Solar powered irrigation to increase productivity
Written by: Daniel Tuyizere
Wednesday, November 8th, 2017, 9:26
With the continued threat of climate change effects, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is promoting the awareness, adoption and up scaling of solar power irrigation as well as building the capacity of policy makers and practitioners.
A workshop on solar powered irrigation is underway in Kigali looking into ways to strengthen capacities of countries towards agriculture with the impending shocks of climate change.
Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of Agriculture, FulgenceNsengiyumva said that every year, his government allocates about Rwf 2.5 billion to small scale irrigation technologies, and to allow farmers apply irrigation there is a 50 per cent subsidy from government on irrigation equipment.
He also emphasised that the introduction of solar powered pumps in the country presents an opportunity to abandon the high operating costs of fuel powered generators.
The deficit rains have already created uncertainty in agricultural communities in many African countries affecting agriculture production and food security. This, therefore, has necessitated countries to adopt new and innovative technologies to boost farming.
Attaher Maiga, FAO representative in Rwanda noted that in recent years solar powered irrigation systems have become increasingly viable for countries as a reliable clean energy solution for agricultural water use especially in areas with high solar radiation such as East Africa.
“Solar-powered irrigation can also contribute to an efficient water management in agriculture, especially in countries which suffer from high temperatures and scarce water resources,” Maiga said.
As investment costs for solar pumping systems decrease, and many governments continue to subsidise the technology, this will certainly become an attractive option for many farmers.
The FAO representative said that in rural areas, solar power can be a means of ensuring access to energy for agriculture specifically for users in rural areas that lack reliable access to electricity grids or where fuel is expensive.
In Rwanda, a technical cooperation project aimed at enhancing small scale irrigation technologies ended impacting the agriculture systems in Kirehe, Kayonza, and Nyagatare Districts of the Eastern Province that is prone to harsh long drought season. It yielded commendable results as farmers benefited from irrigation equipment and the solar powered irrigation systems and most beneficiaries a now able to grow crops in all three agricultural seasons thus improving food production and increasing the farmers’ incomes.