Universal access to energy

Practical Action Southern Africa

Our goal is to increase universal energy access through provision of modern energy for cooking,lighting in poor rural areas and advocating for pro-poor energy policies that expand access to people living in rural and peri urban communities.


  • Scale up hydro-work in Malawi - Energy Access Accelerator
  • Expansion of hydro work in Manicaland and solar work in Masvingo
  • Support to decenrtralize energy access in Niassa and Cabo Delgado in Mozambique
  • Promoting energy for cooking initiatives in Eastern and Central provinces of Zambia
  • Lead research on small scale bio-fuel production and utilisation,carbon

Core approaches

  • Total Energy Access
  • Community Based Approaches
  • Energy Access Accelerator

Current projects

Solar energy brings hope for Zimbabwe's farmers

Practical Action's CEO Paul Smith Lomas recently visited our work in Southern Zimbabwe. Here are some of his reflections on the visit and the new feeling of optimism in the country.

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Determination at Zibiliseni garden

“Our name Zibiliseni means 'determination' and we are indeed determined!" asserts Sphiwe Ncube, who makes a living by growing and selling vegetables as part of the 42 member Zibilseni garden scheme.  She farms in Gwanda, an area with low, erratic rainfall. Life is a...

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From darkness to light

Lack of access to modern, affordable and sustainable renewable energy services is a challenge for the rural population in Zimbabwe.  Energy is supplied in the country by a mixture of hydroelectricity, coal and renewables. According to the world energy outlook 2000, the national electrific...

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Solar power will boost business for Kenes

Access to modern energy for household and small enterprises is very limited in Malawi.  Less than 10% overall have electricity, and this falls to 1% in some remote areas. Currently, Malawi gets over 90% of its total energy from biomass according to the World Bank access to electricity...

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Sustainable Energy 4 Rural Communities (SE4RC) 2015-2019

SE4RC evolved from lessons and experiences of past projects on rural electrification and sustainable agriculture in Southern Africa. The applicant consortium, founding members of the Southern African civil society SE4ALL coalition, designed SE4RC to serve poor rural communities, whose needs are n...

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Completed projects

The following projects have now completed, but are included here for reference and learning.

Promoting Examples of Participatory Local Empowerment in Urban Planning (PEOPLE UP)

A Practical Action project in Mutare and Epworth to improve the living conditions of poor and marginalised urban and peri-urban residents by accessing and sustaining basic municipal and infrastructure services.

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GENEZ - Gender and Energy Network of Zimbabwe

Gender and Energy Network of Zimbabwe (GENEZ) is a networking initiative which intends to engender energy access issues and intends to empower women by bridging the gap between men and women on issues of energy.

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Energising the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) - Setting the Enabling Environment (E-MINDSET)

Energy plays a crucial role in sustainable development and poverty reduction efforts. It affects all aspects of development; social, economic, and environmental, including livelihoods, access to water, agricultural productivity, health, education, and gender-related issues. Whilst improved access...

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Catalysing modern energy service delivery to marginal communities in Southern Africa (regional hydro)

This five-year project, funded by the European Commission, aimed to rehabilitate six existing micro hydro schemes and establish nine new ones, targeting the mountainous regions of Manica in Mozambique, Mulanje in Malawi and Manicaland in Zimbabwe - where a combination of rugged terrain and perenn...

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Rehabilitation of rural water points and participatory health and hygiene education

This project has improved access to water and sanitation facilities in some of the country's rural communities. This project started off in August 2003 and has been implemented in four phases now covering a total of 21 districts. The Community-Based Management (CBM) concept has been successfully ...

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Green Business Award - Energy

In November 2013, Practical Action won the Green Business Award, for our work in renewable energy.

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Poor people's energy outlook 2013

The third edition of the PPEO series focuses on energy for community services. This report builds on our evidence base and our call for Total Energy Access by focusing on vital community services. It brings to life the experiences of people living in energy poverty in countries with varying geographical, environmental and development contexts such as Bolivia, Bangladesh and Rwanda. It places the spotlight on the contribution that improved energy access can make to health, education and infrastructure services such as water and street lighting.

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