Many smallholder farmers in Africa frequently practice irrigation to increase agricultural productivity and to mitigate the harsh effects that the climate change has imposed on their faming activities. The Problem is the main source of power used is the diesel generator. Indeed, it is now widely recognized that this practice has negative effects on both the financial means and the environment. In some poor villages in Tanzania, it is not only the use of diesel-powered generators but sometimes the lack of irrigation entirely. This forces the farmers to depend on rain-fed farming, and with the increasing frequency and duration of droughts, the negative impacts upon farmers will also deepen. Currently, only 5% of Tanzania’s estimated 29 million hectares of cultivated land is irrigated. These smallholder farmers do not only typically lack awareness of such technologies, but there is also an affordability issue. Whilst solar pumps are a profitable investment for farmers in the long term, adoption of SSSI technologies has so far been low as the upfront investment costs of solar pumps are higher than the traditionally used diesel/petrol motor pumps. Very few farmers have the capacity to pay cash up front and many farmers struggle even to provide a 15-20% down payment.
It’s for these reasons that Energy 4 Impact and The East Africa regional Innovation Hub got into a partnership to design a solar irrigation system for a smallholder’s project to thereby help scale up the adoption of solar powered irrigation pumps. This is done through innovative financing which will support the Government of Tanzania in moving from inefficient diesel-powered pumps to clean and climate-friendly solar pumping systems.
The project promotes the uptake of innovative solar irrigation technologies and business models in order to improve food security and resilience amongst smallholder farmers in some of the poorest and most marginalised parts of Tanzania. Energy 4 Impact works with private companies and financial institutions to enable smallholder farmers to gain access to small-scale solar irrigation (SSSI) equipment. Such market development activities aim to improve product and technology awareness, as well as forge sustainable market linkages in the agricultural food value chains. Adopting solar irrigation systems can typically increase a smallholder farmer’s income by $200-300/year. Compared to petrol/diesel-powered irrigation, solar irrigation eliminates fuel consumption, resulting in 20-55% lower lifetime cost to farmers, and reduced CO2 emissions (about 1 kg of CO2 per kWh of output).
With rainfed agriculture, farmers can only achieve at best 50% of the potential yield from a particular piece of land and cannot grow high value crops easily. However, solar irrigation not only boosts yields, it also improves the resilience of smallholder farmers to climate change as they are increasingly forced to adapt to more prolonged and less predictable dry seasons.
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