Garowe Puntland April 13: Somalia ‘s population is predominantly rural, with close to 70 percent of its population living in rural areas. In these areas agriculture is the primary source of food, employment and economic activities. Crop and livestock farming in areas with little or no rainfall is tricky for most farmers. Hence, irrigation makes farmers more resilient against erratic rainfall patterns.
Solar Energy Consultant and Construction Company (SECCCO) have completed the first project of micro financing solar solution to farmers, installing solar water pumps in 10 farms in Puntland. The project a partnership with USAID’s GEEL and financing entity Amal Bank has seen farmers benefit a great deal as water scarcity poses one of the most significant constraints to food production in a country where more than half of the population requires food assistance almost every year.
Small-scale, off-grid energy and irrigated agriculture interventions are the single most important contributors to improving rural livelihoods as they are crucial to support sustainable agricultural production. Agriculture operations have advanced steadily over the years and there is a growing need to sustain a steady production through deployment of power solutions across the sector.
The agricultural sector employs more than 50% of Somali population. Despite this, smallholder farmers in Puntland have no access to energy which for a long time has been the expensive fossil fuel. SECCCO with support from GEEL and has developed a custom made subsidized payment solution which has revolutionized how farmers in Garowe and its environs farm. Off-grid solar products especially solar water pumps for irrigation is an eye opener to help farmers increase crop yields and income, in addition to making them more climate change resilient.
“Powering agriculture hinges on a viable business model and a proven track record for revenue generation in addition to food security. Conversations around solar water pumps have generated a huge interest and excitement in our communities where farmers consider it a new green revolution in farming activities in that it helps save our environment in comparison to diesel powered pumps.
Moreover, on average a farmer spends about $300 in fuel monthly ripping off profits that one would make from farm produce,” says Said Mohamoud SECCCO Business Development manager. “When you compare diesel powered pumps to solar powered pumps you realize that solar ones can last for over 10 years and farmers can return their investment in the first year. This is the next frontier for our farmers in Puntland and we are going to locations and villages that were previously considered impossible to get to”.
On/off –farm employment opportunities and income-generating activities are among the key interventions that need to be scaled up. Similar to benefits of solar lighting, the new technologies within the solar water pump segment can also help increase income levels. With new products being introduced to the market, new value chains are created generating more jobs.
“Farmers benefit from our solar water pumps in the long run because they help increase farm productivity and incomes. In fact farmers who have switched from diesel pumps to solar water pumps have witnessed an increase in crop production while creating a significant social and economic impact. It increases farming yields and an additional growing season outside the rainy season as water is pumped throughout since sunshine is available in Somalia all year round.” adds Omar Samatar SECCCO Managing Director.
Most solar-powered water pumps on the market today have integrated remote monitoring or Internet of Things (IoT) platforms. IoT enables a network of communication between the product and a range of other Internet-enabled devices, both traditional and beyond. Users and manufacturers can monitor and understand their solar pumps better through this uniquely connected network – information that can then be used to further efficiency and productivity.
“Through the partnership in the first project farmers took advantage of our friendly mode of payment whereby 30% of the total amount is subsidized and the 70% remaining farmers only paid 20% upfront and the remaining 50% is in installments” notes Said Mohamoud.
ACCESS TO CREDIT
Farmers are more likely to afford solar water pumps than diesel-based pumps since the prices of photovoltaic panels have been dropping, however in order to purchase solar pumps farmers are encouraged to take up loans or join micro-credit systems. SECCCO –GEEL partnership saw a major increase in female farmers where SECCCO attempted to explore the gaps in the communities by encouraging women to be innovative and take advantage of micro-credit from Amal Bank. The project played a significant role in mitigating existing unequal social structures where women have a lower access to water information and credit than men and are more likely to be deprived off land rights therefore affecting their decision-making power.
In rural Somalia farmers mainly rely on rainfall to water their crops, leaving them at the mercy of uncertain climatic conditions. In the absence of rain, farmers either resort to manual means of crop irrigation or fossil fuel powered pumps – leaving them overburdened physically and financially. Solar water pump is the current and the future to boost food security in Somalia which is enormously blessed with sunshine.
“As the consequences of climate change become more realistic, improved irrigation will become an increasingly important mechanism for sustainable and drought-resistant farming, rapidly removing the need for fossil fuels, even if solar pumps have a lower flow rate than fossil fuels pumps because it’s hard for sunshine to match the ‘energy density’ of hydrocarbons, for farmers, however, slower rates of pumping is a price worth paying to eliminate the fuel costs. Also, slower pumping rates are gentler to water tables and, in many cases, to the crops themselves besides diversifying income sources, “explains Samatar Omar.
Solar water pumps can unlock huge benefits to farmers, to their wider community, and to planet earth. Businesses in the renewable energy sector need financial incentives in order to custom make their business models to scale up the needs for different farmers
What’s next for solar irrigation as a frontier is increasing scale of solar water pumps which will directly benefit thousands of farmers in Puntland and beyond by enabling cost-effecting farming activities. Solar irrigation has a very bright future. There are huge opportunities for farmers to increase both their income and climate resilience. Farmers are eager to reap benefits of solar water pumps farming. There is transformative potential of decentralized solar powered pumps in Somalia to achieve the three pillars of sustainability environmental, economical and social issues.