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Solar-powered irrigation significantly improves diet and income in rural sub-Saharan Africa
Date:1/10/2010

in poverty reduction has been studied extensively in Asia, relatively little has been written about the poverty and food security impacts in sub-Saharan Africa.

Benin demonstration sites

To address the lack of data, Burney and her colleagues monitored three 0.5-hectare (1.24-acre) solar-powered drip irrigation systems installed the Kalal district of northern Benin. The systems, which use photovoltaic pumps to deliver groundwater, were financed and installed by the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a nongovernmental organization.

"As with any water pump, solar-powered pumps save labor in rural off-grid areas where water hauling is traditionally done by hand by women and young girls," the authors said. "Though photovoltaic systems are often dismissed out-of-hand due to high up-front costs, they have long lifetimes, and in the medium-term, cost less than liquid-fuel-based pumping systems."

Solar-powered pumps also can be implemented in an easily maintained, battery-free configuration, they added, "thereby avoiding one of the major pitfalls of photovoltaic use in the developing world."

In November 2007, the research team began a close collaboration with local women's agricultural groups in two villages in rural Benin. In Village A, which draws surface water from a year-round stream, researchers worked with residents to install two identical solar-powered pumping systems. In Village B, which relies on groundwater irrigation, water was pumped from 25 meters (82 feet) below the surface. Each solar-powered pumping system was used by 30 to 35 women affiliated with an agricultural group. Each woman farmed her own 120-square meter (1,292-square foot) plot. The remaining plots were farmed collectively to fund group purchases and expenses.

The researchers also chose two control villages for comparison with Villages A and B. Women's agricultural groups in the control villages continued to irrigate by hand, allowing for
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Contact: Mark Shwartz
mshwartz@stanford.edu
831-915-0088
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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