With the recently announced extension of the Energy Cash Plus Initiative, thousands more vulnerable households in Kenya are set to benefit from access to clean energy (the programme is also known locally as ‘Mwangaza Mashinani’, a Swahili phrase loosely translated as ‘light for the marginalized areas”). Managed by UNICEF and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the programme aims to improve living conditions amongst the poorest segments of the population by fostering solar energy access through a cash transfer scheme building upon the Kenyan government’s National Safety Net Programme (‘Inuaa Jamii’). In the second phase of the programme, Energy 4 Impact will continue to provide institutional advisory support alongside implementing partners.
Completed in October 2020, the two-year pilot programme trialled innovative approaches towards supporting beneficiaries in the deprived counties of Kilifi and Garissa to take up off-grid energy solutions. Designed to integrate into the government’s pre-existing cash transfer scheme for vulnerable households, the programme provided a bi-monthly cash top-up to enable recipients to acquire solar lanterns and solar home systems. 1.4 million off-grid households in Kenya still rely on hazardous fuel-based sources for lighting such as kerosene and candles. The pilot programme studied how solar access improved living conditions and wellbeing as well as its potential for alleviating poverty and boosting income. The wellbeing of children from poor households was a special focus of the programme for UNICEF as energy access enhances their educational and health outcomes.
The success of the pilot phase is now apparent as the programme exceeded its beneficiary target (1,669 compared to 1,500 households). The repayment rate for solar systems came in at a healthy 70%. The programme team attributes this success to the overwhelming support offered by the county governments of Kilifi and Garissa as well as the hard work of community champions and cooperation of local communities.
The upcoming 17-month expansion of the Energy Cash Plus Initiative is set to go ahead with a number of improvements in place. Programme activity now incorporates clear strategies around boosting sustainability, end-user sense of ownership and building governmental capacity and integration with other official initiatives. The team will bring in new suppliers with the aim of driving down the costs of solar home systems. More support will be given to foster income-generating activities and livelihood opportunities within the beneficiary communities. The extension of the programme will also mainstream gender considerations in every aspect of the project design, delivery and reporting. Other adjustments to the roll-out of the programme will optimize field activities and operations, training and awareness-raising activities, productive use opportunities, community and government engagement as well as technical assistance. In order to amplify the reach of the programme, UNICEF plans to now expand the project to a targeted cohort of 3,500 households in Garissa and Kilifi counties.