Affordable Technology Innovations for Rural Communities Initiative kicks-off in MyanmarJun 10, 2015
A hundred rural villages in Mon, Kayin and Shan States will be connected to innovative energy technologies through an initiative being piloted as part of United Nations Development Programme’s livelihoods and social cohesion work.
Access to electricity and affordable energy remains a challenge in rural Myanmar. Simple technologies such as fuel-efficient cook-stoves, solar batteries and solar chargers can help communities boost their income opportunities. They can also help reduce women’s workloads who usually spend a lot of their time collecting firewood. These technologies also help the environment by promoting clean energy use and can reduce the prevalent pattern of inter-village disputes around firewood collection.
The Affordable Technology Innovations for Rural Communities initiative, being implemented by Mercy Corps Myanmar with technical support of Kopernik, will conduct technology fairs and market assessments to identify the demand and supply for energy technologies. Yangon-based suppliers, local-level distributors and retail sales agents will be connected to establish a distribution network that will enable rural communities to buy technology products at affordable prices through installment plans. It will build-on and add-value to the income-generation, livelihood skills training and infrastructure construction activities already supported by UNDP in these villages.
Each village will receive some of the products, such as solar lights for the local health center or fuel-efficient cook-stoves for the school kitchen, as a social service benefit. These will be maintained by the village Community-Based Organization (CBO) and will also help raise visibility for the products among villagers. The CBOs will also take the role of mobilizing the communities and monitoring how effectively communities are accessing the energy technologies.
Forty women and youth from the target villages will operate as retail sales agents at the local level. They will be supported with start-up capital and training and mentoring (on product handling, business development and leadership) to help them build-up their capacities and confidence to become effective micro-entrepreneurs.
“Through this initiative we accompany the communities as they engage with the market. We see this as a logical next step in improving livelihood opportunities in vulnerable communities in Myanmar and hope that it will empower and inspire women and youth to become entrepreneurs and leaders,” said Toily Kurbanov, UNDP’s Country Director.
Each partner brings a unique skill set to the initiative.
“In the Dry Zone, we have been working as ‘market facilitators’ to improve rural communities’ access to fuel-efficient cook-stoves and created jobs for over 175 sales agents. Affordable Technology Innovations for Rural Communities initiative enables us to expand this approach to new conflict-affected regions and provide life-enhancing energy solutions and create livelihood opportunities in 100 remote villages in Shan, Kayin and Mon States, ” said Mercy Corps Country Representative, Nilan Fernando.
“The partners involved in this initiative bring unique perspectives and experiences: UNDP plays the overall coordination role based on its existing engagement with these communities; Mercy Corp leverages its global effort in delivering sustainable energy programs as well as its in-country operations; and Kopernik serves as a technical advisor by consolidating lessons learned from its Wonder Women program in Indonesia and technology-distribution projects in many other geographies,” said Toshi Nakamura, CEO and Co-founder of Kopernik.
The Affordable Technology Innovations for Rural Communities initiative is part of a UNDP programme that covers 313 villages in 25 townships in 07 states in the country. In partnership with over 38 non-governmental organizations, UNDP is supporting the livelihood and social cohesion needs of these communities by providing them with social protection assistance; grants for agriculture, livestock and micro-enterprises; vocational training; community mobilization and training; and infrastructure. The work aims to strengthen community cohesion by reducing socio-economic disparities and vulnerabilities, strengthening community networks and relations, and strengthening competencies for social cohesion and peacebuilding. This work is made possible with funding support from the Governments of Japan and Denmark.
UNDP Communications Specialist