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Small-scale technology has once again proved its worth for women. Two female ‘solar engineers’ have been boosting the development of their community by installing solar panels in a Cameroon village far from the national electricity grid. Increased funding for such schemes would benefit the rural poor — especially women — more than large, expensive interventions, which typically pass them by.

Malawi is a case in point. Drive through the countryside after sunset and all is dark: only one per cent of the rural population is linked to the national grid. Most of the grid’s power comes from hydroelectric power plants on the Shire River, but their power output is extremely irregular because sedimentation and an aquatic weed infestation clog up the river, hampering its flow.

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