Skip to main content

Confronting Sustainable Energy Poverty in Zambia

I worked with Energy Poverty PIRE in Southern Africa in Zambia this summer. The main focus of the project in Zambia is to investigate the social, demographic, and spatial dimensions of energy poverty and consider the optimal scale of interventions to maximize environmental benefits and human well-being.

I previously did research under Dr. Erin Sills of NC State, where I have studied and investigated patterns in the previous novel and scalable energy poverty project-scale interventions and analyzed socio-environmental causes and consequences of energy poverty at multiple scales. This field work in Zambia is an important exercise for me to further my research in the practical world and understand the design and impact of real-world interventions aimed at alleviating energy poverty in public and private sectors, as well as interact with local communities about cultures and practices of Zambia. I was a part of a group with three other students from NC State and UNC, along with supervisors and professors both from the US and Lusaka Universities. We stayed in Zambia for about a month in July and mostly worked in and with the marginalized communities of Lusaka, Zambia, namely Kanyama, Ngombe, Kalundu Chilenge, etc. For the first few weeks I was conducting surveys and analyzing and synthesizing the data, whereas the later weeks I was mostly involved with the emissions monitoring work along with life cycle analysis.

I was primarily involved in three projects as part of my work:

(1) Conducted life cycle analysis of the sustainable wood pellets by visiting each distribution site and collecting the samples and recording the data. The data was later put into Tracy lCA modeling software to calculate emissions and energy consumption of each stage of their transformation from production to usage.
(2) Worked with the center for energy, environment and engineering to conduct more than 50 surveys from the impoverished districts of Lusaka and gathered information on household’s multi-tier energy access, usage, health, economic status and their dependence on charcoal as fuel. I also created a synthesis report of all the responses and discussions of the households in regards to energy poverty.
(3) Was part of the emissions monitoring group and collected carbon dioxide and particulate matter exposure of the households with the help of MicroPEM and CO data logger instruments and downloaded the data to the required software to be analyzed. This data was used to analyze the impacts of the emissions on health and environment of the households.

The cross-cutting, interdisciplinary work provided by this program allowed me to peruse my passion of linking global environmental solutions to inclusive socio-economic and political development. It also served as an avenue for me to learn and grow to address the various sustainability and environmental issues at local and global levels. I am really grateful for this experience and have enjoyed learning about the culture and people of Zambia while indulging in research.

In addition to my research work, I have also visited several places on the weekends like Lilayi Elephant Lodge, Kafue National Park, Mekwere Waterfalls, and Lusaka Cultural Village. It was exciting to see wildlife and learn about the conservation methods used by locals.