Sun-powered pumps installed in remote villages in Benin provide a cost-effective way of delivering irrigation water, particularly during the long dry season.
BY ASHLEY DEAN
Solar-powered drip irrigation systems significantly enhance household incomes and nutritional intake of villagers in arid sub-Saharan Africa, according to a new Stanford University study to be published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences(PNAS). The study found that solar-powered pumps installed in remote villages in the West African nation of Benin provide a cost-effective way of delivering much-needed irrigation water, particularly during the long dry season. The results are scheduled to be published the week of Jan. 4 in the online edition of PNAS.
"Our case study on women's farming groups in rural Benin revealed solar-powered drip irrigation – a clean, cost-competitive technology – significantly improved nutrition and food security as well as household incomes in one year," said lead author Jennifer Burney, a postdoctoral scholar with the Program on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford.
"Solar-powered drip irrigation systems break seasonal rainfall dependence, which typically limits farmers to a three- to six-month growing season, and support the production of diversified, high-value crops in rural Africa," Burney added.
She and her co-authors noted that much of sub-Saharan Africa's rural population is considered "food insecure," surviving on less than $1 per person per day. "And whereas most are engaged in agricultural production as their main livelihood, they still spend 50 to 80 percent of their income on food, and are often net consumers of food," they wrote.
Benin pilot project
In 2007, with support from Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment, Burney and her colleagues partnered with the nonprofit Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) on a pilot irrigation project in rural Benin. SELF financed and led the installation of three solar-powered drip irrigation systems in two villages in Benin's Kalalé district. Each system is used by a local women's agricultural group, which typically consists of 30 to 35 women who share the maintenance costs of the new irrigation technology.
A woman cleans a solar panel that powers the drip irrigation system in a rural village in Benin.
In rural Benin, women and girls traditionally are responsible for hauling water by hand, often from very long distances. The solar-powered irrigation systems were designed to free them from hauling water to grow vegetable crops, particularly during the dry season.
To measure the impact of the solar-powered drip irrigation technology, the researchers monitored the agricultural groups using the new irrigation systems, as well as two "control" villages where women continued growing vegetables in traditional hand-watered gardens. Household surveys were conducted at the start of the project in November 2007 and again in November 2008.
Nutrition and income
The results were striking. "In just one year, we saw that photovoltaic drip irrigation systems had important implications for food and nutrition security, as well as household income," Burney said.
The three solar-powered irrigation systems supplied on average 1.9 metric tons of produce per month, including such high-valued crops as tomatoes, okra, peppers, eggplants and carrots. In villages irrigated with solar-powered systems, vegetable intake increased to three to five servings per day – the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Recommended Daily Allowance for vegetables – with most of the improvement taking place during the long dry season. In a world where 20 to 25 percent of global disease burden for children is due to malnutrition, such improvements could have a large impact over time, Burney said.
"Seventeen percent of project beneficiaries reported feeling less food insecure, demonstrating a remarkable effect on both year-round and seasonal food access," Naylor added.
As for household income, the authors found that women who used solar-powered irrigation became strong net producers of vegetables and earned extra income from sales, allowing them to significantly increase their purchases of high-protein food and other staples during the dry season.
The crops on this small farm in rural Benin are watered by a solar-powered drip irrigation system.
Project benefits quickly spread to other community members, Burney said. For example, an elementary school curriculum was developed to help village children learn about the benefits of solar drip technology. "There was an overwhelming sense of pride in the new system by teachers, children and women participating in the farmer groups," she added.
Each solar-powered drip irrigation system is about 1.24 acres (0.5 hectare) in size, costs approximately $18,000 to install and requires about $5,750 a year to maintain, the authors said. Based on the projected earnings of the farmers, the system should pay for itself in about 2.3 years, they concluded. And despite higher up-front costs, the durable solar systems should be more economical in the long run than less expensive irrigation systems that use gasoline, diesel or kerosene pumps, with the added benefit of being emissions free, they added.
Focusing on novel irrigation technologies for farmers could be the needed tool for escaping poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Burney. "The photovoltaic irrigation drip system could potentially become a 'game changer' for agricultural development over time," she added.
"Solar-powered irrigation provides a cleaner source of energy that is less susceptible to global price fluctuations," Naylor said. "Improved agricultural productivity in the developing world can play a critical role in global poverty alleviation, and productivity-enhancing technologies provide a sense of hope for persistently poor households."
"I love that you've brought this to attention. An extensive database of uncommon but resistant and hardy plants/foods could be developed and organized by climate. Ease of growth and processing should also be taken in to account. I will try to…"
This past weekend was the annual celebration at the lake house in Connecticut. It is amazing that the lake is still so clear and beautiful after all these years. The watershed association has done a wonderful job protecting these waters from the damaging effects of development.The wood grill was finally ready to cook on, so we didn't miss the propane tank fueled grill anymore. The food actually tasted fresher than in the past and was easy to keep fueled.Dad was very proud of the solar hybrid…See More
In this blog post I will focus on a plant that is abundant in our nature, and which is immensely nutritious. It's of course the Stinging Nettle. Let's start with the chemical constituents of this plant:37 % Non-Nitrogen-Extracts19 - 29 % Ash9 - 21 % Fiber4 % Fat22 % ProteinOnce the leaves are drid, their protein content can reach an astounding 40 %, which is much higher than beef, which even under the best of circ***tances can never exceed 31 % protein. In addition the Stinging Nettle consists…See More
It is 7'oclock, I was late home from work due to an assignment that i wanted to get ahead on. By the time I get home I am feeling extremley tired and I cannot be bothered to make a proper meal. I walk to the fridge and open it to see what there is for me to eat. All of the out of date foodstuffs have been automaticaly thrown away by the fridge, they will be recycled tomorrow as animal feed or something. I see i have organic local eggs and some local cheese. Foods are vacc** sealded for easy…See More
FutureToday is 2020/1/1. It is just like yesterday. The war is still continuing. It has started since 2010. In 2010, that year was a horrible year. Almost every energy ran out. Every country’s governments were crushed down at the same time. There were riots everywhere. All of the big company’s bosses were killed xdeadx in the riots. Troops fought each other everywhere. Food was bought up xawayx at once. There were no more food supplies in any shops. The economy was all crushed down. All the…See More
The exchange works directly for state and public workers and servants. It gives them credit in exchange for the amount of public work they contribute to the community. The more constructive they are based off a base rate the more credit they recieve.