A new research report by Research on Poverty Alleviation (Repoa) says despite steady rates of both economic growth and income per capita, charcoal and kerosene are still the primary sources of energy for lighting and cooking in Tanzania’s urban households.
The report, which results from a 2007 household budget data analysis on energy, is based on an assessment of expenditure borne by the urban poor. It says charcoal is both the single most important source of energy in urban Tanzania, while modern sources such as electricity account for the lowest share of the household energy budget.
Surprisingly, the share of charcoal within total energy expenditure is higher for non-poor households (59 per cent) than for poor ones.
The report further shows that there are significant regional disparities in respect of firewood and electricity, but these are less so in the case of charcoal. The reason given is that most households’ dependence on charcoal, in Dar es Salaam for example, is very similar to the level of dependence in other regions.
“Although the study shows that electricity is still unattainable for the majority of the urban poor, the cost is only getting higher. This gives limited hope of moving away from traditional biomass sources of energy,” Repoa reports.
What is worse is that electricity remains out of poor households’ financial reach, with the urban poor’s purchasing power accounting for no more than 61 per cent of the cost of electricity.
Yet, according to the study, the same proportion of income is spent on energy for both the poor and the non-poor in urban areas.
Although the report touches the rural areas rather superficially, the use of both charcoal and kerosene is by far higher in those areas than obtains in the urban areas.
In view of the worsening world climatic change, mainly owing to atrocities against nature, the above scenario puts the nation in a pathetic situation calling for serious measures to generate safe and sustainable energy for the country.
There are several obvious reasons we as a nation need to move away from the ‘charcoal and kerosene economy’, one being that neither charcoal nor kerosene is a friendly energy source.
Charcoal is worse as a source of energy because it emanates from trees, and thus contributes greatly to the clearing of forests, grossly affecting our forest reserves.
Additionally, much like kerosene, charcoal contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, and hence the erosion of the ozone layer.
Besides these aspects, there are two reasons the two sources of energy do nature, Tanzania and the world a great disservice. One is that national development in today’s world is measured in terms of the amount of electricity it uses and the type it harnesses.
Let it be understood that by switching off power, one travels seven centuries back into history. Therefore, Tanzanians ought to invest more efforts in the harnessing of a wide range of sources of energy as this is crucial for the development of our country and for saving Mother Nature.