Harnessing the sun’s power to make water flow
Small farmers in Benin in West Africa are using solar panels to power an innovative drip-irrigation system.
Nearly 2 billion people around the world live off the electricity grid. Lack of access to energy can take a huge toll, especially on food security. Without energy for irrigation, for example, small-scale farmers must rely on unpredictable rainfall to grow the crops they depend on for food and income.Skip to next paragraph
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In the Kalalé district of northern Benin, in West Africa, agriculture is a source of livelihood for 95 percent of the population. But small-scale farmers lack access to effective irrigation systems. Women and young girls spend long hours walking to nearby wells to fetch water to irrigate their fields by hand.
The pilot project launched in partnership with Dr. Dov Pasternak of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRASAT), has installed solar panels in Bessassi and Dunkassa villages. This cost-effective and environmentally sustainable project is improving food security and raising incomes by providing access to irrigation for small-scale farmers, especially during the six-month dry season.
Farmers are diversifying the crops they grow to include trees and vegetables like tomatoes and lettuce. Their production has increased 10 times. And because women and young girls no longer walk long distances to fetch water, they have more time to participate in agricultural activities.
According to an assessment by Stanford University’s Program on Food Security and the Environment, villagers are not only eating healthier, but they also have year-round access to nutritious fruits and vegetables. And, by selling surplus produce at the local market, women farmers are earning an extra $7.50 per week, which they can use to pay for school fees and medical costs.