Abebe Haile-Gabriel
Mr. Valere Nzeyimana

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is up scaling the skills of officers in Solar-powered irrigation technology, which is gradually becoming a reliable, clean-energy solution for agricultural water management in Africa.

As the region records high incidence of solar radiation, Africa is on the edge of embracing the technology as an alternative.

With a decrease in investment costs for solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) and increase in subsidy schemes, solar-powered technologies are becoming viable options for many farmers, including smallholder farmers.

The conditions for the adoption of these systems vary in countries, which can range from biophysical and climatic suitability, technical feasibility, institutional arrangements, regulations and policy support, access to maintenance services, and financing and economic viability of systems.

One of the biggest challenges in solar irrigation lies on the technical skills needed to carry out such projects. These specific technical skills are lacking at national level among either government officials or technical staff, including irrigation officers, extension service staff, and with farmers and their organizations.

Responding to these challenges, the FAO Regional Office for Africa, in collaboration with the Land and Water Division (CBL) in headquarters organized the first training workshop on SPIS in Accra, within the framework of the Land and Water Technical Networks.

The event, which was supported by GIZ allows strategic stakeholders to further explore the possibilities of the widespread use of the innovative technology in Africa. FAO’s Land and Water Officers in Africa will delve on the technical aspects of technology and map out further engagement in rolling out the initiative across the region.

The workshop, furthermore provided a window of opportunity to discuss the challenges on land and water in Africa, as well as exchange ideas, good practices, experiences, and challenges around land and water projects that are relevant to SPIS.

In his opening remarks, the FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa, Abebe Haile-Gabriel, emphasized on the strategic significance of solar-powered irrigation to agricultural mechanization in Africa.

On agricultural energy, he said, “The rising energy demand for agricultural transformation in Africa presents two major transformation imperatives: the imperative to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the imperative of meeting the climate.”

“Africa has the lowest in terms of engine power use in agriculture compared to other developing regions; for instance, tractor use as of 2005 stood at 4 percent for Central Africa, 8 percent for West Africa, 17 percent for Eastern Africa, and 25 percent for Southern Africa, and irrigated land represents only7% of cultivated land”, Haile-Gabriel explained.

He highlighted the importance of critical factors such as affordability and competitiveness in the medium–to-long term, suitability, sustainability and timing in considering the application of solar-powered irrigation in the Africa region.

“We must also look into government policies such as subsidies and import duties, investment finance in the areas attracting finance through private¬–public partnerships, institutional frameworks as well as technical issues”, Haile-Gabriel further said.

The FAO Assistant Director-General urged the participants to come up with value proposition within the context of strengthening technical and institutional policy capabilities, experience and knowledge-sharing, among others.

FAO Land and Water Officer, Valere Nzeyimana, said the workshop will look into enabling different officers to have a comprehensive understanding of the Land and Water Division’s role in supporting FAO’s commitment of helping eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.

He added, “All these efforts are within the context of our mandate in ensuring food security while grappling with the challenges of climate, in particular on how we can leverage our mitigation measures on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.”

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