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Household Energy Use

Ethiopia is the third largest user in the world of traditional fuels for household energy use, with 96% of the population dependent on traditional biomass (e.g., fuelwood and dung) to meet their energy needs; this is in comparison to 90% for Sub-Saharan Africa and approximately 60% for the African continent. (Jargstorf, 2004) As reported by the Ethiopian Rural Energy Development and Promotion Center (1998), in 1996, the most recent year for which statistics on the energy sector are available, 77% of total final energy consumption consisted of firewood and charcoal while another 15.5% consisted of agricultural residues; only roughly 6% was met by modern energy sources such as petroleum and electricity, and only 1% of the population utilized electricity for cooking. Of total energy demand, approximately 89% was consumed by households, while a mere 4.6% was due to industry. These patterns are expected to continue, with overall energy demand forecast to grow between 2001 and 2010 by 3%, with growth over these same years being 2.6% for biomass, 7.9% for electricity, and 8.7% for petroleum. While Ethiopian demand for modern energy sources is expected to grow faster than for any other energy source, biomass fuels will continue to dominate total energy consumption, the effects of which, discussed in detail below, are not without harmful consequence.

Given the presence of rapid urbanization, however, these household energy patterns can be expected to shift considerably in the coming years. To see how, consider first differences in fuel use between rural and urban inhabitants. In rural areas, nearly 85% of the population depends on fuelwood as their primary fuel for cooking, with the next largest primary dependency ratio being 12.65% for crop residue; only 0.21% of the rural population depends on kerosene for their primary cooking fuel, while the numbers for electricity and LPG are 0.05 and 0.07%, respectively. Contrast this to the capital city of Addis Ababa, where 42% of residents depend on kerosene as their primary fuel, compared to just 6.5%, each, for LPG and electricity; approximately one quarter of the population in Addis Ababa depends on fuelwood for their primary fuel, with 8% depending on crop residue and 4.5% depending on charcoal. (Ethiopian Central Statistical Authority, 2004) When all fuels used are considered, over 90% of the population in Addis Ababa depends on kerosene; although no official statistics are available on all fuels used by households in rural areas, the percentage of households who use kerosene is not likely to vary greatly from those who use it as their primary fuel given kerosene is not widely available in rural areas.

Clearly, then, as rural Ethiopian households migrate to urban centres, which they are doing at a rate of over 4% per year, the energy balance of the country will shift (growth of the capital is rumoured to be greater than 6%); overall, fuelwood use will decline as households, in the absence of a suitable alternative, switch to kerosene. (World Bank, 2007) This is beneficial in that it mitigates the pressure on fuelwood, but detrimental in that dependency on petroleum imports increases; as dependency on petroleum imports increases, so, too, will expenditures of valuable foreign exchange.

Impacts of Household Energy Patterns

The patterns described in the previous section are not without consequence. Unfortunately, despite the widespread understanding of this damage, Ethiopia-specific documentation of this harm is hard to come by; fortunately, the same is not true for the remainder of the developing world, where varied studies on both other African nations and the developing world in general exist, albeit in a randomized manner (i.e., there is no single study, nor a collection of studies, which measures and documents all the negative impacts of energy use for one specific country). Thus, in the absence of in-country studies, this section will detail the negative impacts of energy use found from the diverse studies from within Africa and the developing world, referencing Ethiopian studies where possible, and, in their absence, alternative country studies; where the latter occurs, its applicability to Ethiopia will be presented.

Beginning with health, the World Health Organization (2004) estimates that indoor air pollution results in 1.6 million deaths worldwide each year, 24% of which occur in Africa; the primary cause of this indoor air pollution is household fuel use, particularly from traditional fuels burned in highly inefficient stoves. Given Ethiopia’s position as the third largest user in the world of traditional fuel, combined with the habit of burning fuelwood in the traditional three stone fire, whose efficiency is just 5 to 10%, compared to 70 to 80% for an electric stove (Jargstorf, 2004), Ethiopians likely figure prominently in this count. Support to this conclusion is provided by Stokes (2006), who, in measuring particulate matter below 10 microns in diameter (PM10) in twenty-seven households in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, found particulate levels to far exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standards of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA); while US EPA standards require daily average concentration of PM10 to remain below 150 ug/m3 (in density), the mean average particulate emissions in the study was approximately 700 ug/m3 and the mean maximum particulate emissions level was approximately 50,000 ug/m3. The health impacts, especially when combined with the use by the Ethiopian household of the highly prevalent “intermediate�? fuels such as kerosene, also include, but are not limited to, coughing, wheezing, acute respiratory infection in children, chronic obstructive lung disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes and lung cancer in women.

These impacts are not felt equally by all members of the household. The WHO (2004) estimates that just over half of worldwide deaths in children under the age of five are caused by indoor air pollution, while the proportion of the total global burden of disease in children of the same age caused by indoor air pollution is a staggering 80%. In regards to Ethiopia, those same reasons offered above as to why Ethiopians likely share in the count of worldwide deaths from indoor air pollution similarly apply here. Furthermore, as the majority of household energy demand in Ethiopia is due to cooking, with approximately 50% of Ethiopia’s primary energy consumption used to bake injera, the country’s staple food, women also share an unequal burden of death and disease from indoor air pollution as they are the primary cook (Jargstorf, 2004); studies have shown that emissions are not equally dispersed about a room, but rather are highest at the source of combustion, decreasing as movement away from the energy source occurs. (Ezzati and Kammen, 2001a, 2001b, 2002a, 2002 b).

Such differences in the way energy use patterns affect different members of the household to varying degrees are not limited to health. As reported by the World Bank (2006), the major task of acquiring sufficient energy in Ethiopia to meet a family’s basic needs of food and shelter is delegated to the women, both young and old, of the household, with women’s work, more so than men’s, depending on access to energy and biomass. Yet acquisition and use is more difficult the greater the reliance of traditional fuels. As exemplified by the World Bank (2006), not only do rural Ethiopian women travel up to 12 kilometers from their home to gather fuels, but they also are forced to collect inferior fuels in the form of bushes, twigs, roots, and crop residues, all of which translate into longer preparation and cooking times; the same is true for urban women, who also operate under extremely harsh conditions and, like their rural counterparts, have to walk long distances on harsh terrain, often barefoot, and with heavy loads. Border guards at check points will sometimes harass these women, demanding bribe money to allow them to bring in fuel. Traditional healers in the urban centres of Addis Ababa and Delanta often treat women for severe abdominal pains attributed to carrying these heavy loads over long distances. (World Bank, 2006) Once collected, additional time must be spent by women preparing the fuels for use not only in cooking, but in the supply of water, space heating, and for use in household processing industries, often crucial as income and employment generating sources.

The more time spent on collection and preparation, the less time spent pursuing more productive activities, such as education; this is unfortunate in a country where, in 2003, only 41.5% of the adult population was literate and only 57.4% of the youth population was literate (UNDP, 2005). With heavy workloads and low-income livelihoods, women also cannot manage without their children, and particularly their daughters. As documented by the World Bank (2006) in the Ethiopian town of Jijiga, boys in the Ethiopian village of Delanta reported that `we miss one to two days of school a week in order to work, and girls miss two to three days to help their mothers who are overburdened’. This is attested to by school enrolment rates, as reported by the UNDP (2005); just 46% of those eligible are enrolled in primary school, and just 15% of those eligible are enrolled in secondary school. Unfortunately, rapid deforestation, in part caused by fuelwood use, has intensified these impacts. With Ethiopian forests being destroyed at a rate of 200,000 hectares per annum, cover has decreased from 20% in 1975 to a mere 2.7% of total land, with demand now exceeding the re-growable supply by more than a factor of five. (Jargstorf, 2004)

Not only is intra-household inequality perpetuated by energy consumption patterns, but so, too, is inequality between the rich and the poor. As reported by the Ethiopian Rural Energy Development and Promotion Center (1998) for the year 1996, high income households were predominantly reliant on modern energy sources such as electricity and LPG to meet their energy consumption needs, while the poorest households, as well as most middle income households, continued to depend on primary and intermediary energy sources. Based on evidence in other countries, one might predict that these dependencies impact and perpetuate household equity in Ethiopia in a number of ways, important given the immense income inequality present within the country: in Ethiopia, the poorest 10% of the population hold just 3.9% of all income, while the richest 10% hold 25.5% of all income; for the poorest 20% of the population, the percentage of income held increases to only 9.1, while for the richest 20%, it jumps to 39.4% (UNDP, 2005). First, as reported by Barnes (1988), lighting is often the first, and primary, use of electricity by poor households who obtain access; the use of lighting is for evening reading and additional studying by children, additional studying that Barnes (1988) linked to a rise in education levels. Thus, in a country where only 13% of the population has access to electricity, its absence may perpetuate low education levels among poor children and unschooled adults in Ethiopia, thereby perpetuating household inequalities. As well, for cooking, Barnes, Krutilla, and Hyde (1999) calculated that the urban poor often pay more for wood or charcoal than they would for LPG or electricity, once the end-use efficiencies of the fuels and stoves are taken into account; this means that a higher share of a poorer household’s already meager income must be diverted from use in more productive ways. Furthermore, as discussed above, poorer households must spend time collecting fuels, which, again, prevents time from being spent in more productive ways that would allow these households to overcome poverty, and thereby mitigate household inequalities. Therefore, it is quite obvious that household energy consumption patterns not only stymie efforts to overcome poverty, but perpetuate inequalities among households.

Works Cited

Barnes, DF 1988, Electric Power for Rural Growth: How Electricity Affects Rural Life in Developing Countries, Rural Studies Series, Westview Press, Boulder, Colorado.

Barnes, DF, Krutilla, K & Hyde, W 1999, Urban Energy Transitions: Energy, Poverty and the Environment in the Developing World, World Bank, Washington, D.C.

Ethiopia Central Statistical Authority 2004, Ethiopia Welfare Monitoring Survey, 2004, Ethiopia Central Statistical Agency, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ezzati, M & Kammen, D 2001a, 'Quantifying the effects of exposure to indoor air pollution from biomass combustion on acute respiratory infections in developing countries’, Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 109, no. 5.

2001(b), 'Indoor air pollution from biomass combustion and acute respiratory infections in Kenya: An exposure-response study', The Lancet vol. 358 (August).

2002(a), 'Evaluating the health benefits of transitions in household energy technologies in Kenya', Energy Policy, vol. 30.

2002(b), 'The health impacts of exposure to indoor air pollution from solid fuels in developing countries: Knowledge, gaps, and data needs', Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 110, no. 11.

Ethiopian Rural Energy Development and Promotion Center 1998, Statistics on Ethiopian Energy Use, mimeo.

Jargstorf, B 2004, Renewable Energy & Development, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit & Ethiopian Rural Energy Development and Promotion Centre, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Stokes, AC, 2006, 'Towards a Quantification of the Benefits to Health of Appropriate Technology Development Work in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia', Masters Thesis, Baylor University, the United States.

United Nations Development Programme 2005, 'Human Development Report, Country Statistics Sheet: Ethiopia', viewed 7 June 2006, http://hdr.undp.org/statistics/data/countries.cfm?c=ETH.

World Bank 2006, 'The Ethiopian Women Fuel Wood Carriers Project', viewed 10 May 2006, Access online here.

World Bank 2007, Africa DataBase 2006.

World Health Organization 2004, 'Indoor Air Pollution, Health and the Burden of Disease: Indoor Air Thematic Briefing 2', viewed 14 June 2005, http://www.who.int/indoorair/info/briefing2.pdf.


Erin Boyd 11 April 2007

Last edited by Miriam Hansen .
Page last modified on Wednesday October 13, 2010 12:56:54 GMT.
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