Energy On the Move: longitudinal perspectives on energy transitions among marginal populations (a comparative study)

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Photo: EU/ECHO/Pierre Prakash/Flickr licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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This research examines the energy practices of very poor women, men and young people living in informal settlements in peri-urban situations in Nigeria, South Sudan, Nepal and Bangladesh and how these are changing, drawing comparative lessons across the study countries. It challenges conventional approaches to energy transition research. Lack of access to clean energy limits economic development, stifles people's life chances and traps millions into extreme poverty. Sustainable Development Goal 7 makes bringing access to affordable, clean and reliable energy for the poor a necessary element in transforming the development prospects for the 1.4 million people currently without modern energy services. However, while considerable development activity is being devoted to bringing new technological products from renewable energy research centre laboratory benches into the affordable reach of the energy-poor, current approaches to energy transition are deficient, not least because they fail to take into account the specific contexts and needs of the poorest and most marginal groups in low income countries: the women, men and youth on whom we focus in this project. 

The study will explore the energy practices of those who have experienced displacement as a result of environmental precarity (disasters or climate change), or political conflict, and are living in peri-urban locations but unconnected to the electricity grid. They offer a prime example of vulnerable groups whose energy requirements continue to be (poorly) met by biomass: the implications are substantial and extend beyond energy to transport (since high biomass usage can put a massive transport burden on women and children through head-loading of firewood/charcoal) and to other sectors, e.g. food, water, health. The study's novel purpose is to understand the range of means by which the poor access energy for light, heat and cooking fuel, and how this may have changed over time. 

The key objective of our impact strategy is to communicate our findings effectively and efficiently to potential users in-country and globally, promoting their uptake in policy and practice. Our co-production approach to research through close collaboration with local organisations will aid this. 

Who will benefit: Given the hitherto low profile of the energy needs of marginal migrant people in low income countries with experience of conflict, it will be necessary to ensure our research reaches a wide range of target audiences at an early stage to achieve maximum sensitisation. In addition to study community members themselves, this includes in-country Ministries of Women and children's affairs, Environment, Employment, Health, Education, Energy, Transport; local NGOs/CBOs working in these fields (e.g. the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (Nigeria)); international NGOs focused on energy, climate change and/or conflict; relevant bilateral and multilateral agencies (e.g. DFID, World Bank, AfDB, ADB, UNICEF); National Forum Groups of the International Forum for Rural Development and Transport (IFRTD). 

Why they might benefit: We envisage that Short to medium-term impacts [during the short award period and up to one year after] will be mainly on a) the direct beneficiaries (i.e. recent female and male immigrants into our peri-urban sites) whose energy needs will be our prime focus and who will learn about potential options for improved energy access; b) a wider set of potential in-country users, and c) global users. In-country users (b) will include government ministries (energy, transport, environment, health, women's affairs, local government etc.) that come together to address energy issues holistically through this project. It is particularly important that the energy and transport sectors which have typically worked in silos despite their important interconnections, come together to consider biomass transport and related issues.

Primary theme: 
Grant Reference: 
ES/R00269X/1
Project Status: 
Active
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
Anthropology
Fund Start Date: 
October 1st, 2017
Fund End Date: 
March 31st, 2019
Fund Currency Code: 
GBP
Fund Value: 
206,316
anthropology
development
geography
social anthropology
sustainable energy networks