If you want to educate the public about sustainable energy, you need access to the media and civil society organisations (CSO). By educating the media and CSO staff about access to sustainable energy, one can encourage a national conversation about the availability and adoption of new energy technologies. This is the kind of insider knowledge that ZERO Regional Environment Organisation [link to: http://www.zeroregional.com/], located in Zimbabwe, puts to use.
In partnership with Hivos, ZERO is empowering civil society organisations (CSOs) and media representatives to better understand and appreciate sustainable energy, energy efficiency and energy access issues. They accomplish this by taking groups on field tours to learn about the challenges on the ground. They then offer advice on how the group can use their positions as an advocacy and lobbying tool when they interface with government, donors, and other stakeholders in both the private and public sector.
Stephen Tsoroti, a journalist in Zimbabwe has joined ZERO for both trainings and field tours. Mr. Tsoroti believes that the media tour made it possible for him to exchange ideas, network, and build synergy among journalists and development practitioners on energy issues. He also sees the potential to raise awareness of the UN Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SE4All).
For many journalists in Zimbabwe, energy is a new area or "beat" in the newsrooms, hence the need to deepen their knowledge about SE4All and the environment. Mr. Tsoroti has expressed that the ZERO field tours enable him to report authoritatively and accurately because he understands both practical use of sustainable energy solutions.
Additionally, the project delivers a better understanding of sustainable energy issues to CSOs in Zimbabwe. The CSO staff learns about energy efficiency, energy access and renewable energy access solutions for their local communities. These CSOs also have improved their ability to communicate with the media, which has led to better reporting in the energy sector. Part and parcel to this is helping journalists heighten their awareness of what it means to live without access to energy.
This is especially important in a country like Zimbabwe, where of the 12.5 million people, more than 70 percent live in rural areas without access to modern energy. Currently, over 53 percent of the total energy supply in Zimbabwe comes from fuelwood, 20 percent coal, 14 percent liquid fuels and 13 percent electricity.
As ZERO knows, a well-informed civil society organisation translates into a more vibrant group of advocates that can demand accountability and advocate strongly for the common good. Additionally, by training media to better understand the human face of energy issues, those who read the papers and listen to the radio will also become more aware. The end result? These advocacy efforts will help communities across Zimbabwe gain access to and awareness of sustainable energy—which is the true end goal.