Tierras y Aguas

Prospects for solar-powered irrigation systems in developing countries

International workshop

Solar-powered water technologies are increasingly in demand in developing countries, as they can provide a cost-effective solution to increase agricultural productivity.

Access to water for irrigation is key to many small scale farmers in order to sustain their livelihoods and food security. Running such irrigation systems is still extremely challenging. There are still no electricity grid-extension in many rural areas in many developing countries. In the absence of a reliable electricity supply, farmers have to resort to diesel-based pumping systems. These systems create high operating costs, often experience service gaps, contribute to GHG emissions, and contribute to the energy bill in countries that do not produce such fuels.

Therefore renewable energy options, and in particular solar power, seem a very promising solution for sustainable agriculture in regions with high-solar-insulation, given its environmental advantages, low maintenance and increasingly low investment costs.

Yet, until recently, solar irrigation had not generated a lot of interest amongst governments, farmers and development agencies. However, as investment costs are being reduced and due to climate change concerns, a renewed attention in this technology. It seems therefore timely to take stock from the existing experience on solar irrigation, in order to derive conclusions and recommendations regarding its future use in developing countries.