Energy use in informal food enterprises: A gender perspective
The informal sector provides economic opportunities to the poor, and in sub-Saharan African countries it is dominated by women. Energy is a key input into the food sector enterprises. A study was carried out to review academic and non-academic literature on the use and gender impacts of modern energy in informal food enterprises. The review established that few studies have addressed energy for the informal food sector from a gender perspective. Although these few are qualitative in nature, they tend to lack in-depth analysis of gender and of the cause-and-effect linkages between modern energy use in the informal sector and the gendered goals of women and men. Moreover, a lack of understanding of gender from a relational perspective focusing on both women and men impeded conclusions on empowerment in terms of whether increased access to modern energy in the informal food sector contributes to closing the gender gap. This paper makes three key recommendations. First, scholars need to address the gaps and take a relational approach, so that studies are not just about women but also about the power relations between various groups of women and men. Secondly, policy needs to recognise that biomass is sometimes desired not just as an energy source but also for the flavour it imparts to food. Lastly, policy should be informed by the needs of informal enterprise owners and their customers, not by the general discourse in the energy sector that assumes that increased uptake of modern energy services makes positive contributions to enterprises.
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