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Solar irrigation in Senegal: costs and benefits



We’re all aware of the environmental and long-term financial benefits of solar power – solar power is now being used to irrigate the land but what are the actual costs and benefits of solar irrigation systems? A recently published FAO study applied the INVESTA methodology to look at the answers in two projects in Senegal.

“The replacement of fossil fuel powered electricity generators by solar systems for irrigation led, in both case studies, to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and [...] the increase in household income is considerable” concludes the report.

The research, carried out by Dr Serge Noubondieu from Sapienza University, Rome, in collaboration with members of the FAO energy team and the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA), shows how communities are benefitting financially and how the system also creates employment for skilled professionals to ensure the irrigation system are well maintained and functioning.

The two projects were funded by the Italian Agency for Cooperation and Development (AICS) to promote the empowerment of women and young people through energy interventions in agriculture in rural areas. 

In recent years, experts, including engineers, agronomists and civil servants have been pushing for the installation of electric pumps fed by solar energy and modern irrigation systems to promote renewable energy and water use efficiency in agriculture, particularly in rural areas of the developing world.

“Solar-powered pumps show good financial returns and positive socio-economic impacts, but they can also lead to an increase in water use, which can be problematic in water scarce areas. Therefore, investments in these systems should be carefully analysed” explained Stefania Bracco from FAO’s Energy team.

FAO’s “Investing in Energy Sustainable Technologies in Agrifood Sector” (INVESTA) methodology analyzes costs and benefits associated with renewable energy and energy efficiency practices, highlighting hidden socio-economic and environmental costs and benefits of such interventions. This is particularly important for decision-making, to better target investments that will result in a net benefit to the society.

The INVESTA approach has already been applied to specific energy interventions in the milk, vegetable, rice and tea value chains in Kenya, the Philippines, Tanzania and Tunisia. The project contributes to the international initiative Powering Agriculture – An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC).

For further information on this and to see the reports, please go to: www.fao.org/energy/agrifood-chains/energy-sustainable-technologies/