Multi-use engines drive empowerment in 1,000 Mali villages

Apr 7, 2011

The women in Kebeni, Mali, along with three million other people in West Africa, have received improved access to energy through a multifunctional platform. (Photo: Tahir Basse)

Each night, Koumantou village in southern Mali would to fall into near total darkness. The only light was cast from the restaurant of local businesswoman Kadia Kone. 

The scene is repeated throughout rural Sub-Saharan Africa, where 90 percent of the population lacks access to energy.

But today, Koumantou villagers use a diesel-fueled engine to generate electricity for lighting, pumping water from wells, de-husking crops and charging phone batteries. Not only does the easy-to-maintain engine have multiple uses, but, serving about 1,500 people in the village and beyond, it also helps to stimulate the economy for the entire community.

“The lights attract more customers and my income has increased,” said Kone, whose use of the generator for her restaurant business has reduced manual work for her and others. 

Installation of the engine in Koumantou was part of a Mali government programme, supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), that has grown with funding of more than US$20 million from Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among other partners.

The programme has so far reached about 1.5 million in Mali, with the 1,000th unit, installed in the village of Mounzoun, highlighted in a ceremony last week held under the patronage of Mali’s President Amadou Toumani Toure.

Approximately three million in West Africa now have better energy access through the engine, some of which now run on biofuels such as the Jatropha vegetable oil. UNDP and partners are expanding similar programmes in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Senegal, Guinea, Niger, and Togo.

Improving access to energy for some of the world’s poorest populations is one plank of UNDP’s poverty reduction strategy, which involves supporting governments in drawing up and putting into action policies that break poverty cycles and create opportunities for women.

The project focuses on women with low income and minimal access to energy. Only registered women’s associations, with support of village members, can apply for a unit. Once trained, they save an average of between two and six hours daily using the technology.

UNDP’s project coordinator in Mali, Yaya Sidibe, spoke of the impact that such technology can have when put in the hands of women. "If you help a man you help one person, but if you help a woman you are helping the whole family and the community."

The significance of how access to energy can change the lives of the poor was underscored by a United Nations General Assembly resolution that designated 2012 as year of sustainable energy for all.

Contact Information

For further information on the inauguration of the 1,000th multifunctional platform in Mali, please contact:

Knowledge Management & Communication Expert
Regional Energy Programme
RC Dakar, Senegal
Tel: +221 33 867 2798| Fax: +221 33 825 3376/ +221 77 450 18 02

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