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West Africa: rural regions switched on

West Africa is undergoing a profound transformation in the way it produces energy. In many countries, the number of initiatives to develop sustainable, less polluting energy solutions is growing. In this region, at least 6 out of 10 people still lack access to energy, in part because national power networks often overlook rural areas. No problem: villages on the outskirts of cities have decided to create their own sources of renewable energy.

Villages on the outskirts of cities have decided to create their own sources of renewable energy.

Solar powered hospitals, factories powered by biofuels: local initiatives abound and are improving the standard of living of the communities that benefit from them. With the threat of climate change, farmers are increasingly concerned about water shortages, especially in countries in dry regions, such as Senegal and Burkina Faso. Access to a pumping system, powered for example by solar panels, would ensure food security for these families.

Such initiatives also have implications for gender equality and girls’ education. Indeed, it is often women who have the task of fetching water and wood for the household. Being able to provide energy for the home in a sustainable manner without leaving the house reduces the workload and frees up time that can be spent on the labour market or enjoying recreational activities. In addition, it releases young girls from certain household chores and allows them to attend school.

These projects have piqued the curiosity of researchers in Burkina Faso and Senegal. Launched by START and supported by the Fonds de recherche du Québec, the ProGREEN project was created. Its objective: to determine the barriers and facilitators to the implementation of small-scale energy systems, and to understand the ways in which these innovative energy sources improve the well-being and security of local populations.

Data in hand, the researchers hope to accelerate the energy transition that is sweeping across all of Western Africa. By understanding the realities and constraints faced by these populations, such initiatives could be shared on a larger scale and facilitate access to sustainable energy for all.

Learn more about the ProGREEN Project