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Agriculture solar-africa

Published on January 5th, 2010 | by Jerry James Stone

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Solar-Powered Irrigation Increases Vegetable Intake by 500% in Rural Africa

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January 5th, 2010 by
 

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According to a new study, solar-powered irrigation systems have significantly enhanced both the household incomes and the nutritional intake of villagers in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Significant fractions of sub-Saharan Africa’s population are considered food insecure,” wrote Jennifer Burney, a scholar with the Program on Food Security and the Environment and the Department of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford. “They frequently survive on less than $1 per person per day, and … they still spend 50 to 80 percent of their income on food”

The two-year study found the pumps installed in the West African nation of Benin were a cost effective way to deliver water, especially during the dry season. Only 4-percent of the cropland in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated, most communities rely on rain-fed agriculture.

Most communities there are food-insecure as they are limited to a three- to six-month rainy season.

“On top of potential annual caloric shortages, households face two seasonal challenges: They must stretch their stores of staples to the next harvest (or purchase additional food, often at higher prices), and access to micronutrients via home production or purchase diminishes or disappears during the dry season,” the authors wrote.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/RTtBEbf-NRs&color1=0xb1b1b1&color2=0xcfcfcf&hl=en_US&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]

The solar-powered pumps also reduce labour as water hauling is traditionally done by women and young girls. Each system supplied an average of 1.9 metric tons of produce per month, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other greens.

Vegetable intake across all villages increases by 150 grams per person per day during the rainy season. But those with solar-powered systems saw an increase of up to 750 grams per person per day. That’s equivalent to 5 servings of vegetables a day; a 500% increase!

Despite the higher up front cost, the solar-powered pumps turned out to be more economical than systems that run on liquid fuel. With the proper support, these systems could alleviate an important source of poverty for sub-Saharan Africa.

Source: ScienceDaily

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About the Author

is a web developer, part-time blogger, and a full-time environmentalist. His crusade for all things eco started twenty years ago when he ditched his meat-and-potatoes upbringing for something more vegetarian-shaped. His passions include cooking, green tech, eco politics, and smart green design. And while he doesn't own a car anymore, he loves to write about those too. Jerry studied at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. During his time there he was a DJ at the campus station KCPR and he also wrote for the campus paper. Jerry currently resides in San Francisco, CA with his cat Lola. You can stalk him on Twitter @jerryjamesstone.



  • http://greenterrafirma.com Bruce K

    Sounds very positive.. increasing food production during dry season through irrigation.

    I hope the “big picture” was covered before this project was started… what are the total water resources available? What impact does removing these large quantities of water during the dry season have on neighboring eco systems, villages, etc. Can this water removal be supported on an ongoing, longterm, sustainable basis?

  • http://greenterrafirma.com Bruce K

    Sounds very positive.. increasing food production during dry season through irrigation.

    I hope the “big picture” was covered before this project was started… what are the total water resources available? What impact does removing these large quantities of water during the dry season have on neighboring eco systems, villages, etc. Can this water removal be supported on an ongoing, longterm, sustainable basis?

  • tobi

    i’m so sorry my comment is irrelevant to the irrigation i think that’s great. Words like “rural Africa” piss me off. That’s not a COUNTRY!

    we can say ‘rural Pennsylvania’, ‘rural America’ even helps but ‘rural North America?” i didn’t think so.

    I’m glad the video at least has a title or i would have no idea where this place is to do more research

  • tobi

    i’m so sorry my comment is irrelevant to the irrigation i think that’s great. Words like “rural Africa” piss me off. That’s not a COUNTRY!

    we can say ‘rural Pennsylvania’, ‘rural America’ even helps but ‘rural North America?” i didn’t think so.

    I’m glad the video at least has a title or i would have no idea where this place is to do more research

  • Brian N

    There is another solar powered pump technology based on solar thermal powered low temp differential stirling engines.

    These are are not something that you can readily buy but something that a science educated handy person can build in any country with readily available materials and some internet searching.

    It doesn’t even matter that the thermal efficiency is very low <<5% as the device can be made big enough by experimentation.

    Once upon a time this might be called Yankee ingenuity.

    search “Hubert Stierhof solar stirling engine” for one such design.

  • Brian N

    There is another solar powered pump technology based on solar thermal powered low temp differential stirling engines.

    These are are not something that you can readily buy but something that a science educated handy person can build in any country with readily available materials and some internet searching.

    It doesn’t even matter that the thermal efficiency is very low <<5% as the device can be made big enough by experimentation.

    Once upon a time this might be called Yankee ingenuity.

    search “Hubert Stierhof solar stirling engine” for one such design.

  • JJ

    I really do hope they didn’t get their PV from Shell otherwise they are so much in deep mud mud.

    The developing world really needs to lobby the rich countries to go back to using nuclear power and stop wasting fossil fuels so they can have a turn at the oil spigot. Gee Nigeria, Sudan even has a little of it.

    There is a crazy theory that I don’t really believe myself that if the developed countries went entirely nuclear that there would be so much energy left over that all of humanity could live as well as the US does since there would then be enough energy to go around, lots and lots. It says so right in chap 19 of “Sustainable Energy — without the hot air” by David Mackay which even the people of rural Benin can afford, it costs only 0 XOF.

    Here is the crazy math, there is about 1 ton of uranium in the ocean for every single person on this earth with population of 10 Billion (it is set in the far future, like 20 years). Given a few fast breeder reactors (1 per million people at $2K/head) every person could live like an American for 1000 years.

    It gets even funnier, if ITER or another fusion project ever works, there is 1000s of tons of deuterium and lithium in the oceans for every single person of 10 billion (maybe 50 years in the future) that we could live like in Bel Air Mac Mansions, every single person for about 1 million years. Of course it wouldn’t be easy getting there, nothing ever is.

    Can you believe what some educated people believe. Of course its preposterous. Solar PV and Wind will do for now, atleast that is what Green peace keeps telling me although David MacKay thinks this might not work, chaps 4,6,10. What does he know that Green peace doesn’t?

  • JJ

    I really do hope they didn’t get their PV from Shell otherwise they are so much in deep mud mud.

    The developing world really needs to lobby the rich countries to go back to using nuclear power and stop wasting fossil fuels so they can have a turn at the oil spigot. Gee Nigeria, Sudan even has a little of it.

    There is a crazy theory that I don’t really believe myself that if the developed countries went entirely nuclear that there would be so much energy left over that all of humanity could live as well as the US does since there would then be enough energy to go around, lots and lots. It says so right in chap 19 of “Sustainable Energy — without the hot air” by David Mackay which even the people of rural Benin can afford, it costs only 0 XOF.

    Here is the crazy math, there is about 1 ton of uranium in the ocean for every single person on this earth with population of 10 Billion (it is set in the far future, like 20 years). Given a few fast breeder reactors (1 per million people at $2K/head) every person could live like an American for 1000 years.

    It gets even funnier, if ITER or another fusion project ever works, there is 1000s of tons of deuterium and lithium in the oceans for every single person of 10 billion (maybe 50 years in the future) that we could live like in Bel Air Mac Mansions, every single person for about 1 million years. Of course it wouldn’t be easy getting there, nothing ever is.

    Can you believe what some educated people believe. Of course its preposterous. Solar PV and Wind will do for now, atleast that is what Green peace keeps telling me although David MacKay thinks this might not work, chaps 4,6,10. What does he know that Green peace doesn’t?

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