By Guest Writer
OPINION: The prevalence of energy poverty among low-income communities in Uganda is a resounding predicament that demands immediate attention. Energy plays an irreplaceable role in holistic societal development, be it in health, education, entrepreneurship, or environmental sustainability.
Access to cost-effective, reliable, and clean sources of energy is considered a basic human right according to international human rights law.
However, for a significant section of the Ugandan population, particularly the low-income communities, energy abundance remains a far-fetched dream, such as in Karamoja, where access to electricity is limited; in slum areas of Kampala; in districts of the eastern part of the country where residents often rely on charcoal for their cooking energy needs; and in refugee settlement camps.
This shortage is distressingly associated with the systemic social inequalities infiltrating the Ugandan landscape, with dire consequences for the nation’s efforts against climate change.
In Uganda, traditional biomass forms an essential part of the energy mix, contributing about 89% to the domestic energy demand, according to various report findings. The deployment of clean energy technologies like solar, natural gas, and biogas is limited and remains inaccessible to the economically marginalized population. Primary constraints encompass financial inadequacy, logistical challenges, and a lack of awareness.
Unfortunately, the disproportionately high cost of clean energy installation and maintenance proves a daunting challenge for Uganda’s underprivileged populace. While international organizations and non-governmental organizations work towards subsidizing clean energy solutions, these initiatives are often insufficient to bridge the cost gap.
Additionally, the geographical remoteness of rural areas and the absence of extensive distribution networks further hinder the realization of the clean energy dream. Socio-cultural factors and a lack of awareness about the potential benefits of renewable energy options among the communities only compound the issue.
At a macro scale, these barricading factors perpetuate Uganda’s socio-economic gaps. Dependence on traditional, inefficient, and polluting energy sources such as biomass not only taxes the health of the users substantially but also expedites environmental degradation, reinforcing climate change.
Disproportionate exposure of the disadvantaged groups to such hazardous practices highlights the inequalities of burdens in the contemporary energy system in Uganda.
By recognizing that equitable access to clean energy is fundamental to human development and environmental conservation, it becomes imperative for Ugandans to address these barriers. Multi-sectorial efforts bridging government agencies, financial institutions, local communities, and the private sector are pivotal. These can include comprehensive energy literacy campaigns, financial schemes targeting low-income households, capacity building for local entrepreneurs, and infrastructure development.
Strengthening Uganda’s civil institutions and empowering its citizens, especially the impoverished ones, with cleaner, healthier, and safer energy alternatives will undoubtedly have positive ramifications in its fight against social injustices and climate change.
In a world inching towards green recovery post-COVID-19, it is crucial that no individual or community remain “left behind” on the road to sustainable and equitable development.
The author is Ms. Rosette Gladys Nandutu, Advocacy Officer, Vijana for Sustainable Development and Environmental Action.
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