Growing Mounds of Waste Offer African Women Unexpected Business Opportunities in the Bioenergy Sector

New technologies and smart business models could turn waste into a veritable gold mine of opportunity for African women.

How waste can fast-track transition to cleaner bioenergy

To explain how women are able to turn waste into opportunity, we need to revisit a well-known challenge: In sub-Saharan Africa, most people rely on firewood and charcoal for cooking and heating, even though this dangerously pollutes indoor air quality and degrades the environment.

Therefore, efforts to replace firewood and charcoal with other forms of energy have been long underway. Yet, it is only recently that opportunities to find entirely new sources of biomass energy are being pursued.

One idea for how to fast-track this transition is springing up from a surprising source: Waste. Waste materials, such as city and market waste, cow dung or even human excreta, can be recovered and made into cleaner, cheaper bioenergy products that can help alleviate the energy poverty that has long plagued sub-Saharan Africa.

Evidence shows that women are particularly well placed to leverage these new waste-to-energy business opportunities, allowing them to gain new skills, jobs and incomes that can benefit them and their entire communities.

How women can be empowered to rise to the top of this new value chain is what we explored in a new publication: Recovering bioenergy in sub-Saharan Africa: Gender dimensions, lessons and challenges. In it, we have documented successful innovations that can be replicated across the region.

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