Energy programme

This archive information is retained for historical interest only. Practical Action East Africa's programme work is now organised under three Programme Aims.

Energy is a basic requirement for human development, yet over 70% of people living in rural East Africa have no access to grid electricity or any other form of modern commercial energy.

People rely almost exclusively on biomass-wood, charcoal and organic waste for cooking and heating. Unfortunately, fuel-wood supplies are fast dwindling in many parts of the developing world. Women and children are now spending more time and money to procure it. Besides, fuel-wood is inefficient and has low value in the commercial energy sector.

Decentralized energy technologies such as microhydro, efficient kilns for use by small-scale enterprises, improved biomass stoves for commercial production have an important role to play in community development in Eastern Africa.

Based on work with over 75 organizations in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda over the past five years, ITDGPractical Action East Africa has identified a clear need to harness and develop the synergy of energy development organizations to enhance the use of technology that generates income and contributes to reduction of poverty.

The programme

The Energy Programme's work in Kenya dates back to 1986, when the first project to test six stove designs began. Currently, the Programme is supporting development agencies in East Africa in the implementation of effective energy projects. This is through capacity building and making available a range of appropriate energy technologies.

The programme has expanded its range of technologies from stoves and household energy to include micro and pico hydropower for community development. Other initiatives are low cost hurricane lamps, interventions to reduce indoor air pollution, research on urban energy for the poor, wind energy for selected areas and technology in briquetting of loose biomass fuels. The programme publishes on topical issues in the areas of energy, development and environment.


ITDGPractical Action's East Africa's Energy pProgramme aims to contribute to poverty reduction of significant number of poor households by enhancing the opportunity for productivity through increasing access to a range of appropriate energy technology options.


East African Energy Technology Network Project
This project is an offshoot of the Household Energy Regional Project that ended in March 1999. The project seeks to improve the quality of life of poor households in East Africa by enabling significant number of poor people to reduce the problems they face as a result of dependence on biomass fuels, as well as increasing their access to appropriate energy technology options. It also provides the capacity for productive use of energy and energy technologies for commercial purposes. The project's current activities are being implemented under three broad categories namely: commercialization of rural stoves; direct training, workshops, seminar and exchange visits; and documentation sharing, networking and advocacy work.

Upesi Project
This is a rural stove commercialization project, which is a follow-on from the Rural Stoves West Kenya (RSWK) Project that initially focused on stove production with women potters. The Upesi project was started in 1996 with the aim of proving the effectiveness and sustainability of a fully commercial approach to rural stoves marketing. The project has made significant progress in stablishing a sustainable commercial market through a network of promoters, retailers and artisans who buy from producer groups, then retail and construct stoves for customers. The lessons from the project are being compiled in a booklet to be shared with interested stakeholders.

Records indicate that the project has succeeded in increasing sale of rural stoves from 30% to 75% over the last three years.

further reading on improved stoves and household energy

The Solar Lantern project
solar lanternITDGPractical Action's consultancy subsidiary Practical Action Consulting (formerly ITC) have developed a low cost solar lantern designed to make this source of energy more accessible for many remote, rural parts of Kenya. The lantern can provide up to six hours of high quality light, or a combination of light and radio output. ITDGPractical Action East Africa has been actively involved in specific components of the project, especially in rural mass marketing strategies of the lantern.

This project, the first of its kind in Africa, is a pilot study. It has formed a partnership with Sollatek, a UK-based company that specializes in solar and electronic manufacture and distribution throughout the developing world, for mass production and distribution of the lanterns in Kenya.

The Smoke Project
woman_and_baby_by_hood.jpg (13952 bytes)The Smoke Project is part of an international research project managed from ITDGPractical Action UK, but implemented locally by ITDGPractical Action East Africa in collaboration with the Department of Public Health, University of Liverpool and the University of Nairobi. This project seeks practical solutions to the serious problem of indoor air pollution (smoke), which affects the health of millions of the poorest people in developing countries. This is done by introducing interventions such as increased ventilation, improved stoves, improved kitchen designs, hoods and chimneys.

further reading on the Smoke project

The Hurricane Lamps Project
hurricanelamp.jpg (8215 bytes)This is a product development and marketing project that aims to introduce a new product that will help to create more jobs and increase incomes for micro enterprises. The project has developed a low-cost hurricane lamp that uses paraffin, and its associated tooling system for the micro enterprise sector. The benefits of the low-cost hurricane lamp include the following:

  • It is easy to manufacture and uses local skills
  • It is cheaper
  • It produces more light than the brand that is currently in the market
  • It is easier to operate

ITDGPractical Action East Africa, through the project, assists micro-enterprises to realize their potential to use jigs templates and fixtures for mass production and standardization of products that meet the changing needs of the customer. Currently, five micro enterprises are producing the design of the lantern using the tooling system that the programme designed.

Community Micro-Hydro Project
The Tungu-Kabiri Micro Hydro Power Scheme is located in Mbuiru Village, Meru South District, about 185 km north of Nairobi. This project is implemented by ITDGPractical Action-EA and the Department of Renewal Energy (Ministry of Energy), and is funded by UNDP's GEF Small Grants Programme

A weir constructed to create a resovoir of water to ensure a constant flow into the intake channelThe first phase of the Community Micro Hydro Power Project began in September 1999. On completion, the project is expected to generate 18 kW that will cover a radius of 3 km. The community members have contributed free labour for building the weir, digging the canal, and building the power house, among others. The power generated will be owned by the local community and sold to the members for lighting, curing tobacco, pumping water, welding and joinery in workshops, and battery charging.

This project will act as a tool for learning and understanding the practical problems associated with the energy policy in relation to decentralised energy schemes. It has contributed to the recognition of training of component manufacturers of turbines as a priority for the country.

more on the Tungu-Kabiri scheme

further reading on ITDGPractical Action's micro-hydro work worldwide

Pico-Hydro Power Project
The Energy Programme of ITDGPractical Action East Africa in collaboration with Nottingham Trent University are working together to develop the pico hydro power sector. The project aims at demonstrating that pico hydro (power less than 5 kilowatts) technology is a sustainable and affordable technology for community electrification. It will contribute to the establishment of hydro power infrastructure in rural Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Two schemes have been developed under this project in Kirinyaga district, located about 130 km north of Nairobi.

Nottingham Trent University Pico-Hydro website

The future

The Energy programme continues to explore and expand its range of appropriate energy technology options. Some of these include:

  • Research on urban energy for the poor
  • Wind energy for micro enterprises in selected areas
  • Technology in briquetting of loose biomass fuels
  • Kiln development projects which aim at promoting and disseminating kiln technology in the pottery sector in Western Kenya
  • Waste Energy Project which will work towards developing a simple technology to upgrade charcoal dust as a fuel for the urban poor
  • Policy work on decentralized energy systems
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