Eastern African countries in Rwanda to examine potential of solar-powered irrigation

By Elias Hakizimana

Participants from eight member countries of the sub-region Eastern Africa are in Kigali for a four-day workshop to examine solar powered pumps-irrigation technology to increase production for small holder farmers.

The participants in the training that started on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, include Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda; and experts from international, regional and national research Institutions, non-governmental and community-based organisations, as well as the private sector.

The Sub-Regional Workshop aims to provide participants with a good background on the technology of solar powered small-scale irrigation, enabling them to design and operate pumping systems that utilize solar energy, and to assess whether solar powered irrigation is feasible and applicable in different contexts.

The solar powered pump-irrigation is currently operating in countries affected by desert like Egypt, Mali, Senegal, Niger among others.

The workshop will also provide the opportunity for the private sector to showcase their business and financial models for scaling their operations and highlight their achievements in technology development and dissemination of solar powered irrigation systems.

The workshop was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

According to FAO Representative in Rwanda Attaher Maiga, using irrigation is really is really to make sure that agriculture does not rely solely on rain fall because of the climate change variability.

“I think there is a promotion of small scale irrigation. What we are talking about in this workshop is the use of solar pump irrigation, which is different from our traditionally used [one], people are using diesel to power the pumps, which you know is expensive and not environmental friendly because it pollutes,” said Maiga.

Benefits of the technology

 Maiga highlighted that solar energy is very, green clean and free as nobody pays for the sun, which means that people will be exchanging information on how the technology has evolved to make the use of solar power irrigation affordable to the small holder farmers.

“We are really talking about the small holder, the access to the solar panel is now much cheaper than before, we want the technicians to get updates on technological revolution that has happened so that this news is spread, so that more farmers know that this is possible and that they have access to it,” Maiga said.

He said that the system will bring down the cost to farmers and contribute to the global goal of clean environment which is very important for health.

“Using the solar energy, you will not have to buy diesel anymore, so, all you have to do is the cost of the equipment. So, in the long run you gain. Rwanda is clean environment, green; we are really doing several things at the same time,” Maiga noted.

Maiga said that trained technicians will spread all the news about the new technology irrigation at national level to farmers, to the private sectors who will be the ones to sell the equipment,” Maiga said.

The participants will be learning technical aspects of solar pumping for irrigation, including hydraulics, flow, solar system gathering good practices from other countries including technologies used.

They will also lean the components and imitations of renewable energy, financing, operation and maintenance, cost effectiveness and efficiency, market availability of solar powered irrigation systems for small-scale irrigation among others.

Challenges and proposed solutions

Maiga said that challenge is the capacity; farmers need capacity to be able to master the technology.

“This is the challenges all stakeholders work on, and also sometimes the access to the finance always come, we need access to these equipment and sometimes the farmer does not have the means, it means financial institutions need to cooperate to handle that issue,” he said.

He said that the government will help them by subsidising the required equipment paying for them 50 percent of the cost.

Fulgence Nsengiyumva, Minister of State in charge of Agriculture said that Rwanda invest Rwf 2,5 billion in small scale irrigation which is distributed in districts and given to farmers at 50 percent subsidy.

The money is to help farmers get kit for irrigation so that people get production especially in case there is no rainfall.

“We need to have the culture of using water to increase agriculture production, you know that farmers are many and we hope that much will be achieved when the private sector get involved in irrigation technologies, as the government, appreciate this initiative of FAO and is the reason why we have come to participate in this workshop,” said Nsengiyumva.

FAO has currently started implementing a number of solar irrigation projects at regional level including in Rwanda, but also in Uganda, Gambia, Mali, Jordan, and Egypt.

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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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