New solar irrigation project to improve farmers’ livelihood and food security in Rwanda

20 March, 2018, Kigali -Energy 4 Impact has launched a new initiative aimed at developing the small-scale solar irrigation market in Rwanda as a way of increasing farmers’ productivity and the country’s food security. Targeting 3,000 smallholder farmers across the country, as well as technology suppliers and lenders, the OFID-funded $1 million project seeks to create the conditions for a sustainable market by increasing awareness, availability and affordability of appropriate solar irrigation technologies.

Agriculture is the backbone of Rwanda’s economy – employing 79% of the population – and is key to the country’s growth and poverty reduction strategy. However, dependence on rains and lack of irrigation are holding back productivity and affecting food security.

Small-scale irrigation has the potential to contribute to improved food security and higher rural incomes. However, a combination of factors has hampered its development. These include low awareness among farmers and high upfront costs of solar irrigation systems, as well as limited access to finance for farmers and technology suppliers.

Through the Solar Irrigation in Rwanda (SIR) project, Energy 4 Impact is designing financial mechanisms to increase affordability of small-scale solar irrigation technologies. System suppliers will be supported through a working capital facility to finance inventory purchase and a receivables facility to bridge the gap between sale and receipt of funds. At the same time, a consumer credit facility will enable farmers and farming cooperatives to purchase the systems on credit. Energy 4 Impact will also provide technical assistance to the farmers and help them connect them with technology suppliers and financial institutions for credit access.

Both the Rwanda Agriculture Board and the farming community welcome this initiative and look forward to reaping the benefits and opportunities that solar powered irrigation offers. Given Rwanda’s geography and its solar radiation potential, the density of cultivated land and the availability of water resources, solar irrigation can enable smallholder farmers to use the water sources more productively, adapt to climate change and improve nutritional outcomes and rural development. Although solar powered irrigation systems are expensive, they are widely known for minimising operation costs. This project offers financing solutions to improve the availability and affordability of good quality products, and scale-up their adoption.

– says Hanson Imicomyiza, acting Head of Land Husbandry, Irrigation and Mechanisation at the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB).

Half of the 3,000 targeted farmers are women, as they form 78.8% of the labour force in the agricultural sector according to a 2016 report by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda. Furthermore, women often bear the burden of meeting their families’ food and nutritional needs.

Energy 4 Impact’s support will empower women to enhance productivity, generate more income and increase the availability of food for their families and the communities around them. Solar irrigation will also help them save the time and labour spend on tasks such as hauling water, usually over long distances, for farming.

– says Espoir Serugo, SIR Agriculture Project Manager at Energy 4 Impact.

The project will be implemented in across eight districts in the Eastern and Southern parts of Rwanda. The districts include: Bugesera, Kirehe, Nyagatare, Ngoma, and Gatsibo in the East; and Gisagara, Kamonyi and Muhanga in the South.

Following the successful implementation of the pilot phase, the SIR project will expand to support 13,000 farmers with access to solar irrigation systems over five years, benefiting an estimated 65,000 people.

Notes to Editors

•             Energy 4 Impact is a non-profit organisation that supports local businesses that provide energy access to off-grid communities in Africa. The organisation supports the growth and development of enterprises serving the off-grid energy market by addressing challenges relating to developing appropriate technologies; building effective product distribution channels; proving and adapting business models and accessing finance.

•             OFID (The OPEC Fund for International Development) is the development finance institution established by the Member States of OPEC in 1976 as a channel of aid to developing countries. OFID works in cooperation with developing country partners and the international donor community to stimulate economic growth and alleviate poverty in all disadvantaged regions of the world. It does this by providing financing to build essential infrastructure, strengthen social services delivery and promote productivity, competitiveness and trade. OFID’s work is people-centred, focusing on projects that meet basic needs—such as food, energy, clean water and sanitation, healthcare and education. OFID aims to encourage self-reliance and inspire hope for the future.