Emerging from fifty years of isolation, Myanmar faces daunting socioeconomic development challenges. A primary challenge is a rural electrification rate of less than 30% (compared to 68.5% in South Asia). The lack of basic energy services heavily burdens access to education, healthcare, and income-generating opportunities. Although the challenge is daunting, the country has a variety of opportunities to increase this electrification rate while simultaneously preserving the natural environment upon which so many of Myanmar’s rural poor rely for their livelihoods. Local NGOs and small private developers are acting as leaders in the sustainable rural electrification movement, seeking support from both the government and international aid organizations. It is a unique opportunity to support the sustainable development of a country emerging from challenging times.
Green Empowerment has been partnering with local NGOs in Myanmar for many years. We began by supporting the installation of solar panels on schools and hospitals along the Myanmar/Thai border. From there, our work has expanded to include rural electrification more broadly through our involvement in the micro-hydro and biogas sectors. We continue working towards this goal by partnering with local NGOs, manufacturers, and small-scale business owners. By working with these groups, who have been using a community-based development model for many years, we are able to gain a deep understanding of local risks, resources, opportunities, challenges, and needs. Based on this analysis, we will continue to work alongside our partners to identify opportunities to increase sustainable electrification rates in marginalized rural communities, build up local manufacturing infrastructure, preserve watersheds, and build the overall capacity of our local partners.