Reaching Kenya’s ambitious 2028 target for clean household energy, especially for cooking, needs the concerted efforts of innovative partnerships. And that is what has just been promised by a 2-day stakeholder workshop hosted by WHO and held recently in Nairobi on 15-16th November 2023.
During the panel discussions, and seen here speaking in the featured photo, Equity Group Foundation’s Mary Mbula Mwangangi succinctly captured the major challenges holding back progress towards adoption of clean household energy when she said: “Now, research has shown that there are several challenges that limit access to clean energy, the top three being financial constraints, poor distribution networks, and lack of awareness about these technologies.”
It is these critical issues that the meeting was focused on, looking at how innovative approaches and new partnerships can help accelerate progress towards access by all of Kenya’s population to clean, safe and efficient cooking fuels and technologies.
A broad partnership for universal access to clean cooking
The workshop participants reflected a very wide range of interests and expertise, bringing together community health practice, women’s groups, and enabling policy. The partners attending included WHO, the Office of the First Lady, the Mama Doing Good Foundation, CLEAN-Air (Africa), Ministries of Health and of Energy, Safaricom, bank foundations (Equity, KCB), GIZ, Clean Cooking Association of Kenya, among many others.
Partnership working that brings together these actors can offer important new opportunities. Among the most promising initiatives presented and discussed during the workshop were WHO’s Clean Household Energy Solutions Toolkit (CHEST), the Ministry of Health’s training programme for Community Health Promoters (CHPs), Table Banking Groups (offering loans, with members due to be trained in a short version of the CHP module), zero VAT rating of LPG enacted earlier in 2023, expanding pay-as-you-go LPG smart meter systems, bank loans for clean cooking (e.g. Equity’s EcoMoto loan facility), and the implementation of testing, standards and labelling on improved solid fuel stoves.
A realistic take on the challenges ahead
Despite the optimism felt about what these new initiatives and alliances can achieve, the meeting was realistic about the challenges still ahead. One of the most pressing concerns voiced was that CHPs, having raised awareness in households and helped build the will to change to cleaner fuels, would be faced with challenging questions about what options were available and affordable.
These questions are indeed challenging, because despite the real progress that has been made over recent years, for many poorer homes, clean cooking fuels and stoves still seem to be beyond their means.
Progress over the next few years will be key. This will show us the extent to which the awareness raising, fiscal policies, loan facilities and options (e.g. table banking, offers from banks, etc.), and technological innovations being discussed can make a real difference to achieving universal access to clean household energy in Kenya.
CHPs are uniquely well placed to advise households on financial and other options that can facilitate a switch to clean energy. But to make the most of these opportunities, the CHPs will need additional training and support on what is available (that is, the evolving policies, financial services and technologies, etc.), and how best to communicate these to households and communities.
One of the exciting ideas discussed during the workshop was to attach CHPs to table banking groups (TBGs) during training of the latter, and subsequently. This would allow CHPs and TBGs to become familiar with each other’s roles and activities, and also ensure complementarity in their advice to households.
A Call for Action and next steps
Key outcomes from the WHO stakeholder workshop include a multi-sectoral coordinating mechanism, a ‘Call for Action’ [a link will be posted as soon as this is available], and a follow-up workshop in around 12 months’ time to take stock of progress.
Comments and questions about the workshop and next steps are most welcome.