Solar-Powered Irrigation on the Rise in Kenya

solar powered irrigation photo

Image: Benjamin Chun via flickr
Solar-powered irrigation isn't necessarily new to Africa, but especially as the price of oil (and the cost of running a diesel engine) continues to rise, so does the use of this emissions-free technology. Reuters AlertNet has a story about the rise of solar-powered pumps in Central Kenya, where farmers can use the pump to access water from the Nyamindi River to irrigate their crops, which are often produced for export.

The solar panels, which are set up on tall metal poles and connected to pumps in the river, replace the frequently-used diesel or petrol engines to pump water. Farmers using the technology are saving money and reducing both their emissions output and water consumption. From AlertNet:

The pump also is helping to conserve water from the Nayamindi river. Low rainfall, likely caused by climatic change, is causing the river to dry up at certain times of year.

In drought-prone areas of Kenya, irrigation is widely used in farming. But uncontrolled irrigation methods, such as flooding furrows with water and letting it soak into the soil, are endangering water supplies.

...By pumping river water into storage tanks, farmer can practice drip irrigation, releasing water drip by drip through pipes lying on the surface of their land.

AlertNet quotes regional agronomist Edwin Munge: "Flooding takes 20 cubic metres of water per acre (8 cubic metres per hectare) while drip irrigation takes only two cubic metres per acre (0.8 cubic meters per hectare)."

Some hope that as farmers continue to adopt the technology, food production will be more reliable even under harsh conditions.

More on solar power and agriculture in Africa:
Red Cross Uses Solar-Powered Pumps to Increase Water Access in Sudan
Lion-Killing Pesticide Might be Banned in Kenya
Solar-Powered Irrigation Creates a Harvest of Plenty in Sub-Saharan Africa

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