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How Yemeni Women Are Using Solar Panels to Overcome Food Insecurity
By admin February 5, 2019

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In 2009, Yemen had the lowest electricity connection in the Middle East, with 75 percent of the population living in rural areas, and only 23 percent of that rural population having access to electricity. According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), only 40 percent of the country’s overall population had access to electricity, either through the public grid or by private sources. Non-grid households generally used alternative lighting such as kerosene or Liquified Petroleum Gas lamps, which were inefficient and damaged the environment. After assessing the above country data, Yemen’s Ministry of Industry and Transport devised a Power Development Plan that would see the country move toward solar powered energy sources in order to accommodate growing power demands by 2020.

Fast forward to 2017 and the improvements were exponential, despite ongoing conflict, as nearly $1 billion USD had been invested into solar PV systems in residential sectors of the country. In fact, World Bank data showed that solar systems could be found in 75 percent of households in urban areas and 50 percent in rural, highlighting both the economic and social impacts that the project could potentially produce. A further World Bank funded $50 million USD was approved in April 2018, in partnership with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), with the aim of financing off-grid solar systems in Yemen, improving electricity access for rural and outlying urban areas, as well as supporting the powering of their basic social services.

Today, the commercial solar market in Yemen continues to support the local economy and create jobs, with the industry seeing growth in spite of the conflict. As more and more renewable energy programs are implemented, they are even beginning to help Yemeni citizens tackle other socioeconomic issues within the country. The most recent project, from the UNDP, is aimed at tackling food insecurity by teaching women to run their own small businesses with solar-generated energy. Currently, there are around 200 successful businesses throughout the country, created and run by Yemeni women. By offsetting the cost of powering other health and water systems in the community, the solar panels have decreased the cost of those services to the citizen, allowing money to be saved for food and household necessities. In fact, the UNDP notes that the problem faced was not a lack of access to food, but a lack of access to income. Thus, with the income earned from solar panels, Yemeni women are not only able to afford food, but are taking steps toward economic independence, no small feat considering that traditionally, Yemeni women did not work outside the home. As Arvind Kumar, the project manager from UNDP, notes: “to overcome the risk of food insecurity, you need to have income opportunities.”

Another notable project that has recently been developed is the UN Migration Agency’s (IOM) plan for delivering water in a city facing chronic water shortages. The IOM’s large-scale installation of solar panels in Sana’a has provided the government with infrastructure to pump water to residents and aims to provide all communities affected by conflict with alternative water sources. Sana’a’s sustainable water system is estimated to save them 150,000 liters of diesel and 500 tonnes of carbon emissions per annum. While alternative energy projects in Yemen are far from finished, they are a hugely important socioeconomic resource for communities, representing their transition from having under half of the population with access to electricity, to over three quarters. As energy expert, Omar El-Hayani points out: “since the outbreak of the war in 2015…Yemen has witnessed a suffocating blockade of oil derivatives, the use of solar energy has been the only option.” However, what began as a lifeline has now seen Sana’a become almost entirely dependent on solar energy, increasing access to other facilities as a result, and other parts of Yemen are taking note.

 

For more information:

Ministry of Industry and Trade Solar Expansion Concept Paper

Solar Energy In Yemen: Light Shines Through The Darkness of War

Solar Power Delivers Water to Tens of Thousands of Yemenis

Solar Power Sales Help Women Avoid Food Insecurity In Yemen

World Bank Assessment of the Solar PV in Yemen

World Bank: New Solar Project to Restore Electricity to Over One Million Yemenis

 


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