The rural energy problem: A Case study of Wood fuel in Shiswa Sub-location, Kakamega District
The study drew inspiration from the current concern for rural areas, conveniently termed Rural Development. The specific aspect of Rural Development, Energy was singled out owing to even greater concern for the energy crisis in the developing countries in terms of rapidly diminishing traditional energy resources and astronomic increases in fossil fuel prices. In reaction to these inescapable realities many governments in the developing world have attempted to come up with diverse policies, strategies and programmes aimed at alleviating the problem if not eliminating it altogether. However well these policies and strategies intended may be their effectiveness will to a reasonable extent depend on the realities at the grassroot level. Therefore before translating these policies into actual action programmes greater understanding of the energy problem is a prerequisite, especially from-the perspective of the grassroots. The study aimed at contributing to such understanding. The central argument of the study is that the energy problem in the rural areas should not be looked at in isolation but as intricate aspect of the process of rural underdevelopment. The approach to its alleviation should therefore be a package deal aimed at eliminating rural poverty. Data analysis revealed a weak farm household economic base as reflected in the income levels, occupation structure and agricultural practices. This has tended to limit the ability of the farm households to afford alternative energy resources so that there is over-dependence on fuelwood. This was also reflected in the energy use technology which was on the lower side of efficiency. Further given the skewed nature of distribution of farm household resources in terms of land, income, etc., some households were experiencing the problem of energy more severely than others. Finally, certain socio-cultural arrangements contributed to the energy problem. That is the decision making structure within which the household was a limiting factor to the female folks accessibility to energy resources. Thus while advocating for adoption of energy saving technologies and supply enhancing programmes like agro forestry provision for local communities to have accessibility to government resources (among others); the study sees the long-term solution of the energy problem as lying in integrated programmes aimed at raising the productivity and income levels of the farm households.