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Emerging Technologies to Benefit Farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
technologies are in a state of rapid innovation and growth, and while the committee was in agreement that future energy sources will need to move towards non-petroleum based ones, it was beyond the ability of this study to fully contemplate which of these technologies has the greatest potential to help rural farmers. Applications that are scalable, produce affordable energy, are consistent with the climatic conditions of SSA and SA, and are produced locally might be considered the most appropriate.
INSUFFICIENCY OF ELECTRIC-POWER GRIDS
About 2 billion people (some 30 percent of the world’s population) lack access to electricity (UNDP, 2004), and about 85 percent of them are the rural poor of SSA and SA (IEA, 2002). Of those 85 percent, half live in SA; India alone is home to one-third (Ailawadi and Bhattacharyya, 2006). In Bangladesh and Pakistan, the proportions of households without access to electricity are 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively (Sarkar et al., 2003). About 600 million people in SSA are without electricity. Oil-rich Nigeria tops the list of African countries with the greatest numbers of electricity-deprived citizens, followed by Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Mozambique.
The physical infrastructure to provide electricity to the rural poor is lacking, and demand for electricity in urban areas where grids do exist is outpacing the ability to generate power. In early 2008, even South Africa, the only country in Africa with large coal reserves, was experiencing daily blackouts that led to the declaration of a national emergency (Bearack and Dugger, 2008). Electric grids in eastern, western, and central Africa are powered primarily by hydropower and oil- or diesel-fired thermal power. Even with ample rainfall, hydroelectric generating capacity is often inadequate; with low water levels in lakes and an increasing silting problem in storage structures, more expensive diesel generation is needed for peak-demand management, and blackouts are common.
Most countries in SSA and SA have plans to expand power-generation capacity, and a widely recognized high priority is the development of long-range technical planning for these regions to replace the day-to-day crisis management that is the current mode of many energy ministers. Many studies of long-term energy futures for Africa and SA envisage an increasingly important role for renewable energy, much of which is site-specific and thus will require local research (Goldemberg et al., 2004; Uddin et al., 2006). Whether new technologies are implemented on or off the grid, trained people who can create them will be needed. In addition, expanded energy services at a local level will probably require a variety of alternative ownership and market structures. These approaches will require an emphasis on flexibility to identify least-cost options for particular geographical,