Coping with Energy Poverty in Rural Zimbabwe: Spaces Matter
Keywords:Agency, Coping Strategy, Energy Poverty, Participation, Space.
AbstractSpace for participation has become de riguer in the development discourse. Nonetheless, this phenomenon has not been adequately embraced in the energy sector. The question at the centre of this article is: What spaces for participation are available to the rural people to voice their energy concerns-how participative are they? Through extensive qualitative research in Buhera, Ward 24, this study demonstrates the barriers and constraints which hinder rural people’s participation in energy issues. Interviews with the participants revealed that while rural people participate in the invited and claimed spaces, power relations and conflict of interests are major obstacles to democratic decision-making. This suggests that decision-making in the energy sector lies with the powerful elite (government actors and electricity providers). Findings from the study revealed that hidden and invisible powers prevent the rural people from voicing their energy concerns. As a result of a lack of participation in the energy sector, energy poverty is misconceived as a phenomenon which can only be technically solved. However, participation allows that government can become more responsive to citizens’ energy needs and more effective in service delivery. By assessing the space for participation in the energy sector, the article might inform the relevant stakeholders of the importance of engaging the locals in addressing energy issues. Failure to appreciate the importance of space for participation limits the understanding of rural people’s energy needs, and the significance of their views remains underestimated. It is therefore recommended that space for participation be created to allow social inclusion of the rural people in the energy sector.
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