Marsabit County has embarked on a green energy revolution which is expected accelerate economic empowerment and gender mainstreaming in rural areas.
The county's Urban and Energy Chief Officer Bartabes Galmagar said that the initiative was chiefly hatched to end gender inequality in the remotest areas.
He revealed that after the hope on grid and off-grid rural electrification processes seemed to bear no fruit, they resorted to installing solar energy in small trading centres to help in youth and women empowerment.
"For a long time, the conventional grid electrification had been implemented in Kenya and globally through a top-down approach with little inclusion of women, men or youth to establish their real needs. That's why we initiated this need-based project to benefit all groups," Mr Galmagar said.
He said the green energy project is of great benefit to the majority of women in the region who work from their homes run shops and businesses and use mobile money services.
Mr Galmagar gave the example of Illeret ward which is 540 kilometres away from Marsabit town which initially had no electricity supply, forcing residents to travel to Marsabit to access internet or printing services.
Reduce women's workload
As such, undertaking the green energy project is aimed at helping in the reduction of women's workload, ending discrimination and bringing crucial services closer to them.
Women's access to clean energy and time-saving appliances is expected to reduce the time they spend doing daily tasks such as fetching firewood.
With the green energy, Mr Galmagar said women will be liberated and will get time to pursue income-generating activities, thus becoming economically empowered.
The first phase of the project began eight years ago in areas such as Illeret, Duakana, Hurri Hills, Ngurnet and Korr with funding from GIZ.
Another phase of the project is set to begin in the next few months in Laisamis, Moyale and North Horr sub-counties which are yet to be connected to the off-grid system that supplies electricity to Marsabit Central.
Speaking to the Nation in his office on Friday, Mr Galmagar revealed that the project will be funded by the World Bank and is expected to benefit 25 villages.
Among the villages to be covered are Namarei, South Horr, Kargi, Gas, Qorqa, El-besa, El-Gadhe, Forole, Bubisa, Shurr, Diri Dima, Dabel, Nana, Balesa, Amballo and Illaut among others.
Marsabit County Energy Officer Ramat Ibrae explained that apart from the economic benefits such as the extension of business hours in the targeted areas, the project will also bring significant improvements in peoples' access to water and healthcare services.
Additionally, he observed that the enhanced electricity access to households' will improve their well-being, convenience, save time and enable access to communication and information.
He said the inclusion of women in the green energy supply project will help challenge existing gender norms and improve their empowerment within the targeted communities.
Mr Ibrae further revealed that all boreholes have been mapped and will be connected to solar power to end constant generator breakdowns and cut the high cost of buying fuel.
"We believe that this is a novel framework that will help us make greater strides in empowering our people if fully implemented," Mr Ibrae said.
Despite being the host of Lake Turkana Wind Power project which is the largest green energy producer in East and Central Africa, Marsabit County still depends on off-grid electricity systems in the urban areas.