Gender Energy and Human Freedom in Nepal

Rural energy in general and biomass in particular, has a great impact on people’s wellbeing especially on the life qualities of rural women in Nepal as they are directly involved in production and management of household energy.. For instance, increased use of biomass limits the production and reproduction capacities of women, which, in turn, restricts their capabilities to access better energy services as well as other socio-economic opportunities. The challenges are then to identify alternative options that help to address both energy poverty as well as human poverty so as to increase the human capabilities (especially of women) and their freedom for the well being of rural households.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Key words: energy, poverty, capabilities and freedom

1. Background
Energy is one of the central aspects of human life as it affects agricultural productivity, environmental sustainability, health care, and job creation. More than a need, energy per se is absolutely essential to deliver adequate living conditions, food, water, health care, education, shelter and employment (Najam and Cleveland, 2003). For instance, energy availability is a key determinant of how food is grown and cooked, the health impacts of how food is cooked or how living spaces are heated, the time required to ‘procure’ household energy, and so on. It especially influences the poor people’s lives as they spend much of their income in obtaining energy for basic needs and also much of their time in energy related activities (UNDP, 1997). In Nepal, 86 percent of the energy comes through biomass (CRT, 2005), which has a greater impact on the country’s socio-cultural, economic and environmental aspects. Fuelwood collection takes a considerable amount of time (estimates range from two to twenty hours a week) and distances covered over difficult terrain can be substantial. For example in Nepal women can walk over 20 km per journey in search of wood (Mahat, 2004). Women also suffer back problems from carrying heavy wood loads (40 kg are not usual) on their head as well as the less recognized threats of rape and beatings (Cecelski 2000, UNDP, 1997). In many cases, uterine prolapsed among rural women in Nepal is attributed to carrying heavy firewood and similarly women often face a risk of miscarriages with such heavy workload (Earth and Staphit, 2002; Haile, 1991; UNDP, 1997). A study in Nepal indicated that highest percentage of infant mortality is associated with ARI, which is mainly caused by indoor air pollution (Pandey, 2003). Girl children are kept out of school to assist in wood collection (Clancy, 2000). Water collection for the household has similar impacts. This has a large negative impact on rural poverty in

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general, and human poverty in particular affecting well being of rural households (Ramani, 2004).

2. Relationship between Energy Poverty and Human Freedom
It is worth relating energy with poverty deprivations as energy is considered as one of the basic human needs that have a crucial role in improving people’s wellbeing (GNESD, 2007). At the most basic level, energy is needed for cooking food, and space heating (World Bank, 2000). For the world’s poor, the only source of energy that is generally available and affordable is “traditional biomass,” including fuel wood, crop residues, and animal wastes (REN 21, 2005). Using biomass as fuel contributes to multiple deprivations of poverty such as economic, socio-cultural and ecological. Particularly, the social and cultural deprivations (such as equity, inequalities) have a major influence on human capabilities especially of women limiting their production and reproduction capacities (e.g no time and labour for production and social activities, no access to decision making) (Ramani, 2000; Mahat, 2004; Skutsch, 1995). At present, energy is considered as one of the vehicles for poverty alleviation as it is an essential input for sustaining people’s livelihoods (Clancy, Skutsch, and Bachelor 2000). Energy poverty reflects the low access to better energy services at one end. However, the deprivations caused by energy poverty on human development are much more significant than the energy poverty itself (Ramani, 2004; Modi, McDade, Lallement and Sagir, 2006). For instance, energy has equity dimensions as the richer households can afford higher quality fuel than the poorer households (Clancy, Skutsch, and Bachelor 2000; Cecelski, 2004). In this case, women from the poorer households suffer from large health problems, spend more time in collecting firewood and pay higher price per unit of energy (Reddy, 2000; ESMAP, 1999). Such problems restrict women’s capabilities to participate in other economic and social activities and thereby their wellbeing.

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In addition, energy in rural areas reflects more human energy than biomass and other sources of fuel (Cecelski, 2000). The problem is not lack of biomass energy but lack of women’s time and labor to manage the household energy. In rural areas of Nepal women’s time and labor are more valued that functions for achieving the wellbeing of a family. Women’s role in production of energy and in reproduction of household income through small scale enterprises at household level are often undermined (Bhattachan, 2001; Cecelski, 2000; Skutsch, 1995). For instance, women are the main producers and managers of biomass energy in rural areas, while they have little access in decision making processes in regard to any energy interventions such as locating biogas plant (Cecelski, 2000; Skutsch, 1996; Mark, 1995). While women value their roles in such decisions (agency freedom) to achieve their well being. In absence of work sharing at household level, women do heavy physical exercise, spend long working hours and suffer from numerous health problems (e.g smoke related diseases) in managing the biomass energy that deprives their production and reproduction capacities affecting their well being (Acharya, 2001; Cecelski, 2000).

3. Conceptual Model
The chart below presents the conceptual framework of my study indicating how the use of biomass energy causes multiple deprivations of the rural households affecting their well being and agency freedom and its last impact on human development. • Social Deprivation As stated earlier, biomass is one of the major sources of cooking in rural areas, which is mainly managed by women. Women and children in developing countries suffer disproportionately, as they spend much of their time gathering wood (Cecelski, 2000; Mahat, 2004). Using biomass as a major source of fuel indicates the low accessibility to alternative fuels by the poorest households and thus involves equity concerns, which in turn affects women’s workload and their health. For instance, burning traditional biomass over open fires or in inefficient stoves contributes to health-threatening indoor air pollution (World Bank, 2000; Barnes, 2005). The World Health Organization estimates that 1.6 million of these 3

deaths are women and children, whose responsibility for domestic chores makes them relatively more exposed to indoor air pollution from cooking and heating. Similarly, carrying heavy firewood causes numerous health problems such as miscarriage, chest problems and uterine prolapsed (Earth and Sthapit, 2002; World Bank, 2000; Haile, 1991).

Low well being and agency freedom

Human Development/ Freedom

Social deprivatio n

Human Development/ Freedom

Low well being freedom

Ecological deprivatio n

Biomass Energy

Economic deprivatio n

Low well being freedom

Human Development/ Freedom

Cultural deprivation

Human Developmen t/Freedom

Low well being and agency freedom

In addition, girl children are often withdrawn from school to work at home for helping their mothers in energy related activities, such as carrying firewood. These problems are attributed to the social deprivation, which restricts women’s choices and their capacities for production and reproduction.

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Economic Deprivation Absence of sufficient and quality energy hinders the growth and efficiency. It restricts the

economic and social opportunities for rural households and to start any new ventures and energy based enterprises (REN21, 2005). This affects relative income deprivations and in turn, affects on the capabilities deprivations of the many rural households (Sen, 1999). For instance, using biomass as the major source of energy consumes considerable time and labour for women, which allows limited time and opportunities for economic activities (Skutsch, 1996; Cecelski, 2004, Mahat, 2004). This adds to the household poverty which, in turn, limits access to better energy services limiting the production and reproduction capacities of women and production and income opportunities of HHS. • Ecological deprivation Using biomass for energy causes depletion of the forest resources which has a negative impact on its inhabitants as it contributes to the extinction of natural species due to the change in climate (Najam and Cleveland, 2003). Since forests are habitats for large number of species, their degradation directly affects the loss of biodiversity. Rural populations in poor countries pay the highest price for environmental degradation, as their livelihoods depend on the goods and services from the ecosystems (e.g. generation of water, wood and non-wood forest products, fuel, cycling of nutrients, replenishment of soil fertility, prevention of erosion, carbon sequestration and storage, recreation, etc) (Koziell and McNeil, 2002). Women are generally more vulnerable to environmental hazards than men, due to closer exposure to risks (e.g. contaminated water, long distances to collect water and fuel) (Cecelski, 2004; Pearce, 2005). In addition, use of biomass from farm to fire is not only a threat to environment but also reduces the farm productivity due to the degradation of soil quality, which is one of the major causes of food insecurity (Barnes, 2005; OECD, 2002; Thapa, 1994)). Such deprivation restricts production opportunities of rural households adds to human poverty especially of women’s agency to achieve the well being. • Cultural Deprivation

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Culture refers to the collective identity of group of people to follow a way of life of its choice. Thus cultural freedom protects not only the group but also the rights of every individual within it (Matilla and Sepilla, 2000). For instance, in rural areas of Nepal, women have very close link with forest system as a survival strategy. Given the existing patriarch culture of Nepalese society, women are fully responsible of household chores such as carrying firewood, fetching water, cooking, and caring of children (Acharya, 1989; Bhattacharya, 2000). Use of biomass adds work burden of women as women are fully responsible for collecting and managing biomass for household energy. At the same time, women have less access in decision making regarding the energy resources, and any new interventions, while they provide their full labour for these work. It restricts women’s agency to function well towards their well being both because they have less opportunities with the cultural impositions and because their values are undermined (Rajavi, 1999, 1998).

Strategic Model
The chart below for strategic model helps to operationalize the concept that I explained

earlier. In other words, how the better energy services (affordable, accessible and reliable) can help to alleviate the deprivations and thereby promote the well being and agency freedom for overall human development. As UNDP has emphasized in MDG the need of better energy services for improving the live qualities of rural population, the challenge is then to identify appropriate energy services including the modern fuel to replace the traditional biomass energy that causes multiple deprivations affecting the overall well being of the rural households. Especially, the opportunity cost in terms of time and labour of women in collecting firewood is so huge and they have a severe impact on human poverty ultimately affecting the well being of rural households. Availability of better energy services help reduce ARI among young children and women caused by domestic air pollution and other health problems caused by traditional energy resources such as chest pain, miscarriages and uterus prolapsed. Especially the work burden of women for collecting firewood can be reduced through the help of better energy options such as improved biomass technology.

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Well being + Agency Freedom

m
Human Develo pment/ freedom Increased access to rights and opportunities Human Develop ment/free dom

Saved time and labor for productive activities

Affordable Accessible and Reliable energy

Improved health and reduced drudgery

Human Development /freedom

increased capabilities for productive activities

Human Development/ freedom

Well being + Agency Freedom

m

Having access to better energy options, both men and especially women are free (more time and labor) to be involved in other productive activities thus increasing their capabilities for enhancing the well being of their families. In addition, both men and women can see more opportunities in terms of energy based small enterprises to increase their income in order to improve their well being. Especially, women and girl children can pursue their rights for self enhancement through education and employment opportunities as they will become freer with the better energy options. This can help both men and women to pursue well being freedom as they achieve the wellbeing and the agency freedom that they value to achieve. For instance, as 7

women become educated and employed, they are more capable to participate in decision making process at household as well as community level. With the increase in capabilities through the freedom they enjoy, their own as well as the family’s wellbeing can be achieved that can contribute to overall human development (e.g. health, education, and income status). This in turn, helps to improve the live qualities of the rural households again enabling to achieve higher level of well being that they have a reason to value. In addition, when the poor households had to rely less on firewood from the forest not only for their own use, but for the purpose of selling to make income, there will be higher chances of ecological balance as it has a least effect on the vegetation and the climate change. This will help continue to sustain the ecological resources for promoting the sustainable livelihood of rural population. Hence, energy and poverty relations are both cyclical and hierarchical and address the multiple deprivations especially those related to social and cultural.The challenges are then to identify better energy options in order to initiate better energy services not only in terms of providing better fuel for cooking for the majority, but also for addressing the overall human development and the well being of rural households.

5. Reflection on The case Study
5.1 Research Design My present research builds on my PhD data and a good theoretical framework that has been built on from sufficient literature reviews. I also collected new data in order to obtain additional information on social and cultural deprivations with biomass energy resources, analyze biomass energy policies at national, and regional level and to come up with appropriate policy strategies in relation to biomass energy options. The fieldwork was undertaken in Kavre district of Nepal, where UNDP has initially implemented rural energy program with a focus on micro hydro electricity. Kavre is one of the hilly districts in Nepal comprising of population with diverse economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Agriculture is a major source of livelihood; however, people are also engaged in small trading, wage labour, and fishing activities.

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Two VDCs namely Mangaltar (27.35 km from district headquarter) and Katunjebeshi (22.53 km from district headquarter) were selected as a base to continue my research that was taken from PhD fieldwork. Participants were selected purposively to accommodate the research needs as the key informant interviews were the major tools of my research. At village level the participants were identified by discussing with some key people such as local health workers, village heads and other village authorities who can provide some general information on the socio-economic backgrounds of participants. Based on their information and through the personal observations during the field visits, the participants (mostly women) were selected for interviews who were found to be the key resource persons for my research. While selecting these participants, gender, ethnicity, and class were taken into account. At regional and national level, the participants were the representatives of different institutions working in energy related fields that included implementing agencies, donors, and the government authorities at the top. Semi structured interviews were conducted with policy makers at regional (district) and national level and thus the biases on information were checked in both ways. One of the major limitations of my field research reflects the time constraints of participants since the local women were always occupied with one or the other activities. It was hard to catch up with women’s time and I had to be very flexible to be accommodated according to their convenience. In addition, it was a heavy agricultural season and locating the participants for my research was a difficult task.

5.2 Analysis of Findings My current research highlighted on human dimensions of energy deprivations and thus following important issues related to biomass energy were analyzed. • Availability of Biomass

Firewood being a major source of household energy followed by the agricultural residue and animal waste has a huge contribution in total energy system of the households representing an

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excessive reliance on traditional sources of energy (Table 1). There were no effective options for household cooking due to the lack of development of other energy alternatives. Table 1 presents the use of biomass by rural households in two villages of Kavre. Table 1: Use of Biomass by Rural Households
(Percentage of Respondents)

Types wood Used
Fuel wood

of

Fuel Qty. of Fuel Used
91 % 7% 2%

Agricultural residue Animal Waste

Total biomass used

100 %

Source: Personal Observation, 2008

During the field visit, it was found that majority of the households in all community used firewood for cooking although a few households had installed the biogas plant recently. In addition, these households could not fully rely on the biogas plant for meeting their energy needs as they still needed to use the firewood for ritual cooking as well as for space heating, and for livestock feeding. Many households used the agricultural residue such as corn and paddy sticks for preparing livestock feeding. Especially among Brahmin community, women also used agricultural residue and animal dung for cooking their daily meals due to the lack of firewood as they have a little time for collecting firewood. The local women had to travel about 4 hours to collect a bunch of firewood from other’s forest (private forest). In total, they would spend about 6 hours per day. Collecting firewood from other’s forests was not an easy task. Sometimes women had to run and break their legs with the fear of being caught and paying the penalties. Majority of women used to collect the fodder grasses around their own field for livestock feeding and the fodders were still used for cooking as they did not have time to go to the forest (Fig.1). Figure 1 presents the people’s access to firewood in two villages of Kavre.

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Figure 1: Access to Firewood by Rural Households (Percentage of Respondents)

Source: Personal Observation, 2008

There was a community forest in the local area; however, the local people could collect only the dropped woods and residues as it was protected. They would also buy the firewood once a year when the community forests are opened for cleaning. Every villager had access to the public forest (national); however, there were not enough firewood to meet the energy demands of the local people. Overall, it was observed that women’s time was scarce than the availability of biomass in the local area. Although firewood was not enough in the local forests, majority of the household used their own fields for collecting fodder grasses and the residue sticks were used for cooking as they did not have sufficient time to go to the forest. • Work Load

During the field observation, it was noticed that women’s workload remained heavy even with the availability of infrastructures such as road network and electricity. My research villages

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located in the mid hill areas of Nepal features a huge work burden for women for collecting firewood in order to meet cooking and heating needs. Since the houses made of mud and stones would get very cold during the winter season, it was impossible for the local people to remain in the house without using firewood for heating the houses. Apart from other household chores, collecting and cooking with firewood involved a heavy work burden especially for women. Table 2 below represents the gender roles in household energy management in two villages of Kavre. Table 2: Gender Roles in Household Energy management
(Percentage of Respondents) Who cuts down Trees? 35 44 21 Who collects fire wood ? 65 5 30 Who stores it? 71 3 26

Women Men Both

Total
Source: Personal Observation, 2008

100

100

100

Although some men in Tamang community shared this work, women took the major responsibility for collecting and managing the firewood for cooking (Table 2). Men especially from Brahmin community were however, involved in cutting trees as women were considered not to be strong for this job. Table 3 below presents the problems related to women’s workload in collecting and cooking with firewood at household level. Women were more concerned on their work load regarding the collection of firewood, as it consumed long time to walk and to look for the firewood. As stated earlier, women had spent almost a day to collect a bunch of firewood. Their worries were also on catching up by the owners while stealing the firewood from the private forest. Besides this, women were overwhelmingly concerned about the smokes caused by biomass burning that affected their health in different ways (Table 3).

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Table 3: Problems in Collecting and Cooking with Firewood (Percentages of Cases)
Problems in Collecting Firewood
Long distance to walk No time to go to forest Lack of firewood (long time to collect) Risky (falling down from trees, paying penalties) Costly to buy Other

% of Cases
86.2 34.5 48.3 34.5

Problems in Cooking with Firewood
More smoke Dirty utensils Dirty house Hard to blow Eye irritation

% of Cases
98.6 82.5 57.3 28.0 26.6 4.2 2.8

15.5 13.8

Long time to cook High heat during summer

Source: Personal Observation, 2008

The heavy work on cleaning utensils and houses caused by burning firewood has been one of the major problems for women in rural villages of Kavre. It took a considerable time for them in cleaning the houses, dishes and linens as they become dirty frequently while cooking with firewood and other biomass resources. With availability of diesel mills and micro hydro mills, women’s work load was reduced to some extent as they did not have to use their labor (human energy) in processing the agricultural product. However, in rural areas of Nepal, the major problem with household energy is related with household cooking and heating, which is the basic for living. Women had spent a considerable time and energy both for collecting and cooking with firewood, while bearing enormous losses, discomforts, and pains as indicated in the table above. As women were always occupied with household chores including the management of household energy resources, they have very little time for other economic and social activities that could enable them to be empowered socially and economically. This is truer in case of Brahmin community as there is less work ethos among the men and women in this community unlike with Tamang community, in which men also take responsibility for housework.

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Health related problems

It was observed that the majority of the women in the villages had got eye problems and lung disease, which is related to biomass cooking (Table 4). In the villages, the houses were built in traditional ways having no exit for smokes. Thus smokes would spread inside the house causing different kind of health and hygiene problems. A woman in an interview expressed that “we are used to with smokes even though we feel eye irritation and headaches so often, as we have no other options” (Personal interview, 2008). Domestic air pollution is found to be one of the major reasons for maternal and infant mortality in rural areas of Nepal. There were few households that used the improved stoves installing with the chimney for smoke outlet. However, the local women were not made aware of the technical problems related to chimney and most of them went back to use the traditional stoves that they find most comfortable with. Table 4 presents the problems related to health caused by biomass energy at household level. Table 4: Selected Health problems in Two Villages
(Percentage of Cases) Health Problems
Eye problems Lung disease Asthma

Men
35 21 -

Women
73.0 41.0 13.5 49.5

Uterus Prolapsed Source: Personal Observation, 2008

There were few women who mentioned about prolapsed uterus while carrying heavy firewood. However, this problem was combined with other household chores that added their workload. Especially in rural areas, women start going to the fields or forest within a month of maternity, which caused the problems of uterus prolapsed. This problem was not very much identified by the women themselves due to their unawareness about the association of the problem. In many cases, women remained quiet not expressing this problem on their own as they felt shy. It was noticed however, the majority of women in the past had suffered from this problem although not mentioned directly. Such situations were explored through indirect conversation. A woman

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expressed that “we never know that prolapsed uterus is caused by heavy workload, and we feel shy to express this problem” (Personal interview. 2008). • Wellbeing and Agency freedom

Wellbeing freedom is related with the live qualities of people. For instance, people must be free to achieve the basic education, basic housing, basic health and quality foods. In the rural areas of Nepal, people especially women are deprived of such well being. For instance, the girl children are allowed to go to school only if they finish housework and they are dropped off from school if they had to travel far from the villages to achieve basic education. Only the few girls from richer households had gone to the adjacent villages to continue their higher secondary education and the college education was very rare. Similarly, food habits of women are affected by existing cultural circumstances as men often eat first and get enough good food and women eat leftovers and not all varieties of food in many cases. Women often refuse to re cook even if there is not enough food left for them (they feel tired of cooking) and they remain hungry whole day while spending the same energy for household chores. This has caused numerous health problems such as ulcer, and gastric. A woman interviewed mentioned that “our elders especially
father-in-law, brother-in laws eat first and we women eat later all the leftovers. We do not care if we have enough or not” (personal interview, 2008). The local women expressed that they have very

little time and opportunity for education and health care and for participating in other economic and social activities. Agency freedom is related with the opportunities to exercise people’s wisdom and abilities that works for achieving wellbeing. Every person has agency, every person analyses, decides, and acts. Carrying out our own analyses, making our own decisions, and taking our own actions involve the agency freedom. However, in rural villages of Kavre, women hardly exercise the agency freedom. They have a little power to decide on their own if they want to participate in the activities outside home. It was observed in the villages that women hardly participated in the village level meetings organized for different activities such as rural energy program, and road building program. Although women were the active contributors in constructing micro hydro canals, and raising and mobilizing saving funds, their participation in community and village level decisions was nominal. Men were the decision makers at village level. A woman mentioned

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that “we do not have time to participate in such meetings and we also have a little understandings of the subjects matter”. On the other hand, some other women mentioned that “we are not encouraged by the family members to participate in such meetings” (Personal interview, 2008). It was a mix of ideas and thoughts about their participation. However, it was observed that at village level, women have active participation in community forestry program and to manage and preserve the forest for saving the village environment. They participated in village level meetings and share the ideas with male members in the forest committee. However, women hardly have time and opportunities to participate in other economic and social activities that could enable them to be empowered economically as well as socially. In some cases, women were involved in cash crops’ and livestock production at personal level and make their personal income by selling those products. However, they still use the income for the welfare of the family, although such incomes help their economic empowerment and raise their self esteem for the well being of the whole family. In an interview a woman mentioned that “Our life is around the forest and the house, no matter whatever technologies are there. We can not be free from firewood and fodder, and free from our house. Our work is waiting for us, who will let us go for enjoying meetings and trainings” (Personal interview, 2008). • Equity vs. Efficiency

Using biomass for cooking has many concerns for equity. For instance, only a few wealthy households have used the quality fuel such as modern combusted biomass (biogas) for cooking, while the poorer household had to rely on low quality biomass fuel such as agricultural residue and animal dung. A woman in an interview mentioned that “ There are biogas plants in this village for many years but it is no use for us as we can not have it because we cannot afford it” (personal interview, 2008). Similarly, women from poorer households had to walk long distances for collecting firewood unlike the wealthy household who can also buy the firewood or other fuel such as LPG. Such situations have brought the numerous health problems especially for women and children. Many women in the villages were found to be affected by ARI apart from the other health problems such as eye irritation, and prolapsed uterus. While alternative technologies can have potential for reducing the drudgery and increasing the income of a household, they have not been able to reach to the larger section of the society.

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For instance, only 15% of the households have access to the solar lighting. Similarly, in each village only a few households are able to install the biogas plants, while majority are out of reach for such plants even with subsidies. This situation has created even more inequalities in the villages creating a large socio-economic gap within a small community. Hence, unless and until the technologies are designed for pro poor and subsidies are channelled accordingly, majority of the poor remain out of reach with such technologies. In addition, the social and technical aspects of technologies were rather neglected that has caused low adoptability of such technologies. For instance, in many cases, women are not made aware of the technical problems, such as leakages of biogas stoves, and process of cleaning chimney outlets etc. Hence, they feel uncomfortable with these technologies and just turned down to the traditional stoves that they find most comfortable with. A woman in an interview mentioned that “we cook with biogas, but if it goes wrong sometimes we do not know how to fix it. And there are no men around the house. So we better use the firewood” (Personal interview, 2008). Improved Stoves (ICS) program and Biogas program without a package (e.g. monitoring the socio-economic impact, effectiveness of stoves, and use of chimney and so on) has been less effective and less adoptable by many rural women especially in the hilly areas of Nepal. In addition, the AETs like solar plant, micro-hydro power have only been used for basic lighting and no other potentials have been explored that could help to utilize the local resources such as women’s knowledge and skill and the local produce. AETs have large potentials to initiate home based enterprises such as dairy production and handicrafts, where women can have a good access, which could empower women both socially as well as economically.

7. Conclusion
It is unlikely that the poorer households in rural areas of Nepal will shift to the better fuels in the near future due to their inability to afford the better energy services. Despite an attention to increase the modern energy services to the poor, the emphasis is on electricity and not on the cooking fuel. Women’s drudgery related to household energy management remains unaddressed until there is an intervention focusing on women’s workload and domestic air pollution. Energy planning without its integration with social indicators such as women’s empowerment and poverty reduction has a little effect on the overall development of the community especially of

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women. There has been an effort to address the household energy issues by focusing on the short term vs. long term energy policy plan that demands for increasing the coverage of biogas plant in short term and integrating the micro hydro plant for cooking in the long term. However, such plans need to be improvised with other sector’s policies. Given the socio-economic conditions of the rural households, even the subsidized plants are less reachable to the poorest section of the society, unless the subsidies are made pro poor. Majority of households in rural areas are built of mud and stones and roofed with straws and thatches without having strong base that makes it difficult to have electric cables for household cooking. In order to address the cooking related problems, there is a critical need for interventions that effectively reduce the high level of indoor air pollutions including the continued development of Improved Cooking Stoves. However, development of ICS and building of ICS is not the end for solving the targeted problem, they have to be integrated with training on construction of ICS and chimney related problem, and phase wise monitoring program, that ensures the effective application of ICS. In addition, there is a need of sustainable harvesting of firewood in order to ensure its continuous supply to meet the basic household energy needs. It is also a time to think about the type of fuel technologies and its delivery mechanism that can possibly help to make a large scale transition away from traditional biomass cooking for the majority of poor. As mentioned earlier, managing biomass energy for cooking has a significant impact on women’s workload and their health, which have hindered their capabilities and opportunities for participating in economic and other social activities. This has restricted their freedom both for achieving their own well being and the family as a whole as well as the community and nation at large.

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