The effects of rural electrification on the rural poor people in Zambia: case study of Solwezi community
Despite the fact that there are many studies on the impacts of rural electrification and rural electrification programs, the many studies carried out to assess the impact of rural electrification are limited and most of the findings are based only on the correlation between rural electrification and development, without taking any selection or program-placement biases into account, for example how it affect different groups example the poor. This study thus aimed to explore both the positive and negative effects of rural electrification on the rural poor people, and bring out other salient features and challenges that come along with rural electrification. The general objective was to investigate the effects of rural electrification on the rural poor people in Zambia. The specific objectives were to find out if there are other effects (the negative effects) of rural electrification apart from the common economic and social benefits that are already noted by other scholars, to determine if the rural poor people benefit from rural electrification as much as the rich do, to establish to what extent the poor benefit from rural electrification, to deepen knowledge on the relationship between rural electrification and poverty reduction in rural and Peri-Urban areas, to assess the impact of access to electricity on the use of other fuels the poor use in rural communities, to identify the most significant changes brought to rural people by up taking electricity services. For the purpose of the study, attention was given to select an area which had been electrified 2- 3 years back as the pre-electrification era data had to be collected from the memory of the members. 100 households were selected using Simple Random Sampling method. Two (2) focused group discussions were also held in order to get diverse views and to allow for researcher observation.There were 2 sets of questionnaires; 1 was administered to respondents from the households and 1 for focused group discussions. The questionnaire included both open (unstructured) and closed (structured) type items. The data collected was analyzed using quantitative and qualitative approaches. Responses to closed questions and open ended questions were analyzed normally to bring out frequencies of responses on the variable that guided the study. The research demonstrated among others that rural electrification has both positive and negative effects on the rural people in the Zambian communities, that despite the importance and significance of electricity to economic growth and social development, the electrification of rural areas that have been lacking electricity supply for a long time result in mixed impacts on the rural people and that the poor, especially the very poor do not benefit from rural electrification. The study also revealed that the extent of benefit by the poor was insignificant, that rural electrification by itself does not directly lead to sustainable development or economic growth that can subsequently lead to poverty reduction and that rural electrification has no effect on the use of other rural energy sources such as charcoal, fire wood candles etc. Further, the study revealed the most significant changes brought by rural electrification, which included both positive and negative changes. The study recommended among other things that government or decision makers should introduce pricing policies that would make electricity affordable to the poor in rural areas, introduction of credit facilities and possibly micro credit institutions specifically to bell out those households that would not manage to pay connection charges and associated cost at once, involving poorer rural benefiting communities in the tariff-setting process, introduce measures including complementary economic development programmes, alongside the provision of electricity, need to package rural electrification programmes with measures and incentives such as social safety nets and should be accompanied by other critical business services and social/public services.