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The role of renewable energy technology in holistic community development

Zahnd, A. (2011) The role of renewable energy technology in holistic community development. In: ISES Solar World Congress 2011, 28 August - 2 September, Kassel, Germany

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Recent research has demonstrated the direct relationship between poverty alleviation and improved access to clean, efficient energy services. Thus, improved access to basic energy services, such as a smokeless stove for cooking/room heating, basic electric indoor lighting, hot water for cooking/drinking/personal hygiene, have been recognized as a central part of an holistic community development (HCD) program. My experience of working with remote, impoverished high altitude mountain communities in Nepal since 1996 shows, that 80-85% of the local village communities identify the same four needs they wish to address: a pit latrine for improved hygiene/health, a smokeless stove inside the house for cooking/room heating/hot water, basic electric indoor lighting and access to clean drinking water. Thus I have developed the “Family of 4” HCD concept which includes projects, implemented in parallel, for each family of a village, addressing all four of these needs. Once the “Family of 4” projects are in place, and their impact and benefits are experienced, the local people start to recognize additional needs. Therefore, I created the “Family of 4 PLUS” HCD concept with thus far eight additional projects. Both HCD concepts address the millennium development goals (MDGs) directly. In the remote high altitude Nepal Himalayas, where the national grid and drivable roads will probably never go, these concepts have been shown to bring significantly more, longterm benefits than individual projects would have been able to. This is because the multi-faceted needs of the communities are recognised and addressed through a holistic, context-specific, multi-project approach, which produces synergistic benefits. Further, the HCD approach enables communities in such a unique and fragile ecosystem that is threatened by climate change, to adapt and become more resilient by tapping into their locally available renewable energy resources in sustainable, carbon neutral ways.

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