Poverty has many dimensions. While being poor relates directly to having less to eat, energy is definitely a primary concern for many poor families around the world. A recent poverty matters blog post looks at how energy directly impacts the poverty situation in many poor countries.
In Nepal, the lack of energy is not just a problem for the poor. The country has continuously had to schedule rolling blackouts for many years now. A general problem intensifies when it reaches the poor. Most of the rural communities are not connected to the grid. Women and girls, primary caregivers for the family, spend hours in a day searching for firewood in the already dwindling forest. These are hours that might have been better spent farming or perhaps, if she is lucky enough, studying.
A solution to the current energy situation in Nepal is huge investments in hydro power and solar power fueled by aid and government money. Are they useful? Yes. Are they enough? Probably not. Overlooking the time it will take for these plans to materialize and not addressing the politics that might keep these projects from finishing or even launching, fulfilling the urban energy deficit will still be a priority. People in the cities can pay, enabling the government to pay back the loan from World Bank or some other entity.
A better solution is biogas. Many Heifer projects that give buffalos also provide support for installation of a biogas plant. The manure from the animals is used to produce methane gas used as fuel for cooking and to light bulbs. This diagram below explains how it all works, and more information about biogas plant construction can be found here.
Heifers work in countries with multi-faceted problems like Nepal does not just stop in giving livestock gifts to end hunger. But it can invest in innovative ways which can address other over-arching problems with the use of livestock and agriculture. Yes biogas provides energy. But it does so much more:
Saves time that would be spent in searching firewood and allows for girl children to focus on schooling often neglected due to manual chores.
Produces smokeless fire, lessening the occurrence of tuberculosis, impaired vision and breathing problems.
Produces light so work can be done and children can read after dark.
Produces manure slurry which is excellent organic fertilizer.