WASHINGTON, USA, March 17, 2023/African Media Agency(AMA)/Boubacar Issoufou Alzouma runs a large farm in Finaré, Niger. “From here to Niamey the land is covered with vegetation, whereas before it was not cultivated,” explains Alzouma. It was solar irrigation that made the difference. Alzouma has acquired several solar-powered pumps with the support of the Access to Solar Electric Services Project in Niger (NESAP), financed by the World Bank. The pumps and technical advice he received enabled him to irrigate large areas of land, diversify his crops, and increase his yields. What a game-changer in Niger, where food security is paramount.
Niger is a large landlocked country with a predominantly arid climate. It is affected by medium-intensity conflicts, like four of its West African neighbours: Burkina Faso, Libya, Nigeria and Chad. More than 80% of the country’s 25 million people do not have access to electricity, which is the highest proportion in sub-Saharan Africa. However, energy demand is increasing as population growth outpaces electrification efforts.
Agriculture represents nearly 40% of Niger’s GDP and employs 81% of its population. Although agricultural products are the country’s second export item, Niger faces considerable food insecurity due to droughts, violence, floods, and low resilience to climate change. The electrification of agricultural production seems like an obvious solution. Solar-powered irrigation pumps and other equipment have proven their potential to transform the country by increasing crop yields and production.
“Before, I only irrigated a small plot using a diesel-powered water pump,” explains Alzouma. “With solar irrigation, we are now growing fruit trees, onions, tomatoes, and moringa. We even grow rice! »
Seeing the high yields obtained by Alzouma, his neighbors in Finaré followed his example.
Idé Sanda is a farmer in Winditane near Balleyara, about 100 km northeast of Niamey. Sanda purchased solar pumps in 2018 through the NESAP program. Previously, he used diesel-powered pumps to irrigate, but “the production was low compared to the investment. The ease of use and reliability of the solar pumps encouraged him to expand his operation from 2 to 3 hectares. He can now operate several crop rotations.
Benefiting from funding of 50 million dollars from the International Development Association (IDA), the NESAP project makes it possible to extend access to credit to private companies that sell productive equipment such as solar pumps. Four companies selling solar pumps and representing half of all pump sales in Niger have made use of this line of credit, providing 800 solar pumps to Nigerien farms since 2017.
The NESAP project has lent more than $1.5 million to the various players in the solar sector: importers, wholesalers, retailers, installers and electricity suppliers.
Initially, the project developed a consumer awareness campaign including commercials and road shows to engage consumers, potential partners, as well as financial institutions. Business models have been adapted to attract private investment.
«Increasing access to electricity through solar power in Niger is essential, particularly in rural areas, to enable economic transformation and empowerment. By taking advantage of the support and credit provided by our project, farmers really increase yields, rotation, and can even diversify their crops, a determining factor for food security.»
Kwawu Mensan Gaba,
Head of the Energy Unit at the World Bank
“Increasing access to electricity through solar energy in Niger is essential, particularly in rural areas, to enable economic transformation and empowerment,” explains Kwawu Mensan Gaba, Head of Energy at the World Bank. “By taking advantage of the support and credit provided by our project, farmers really increase yields, rotation, and can even diversify their crops, a key element for food security here. »
A larger project will be launched this summer to extend the successes of the NESAP project. The Acceleration of Access to Electricity in Niger (HASKÉ) project is a ten-year program approved in 2021 (for an amount of $800 million) that integrates grids, mini-grids, as well as off-grid solutions. network to provide electricity and non-polluting cooking facilities. The project will facilitate the acquisition of solar systems for productive purposes (including solar irrigation systems), focusing on vulnerable, women-led households and enterprises. Nearly 10,000 entrepreneurs and rural farmers are expected to benefit from solar systems that will allow them to reduce their production costs and increase their income.
L’Livelihood and Human Capital Improvement Initiative (a) Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) supported the design of the HASKÉ project through technical assistance and analytical work on sustainable business models for solar irrigation systems.
Beyond Niger, the $334 million funded Regional Off-Grid Electrification Project (ROGEP) aims to complement existing efforts at the national level through a harmonized regional approach. Covering 19 countries, the ROGEP project is designed to build capacity, contribute to an awareness campaign for solar products, and provide grants and loans to companies in the solar sector.
Distributed by African Media Agency pour the world bank
Source : African Media Agency (AMA)