Research And Insight

Solar irrigation provides access to water for Tanzanian farmers – and changes lives

Having the farmers organised into groups will not only ensure the pumps are utilised at optimum capacity, it will also help us identify the best business model that can increase the ability of farmers to afford the pumps in the future and earn good income from them.

Fredrick Tunutu, Tanzania Country Manager, Energy 4 Impact

Access to water can be the spark that gives life to new businesses and improved opportunities. We are therefore delighted to launch this partnership project in Tanzania between SafeWater, Grundfos and Energy 4 Impact.

Life is tough for many smallholder farmers in local Tanzanian communities. Everyday life is filled with hours of manual work, worries about the consequences of climate change and how to secure access to water so that there is something to harvest.

However, a new collaboration between SafeWater, Grundfos and the NGO, Energy 4 Impact - has just been launched with support from a Grundfos Foundation community engagement grant. It aims to equip remote farmers in some of the least developed regions of Tanzania with the technologies and skills required to put available water resources to productive use and grow their way out of poverty, while increasing food security in the region.

Promote climate smart irrigation

The one-year partnership will investigate how solar irrigation and a package of business, technical and market development will support these smallholder farming communities. Because, despite the vast amounts of fresh water available, many Tanzanian low-income farmers struggle to adequately irrigate their crops. 

Today, 80% of Tanzania’s food is grown by small-scale farmers on land that is not irrigated by mechanised equipment. The reliance on rainfalls and manual irrigation hampers agricultural productivity, and climate change is already threatening smallholder farmers’ livelihoods and increasingly affecting food security. 

“The threats posed by climate change are sadly becoming an increasingly common reality. Recognising both the vital role and the vulnerability of smallholder farmers globally, we are committed to support our partners develop solutions that promote climate smart irrigation that can be scaled,” says Anise Sacranie, Senior Partnership Development Manager, in SafeWater, Grundfos. 

SafeWater, Grundfos will work with Energy 4 Impact to develop centralized irrigation schemes that will meet the farmer’s demands. Energy 4 Impact will work with farmers to develop the ecosystem that will ensure the sustainable management of the system and realize the increased productivity that is hoped for. 

Installation of two high-end-solar pumps

Recognising that technology and smart agricultural practices can help low-income farmers adapt to climate change as well as improve crop production, this partnership combines access to solar-powered water pumps with tailored agronomic advice, alongside guidance on post-harvest practices, and market development activities, enabling farmers to realise the full potential of solar irrigation. 

Over the course of 12 months, the partnership will investigate whether centralised larger-scale and higher-capacity pumps, shared between sizeable local groups, are more affordable to farmers than the smaller-scale pumps, more commonly available across the region, typically only used on individual farms. 

As part of the project, two high-end solar water pumps will be installed in the regions of Geita and Shinyanga, in Northern Tanzania, and these will be shared by two groups of 40 farmers each. The two sites will serve as training and demonstration hubs where farmers from surrounding communities will be supported to develop and implement business plans, improve their financial management practices, acquire both the technical skills to operate and maintain the pumps, as well as obtain the agronomical, horticultural, and efficient post-harvest management knowledge needed to boost their productivity.

Farm in Nyalwanzaja Village in Geita. Photo: Stephen Magesse Ndezu, Energy 4 Impact

Trialling business models that work for groups of farmers

Since ensuring the affordability of irrigation solutions for farmers is critical to making a lasting impact, the project will also explore various financing and payment models to test the economic case for groups of low-income farmers buying the pumps outright versus paying a regular fee for an outside company or farming association to provide water on demand as a service. 

“Having the farmers organised into groups will not only ensure the pumps are utilised at optimum capacity, it will also help us identify the best business model that can increase the ability of farmers to afford the pumps in the future and earn good income from them,” says Fredrick Tunutu, Energy 4 Impact’s Tanzania Country Manager, and continues: 

“We also aim to demonstrate that these solar pumps can generate sufficient income for groups of farmers to persuade local financial institutions to extend loans that enable other farmers to purchase the equipment on credit or via pay-as-you-go mechanisms. And within one year we expect that these sites will have achieved a powerful demonstration effect amongst the surrounding farming communities, increasing awareness of the potential of solar irrigation and modern agronomic techniques amongst the local farmers who can benefit the most from accessing these technologies.”

According to Anise Sacranie, Grundfos is excited to learn more about what it takes to establish a business model for centralised irrigation solutions that are viable for smallholder farmers and for irrigation service providers – through this project.

“We are very keen to understand what we need to do to support the economic growth of low-income farmers that will ultimately secure sustainable access to both food and water" she explains. 

We support the entire value chain

We tie together all activities because it is an end-to-end journey. So along with offering pumps and water solutions, we actively work with local delivery, our global footprint, trainings, installation and service.

This means we support from the moment a water need is identified until a system is in the ground - and still working 10 years later. And we do this through our public and private sectors partners, across sectors and within Grundfos.

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