The rural electrification-ecological sustainability Nexus in Zimbabwe

Full Name: 
Dr Ellen Fungisai Chipango

This political ecology driven study considers the accusation of rural people as ecological disrupters in the face of energy poverty as flawed and misinformed. What is not appreciated is that energy poverty is not a natural phenomenon. The contribution of this study lies in locating the effect of power relations on the rural electrification processes (where power presents itself in the form of neoliberalism). By the same token, the effect of power is located in the ecological sustainability perspective where power presents itself in the form of environmentality and the formation of environmental subjects.

Furthermore, it would seem imperative discourse epistemologies pertaining to energy poverty should be understood first in order to reveal how flawed or inadequate the rules and regulations in use are. In addition, the study contends that energy poverty can be best understood in a relational scale context through the engagement of various actors and actants. Energy poverty interacts with various political-economic factors and as such cannot be viewed as an independent phenomenon. In that light, it is argued that energy poverty cannot be understood within the parameters of technical disciplines such as engineering only.

Rather social sciences are critical in addressing the notions of equitable access. Social injustice in the electricity sector comes in various forms and focusing on one (technical) aspect at the expense of others misses the connections between them. More often than not, the technical approach fails to allow active participation of the rural poor in negotiating for electricity access. Thus, the technical approach considers energy poverty as natural and inevitable. Using Buhera, Ward 24 and the Zingondi Resettlement Area as case study areas, a total of 103 interviews were conducted.

In Buhera (Ward 24), interviews were conducted with 60 households and one interview was sought per household with an adult (either male or female). Likewise, in the Zingondi Resettlement Area, out of the 33 registered households in the area, the study sought to interview one adult from each of the 25 households. In addition, information was secured from 18 key informants and these included respondents from the Ministry of Energy and Power Development, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, government agencies, as well as environmental non-governmental organisations. In order to guarantee richness, breadth and depth of the study, observations and desktop research were conducted. Thereafter, thematic analysis was used to analyse data and the themes discussed in this thesis inductively emerged from that data.