budget should prioritise energy so as to improve services and operating environment in household institutions, communities and at the national level. Gender mainstreaming in the energy sector must be considered as a cross-cutting issue.
“The National Budget should prioritise energy inclusive of budgets from all sectors; addressing the energy needs of all sectors will make our economy grow as it is also critical for development,” she said.
According to Honourable Chirisa, there are a lot of barriers to gender equity and equality in the energy sector, adding that this has remained like that for some time now, namely; -weak gender mainstreaming and lack of cross policy analysis to the accounts of a diversity of women in urban or rural areas.
Honourable Chirisa said gender mainstreaming is critical and that it is important that the Executive takes this seriously because there is a serious need for gender mainstreaming in all sectors, in all departments of the society.
She said “there is a limited engagement of women empowerment and interest groups to influence policy and program development, especially in the energy sector.
“Mr Speaker Sir, there are also program barriers. Men still dominate energy projects as they are deemed technical and not for women. Energy projects are normally captured by male editors and elites; chiefs, headmen and political leaders due to their importance.
“The private sector is noted as having weak capacity to distribute renewable energy significantly especially in rural areas. More interventions are required to enable them to widen access and use by women,” she said.
Despite experiencing sun weather for the greater part of the year, Zimbabwe has been unwilling to effectively invest in solar energy which can go a long way in reducing the cost of importing power from South Africa, Mozambique and DRC.
Clean energy such as solar and biogas can easily be accessed by poor members of society owing to their low-cost pricing structures as compared to hydro and thermal power which requires the installation of power lines over distances.
Failure to access energy sources has prevented women from effectively taking part in economic activities as they will be busy walking long distances looking for firewood or cooking on with firewood.