Poor communities in developing countries mainly depend on traditional biomass such as charcoal, wood and dung as other energy systems are often not accessible to them. Energy scarcity affects mainly women as they are the ones responsible for biomass collection. These time-consuming tasks often prevent women from seeking education and from engaging in income generating activities that are essential for overcoming poverty. The production of bioenergy can be an opportunity for women; if women engaged in growing oil-producing crops, sold them and used them to generate electricity, local economic growth could be promoted. As large-scale biofuel production can cause various negative effects, such as displacements and rising food prices, it is important to examine how biofuels can be produced in a sustainable way that benefits the poor and contributes to women’s empowerment. Case studies from Cambodia, Ghana, India, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Zimbabwe illustrate how the production of biofuels can advance rural economic and social development, whilst empowering women. In Cambodia for instance, the use of Jatropha oil has increased women’s ability to access energy without being dependent on men. The distance that needed to be covered to recharge batteries was too big for women to go by foot. Only men own bicycles and motorbikes and were hence the only ones who could recharge batteries. Jatropha oil grows everywhere and can be planted easily. Women were targeted in training sessions on Jatropha cultivation and this is how the use of biofuel created more independence for them.
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