The last mile is always the most challenging, but it is a crucial step to universal electrification
UNDP has the mandate to support the implementation of SDGs, more specifically SDG 7.1 targeting universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services for all. As part of Energy Compact, UNDP recently committed to help increase access to clean and affordable energy for 500 million people globally. In achieving this last mile connectivity every village must be connected with a reliable electricity supply. UNDP is supporting the GDE to explore the potential technologies based on the available renewable energy resources in off-grid areas.
Field assessment in Ratanakiri Province conducted in February 2021 indicated that villages with indigenous communities are being impacted disproportionately with no access to electricity, low literacy rate, and inability to afford to pay for electricity. UNDP partnered with International Cooperation Cambodia (ICC), a local NGO who has been working with these communities on various projects including promoting literacy among children, and adults in the village with a focus on how to read and write apart from various poverty alleviation related activities. It is therefore of particular importance to improve the lives and livelihoods of indigenous communities through providing electricity access.
Through interaction with these communities, it was identified that, especially women and girls are being disproportionally disadvantaged and deprived of opportunities without access to electricity. Households in these villages have been relying on firewood for cooking, mostly sourced from the forest. Women and girls spend their quality time in the collection of firewood and are being exposed to kitchen smoke and flume while cooking food. Some households in the village have toilets outside their homes, making it difficult for women and children at night time. Children in these villages were struggling to learn due to the lack of electricity to turn on TV or charge their phone in order to access distance learning during the pandemic, or even to read books when they have free time before going to bed. Access to clean, affordable, and reliable electricity could further allow the remote indigenous communities to improve their livelihoods and economic activities, and exercise their rights to basic services, i.e., education, information, and communication.
When households have access to affordable and reliable electricity, past experience demonstrated that they tend to use more household appliances, i.e. lighting, electric cooker etc. These appliances are improving the quality of lives of women and girls, especially electric cooker reduces their dependence on firewood, reduces burden of women and girls to collect firewood, spend more time for other productive purposes and income generating activities, reduced exposure to indoor air pollution, lighting at night that allows girls to extend self-learning and safety. The experience in Steung Chrov village, Kampong Chhang province, shows that access to electricity open up livelihood opportunity for women and create local employment. Pumping is another public purpose, used to secured drinking water.