Renewable Energy Access and Socio-Economic Development in Malawi

The case of smallholder farmers in Mchinji and Rumphi districts in Malawi

In October 2018, Oxfam contracted an external evaluation of a project focused on access to renewable energy on social and economic development for smallholder farmers in Malawi.

Between April 2015 and September 2018, renewable energy technologies were introduced in 3 districts, namely, Lilongwe and Mchinji in Central Malawi and Rumphi in Northern Malawi for small-scale irrigation, value addition, and small enterprises. The evaluation samples 322 households and finds that access to solar energy, in particular, has positive impacts on poor rural households in terms of livelihoods, food security, and women’s empowerment and gender relations. Overall, access to solar irrigation, value addition, and business enterprises provided participating households with new sources of income. Almost 71% of households belonging to solar enterprise groups, 49% in value addition groups, and 35% in irrigation groups experienced an increase in household income over the duration of the project as opposed to control groups. However, the positive impacts of the interventions are yet to exceed the cost of provision of renewable energy technologies because of challenges beneficiaries encountered surrounding non-functional equipment and limited markets. Nevertheless, the project provided a learning ground for future interventions related to renewable energy. Moving forward, Oxfam and partner organizations should consider addressing the systematic challenges communities face regarding the renewable energy technologies that were introduced.

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