The Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) will soon launch a new effort to promote research on the use of solar energy in irrigation to boost farming, especially in drought-prone areas of Eastern Province. RAB is looking into running field trials for a solar-powered irrigation technology developed by a fresh graduate of the University of Rwanda.
The innovation project seeks to make the most of wetlands in drought-prone areas during dry season by using solar energy to pump water from these sources into fields for small-scale farmers.
A solar-powered irrigation system is a pump running on electricity generated by photovoltaic panels or the thermal energy available from collected sunlight as opposed to grid electricity or diesel run water pumps.
This technology is not entirely new in its scope as it has been widely used over the years across the world. In the region, the technology is the boon of many farmers in Kenya. The idea of running solar energy might sound grand for many a small-scale farmer in a developing nation like ours, but its operation is more economical in terms of both labour, finance and to environmental impact.
Whereas many farmers have dreams of using the technology, they are held back by lack of capital as prices for solar panels, tubes and water tanks are too prohibiting for many. This calls for RAB to heighten efforts to promote the technology to stakeholders in the agriculture sector such as the National Climate and Environment Fund, who can be enticed into funding such projects.
Due to climate change, the global environment is increasingly leaning in disfavour of farming activities, meaning farmers have to adopt new technology to make the most of their farmlands if the country will continue winning the food security battles.
With solar-powered irrigation pumps, agriculture is possible in non-arable fields. Also, farmers do not have to wait for the rains as irrigation would ensure yearlong farming activity.
It’s encouraging that RAB has been giving technology that seeks to make breakthroughs in cost-effective irrigation system in the country a chance through pilot projects and field trials. However, much more needs to be done in promoting such technology so that the purchase of necessary equipment needed for their furtherance is guaranteed.