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Enhancing Energy Security in Rural Tanzania: Examples of Successful Community Engagement in Rural Electrification from South Asian Countries

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  • December 12, 2014
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chair: Prof. Rajen Harshe
    External Discussants: Ms. Lidya Powell and Mr. Nitya Nanda
    Internal Discussants: Ms. Ruchita Beri and Dr. Smruti S. Pattanaik


    Tanzania is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and as a result of this the demand for electricity is increasing considerably. However, the access to electricity and electricity penetration in Tanzania is significantly low, especially in the rural areas where 90 per cent of the Tanzanian population resides. Biomass (mainly firewood and charcoal) is the dominant source of energy in Tanzania and a major source of domestic energy in rural areas as it is readily available and cheap. But the Government of Tanzania has recognized that the regular consumption of biomass causes substantial damage to the environment and health of its population.

    As a result of this the government has considered using alternative sources of energy to generate electricity. The paper highlighted the Government of Tanzania's new initiative the Scaling-up Renewable Energy Programme (SREP) Project which is working to promote clean energy for domestic uses. The government through the SREP wants to transform the country's energy sector from one that is increasingly fossil-fuel dependent, to one that uses a more balanced supply of diverse energy resources. This will allow Tanzania to move along a low-carbon development pathway, increase energy security, generate new economic opportunities and widen access to energy service. The SREP-Tanzania Investment Programme also constitutes the generation of low-cost and reliable geothermal power. However, its most important feature is the scaling-up Renewable Energy for Rural Electrification (RERE) Project. RERE Project aims to build an efficient and responsive development infrastructure for renewable energy based on rural electrification that will supply power to 2 million off-grid rural customers.

    However, there are certain obstacles i.e lack of enough resources to implement national energy policy, low participation of private sector, energy illiteracy resulting in underappreciation of the benefits of renewable energy and limited expertise in undertaking construction of the projects. But through the SREP Project the government hopes to overcome these economic and policy barriers to ensure the fruitful operation of the renewable energy projects. While Tanzania gets support from key players like the government, private sector and international organizations like the World Bank, the Tanzanian government fails to incorporate the local rural community as a part of the SREP Project. The paper argues that it is very crucial to ensure that these renewable energy projects factor in a community (decentralized) engagement approach to supplying energy to the rural areas. The government has to recognize the power and ability of the rural communities to come together and conceptualize localized solutions to their problem.

    In this context, the paper provided evidence-based recommendations to the Tanzanian government on the benefits of community participation (or decentralized) power generation in rural Tanzania. Examples of decentralized rural energy generation from India from India provide the structures through which local community can participate in energy generation:

    1. Local communities independent initiative – hydro power generation project in Putsil located in the Koraput district of Orissa state.
    2. Local communities collaborating with the government – biomass gasification in Hosahalli village in Karnataka.
    3. Local communities’ collaborating with government and private sector – Mlinda solar electrification project in the Sundarbans in West Bengal.
    4. Local communities’ collaborating with government and international donors – The Biomass Energy for Rural India (BERI) Project in Tumkur district in Karnataka.

    The commonality of these four examples is that these projects are small scale, inexpensive and vested in the communities’ best interest which makes them more sustainable in the long run.

    In the light of these examples the author has made some recommendations:

    • Tanzania has a strong sense of national community which the government can exploit.
    • A holistic approach to renewable energy generation is needed in Tanzania's rural areas.
    • Government has to make an effort to build the capacity of the rural population in order to keep the communities actively engaged in the projects.
    • Social marketing campaigns are important to create awareness amongst the rural population on the benefits of electricity in their lives and how they can participate in the local projects.
    • Community engagement approach is crucial to the success of renewable energy generation projects in Tanzania and to exploit and efficiently utilize existing potential for renewable energy.

    Major points of discussion:

    • One can look into the policy dilemma in India regarding whether one should find localized solutions to rural electrification problems or have rural electrification through the national grid. Does such a policy debate exist in Tanzania?
    • Grid connectivity is in high demand by rural population in India. Therefore, through these projects it will be beneficial to find out about the needs of the rural population in Tanzania and not make the mistake of predetermining their energy needs.
    • In rural India the local panchayats are important for implementing and supervising projects, hence, examples of local government bodies in rural Tanzania performing similar should be mentioned in the paper.
    • Decentralized solutions can be idealistic when one lives is competitive globalized world, this can put the country at a disadvantage at the global stage.
    • Law of science requires you to use energy to be competitive. Therefore, one has to think whether decentralised solutions will be cost effective and allow Tanzania to compete at a global level.
    • Examples of decentralized rural energy approaches from other African countries can also be considered for policy recommendation.

    Report prepared by Ms. Kuhoo Saxena, Research Intern, IDSA