Ethiopia, a country where 70 million people make their livelihoods through farming, has seen the fastest growth in irrigation infrastructure of any African country. These systems significantly boost productivity and income for smallholder farmers. However, despite this high demand, only five percent of arable land is equipped for irrigation – a disparity that has spurred the Ethiopian government to prioritize irrigation expansion, especially by using conventional fuel pumps.
The Smallholder Solar Pump Alliance will capitalize upon this market by providing a commercially viable, financially sustainable and scalable system for providing solar-powered pumps as an accessible alternative. Solar pumps are less expensive and more water efficient than conventional diesel ones – making them attractive for smallholder farmers. However, while a proven solution exists in other countries, solar pumps have been unavailable in Ethiopia due to limited, unaffordable rural financing options and a lack of agribusiness investment from local solar companies. Thus, while components for a solution exist, there is not yet a system in tact to make it work.
The Smallholder Solar Pump Alliance plans to address these challenges through the development of a strong business and financing model for smallholder solar pumps, which will be piloted and scaled in local markets. Ultimately, the partnership will reduce the environmental strain of sourcing clean water while improving water access and affordability for smallholder farmers.