The energy challenges being faced in Malawi are impacting on womenâ€™s health, thereby reducing their time spent on earning income, getting education and caring for their families.
The observation was made by President Joyce Banda on Monday at the 2012 World Energy Forum in Dubai at the proclamation of October 22 as the World Energy Day.
â€œAs an African woman leader, I want to first to look at the energy challenges through the eyes of women because I relate to their issues, and I relate to the challenges that deficits in energy sources places on them.
â€œIn Malawi, for example, close to 90 percent of the energy used is biomass and in almost all cases, women are responsible for collecting the firewood. However, with population growth and resultant deforestation, the distances travelled to collect firewood are getting longer,â€ she said.
Banda also linked energy and other essential resources such as water saying access to water is a challenge across Africa.
â€œBut our quest for energy is magnifying our challenges with water. In countries where people overly rely on bio-mass for energy, forests are fast disappearing, water shed catchment areas have been disturbed resulting in ecological imbalances.
â€œThe search for water is taking people further and further from their homes and from productive activities that are crucial to their familyâ€™s well-being,â€ she stated.
Malawiâ€™s current peak demand for electricity is 350 megawatts (MW), but produces only 283 megawatts. Only six percent of the country is electrified.
Banda noted that due to increased prospects in the mining sector, the demand for electricity is projected to increase to 740MW by 2015 and nearly 1 400 MW by 2020.
At the meeting, the President said Malawi needs a faster shift in the mix of energy it uses to ensure sustainability.
She said the initiative involves finding alternatives to hydropower such as solar, wind, thermal and geothermal for electricity generation given that in Malawi 98 percent of Malawiâ€™s hydropower is cascaded on one river, the Shire.
â€œIt also involves expanding our production of 18 million litres of ethanol for blending with petrol and our planned five million litres of Jatropha oil by 2015 for blending with diesel,â€ explained Banda.
In recent years, the global community has understood that access to energy lies at the heart of sustainable growth and our ability to eradicate poverty.
This year, 2012, is celebrated as the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All.
President Banda said access to sustainable, clean energy is the difference between youth who have functioning training centres and have access to jobs and those facing unemployment.