Solar water pumps boost household micro-irrigation


Photo credit: IWMI

Farmer Jambo in Meki (Photo: Desalegne Tadesse)

The case of Ethiopia’s Rift Valley Region

Agriculture in the Rift Valley Region of Ethiopia is overwhelmingly rain-fed. This means that for much of the year it is too dry to grow crops. However, experts believe that the region has huge potential for the development of groundwater irrigation. In December 2015, IWMI, in collaboration with the LIVES project, installed small solar pumps at a number of locations in in the Bora and Dugda districts of East Shoa Zone (Oromia Region) and in Bonke district of Arba Minch Zuria (Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region).  Each solar pump has the capacity to lift water from 6 meters depth and irrigate 2000 sq.meter (0.2 hectares). They have a water discharging capacity of 0.5 litres per second. LIVES and IWMI are also testing three farming technologies; furrow systems (through CROPWAT), drip irrigation (partnering with iDE) andtraditional farm practices (aided by the new solar water pumps).


Why solar water pumps?

The smallholder farmers in the Rift Valley regions of Ethiopia that do currently irrigate usually produce cabbage, potato, onion and peppers. They rely heavily  on diesel motor pumps, hand and treadle pumps, rope and washer pulley systems and labor intensive spray can application. All these technologies have either high operational costs or inputs of labor.

The new solar pumps should make irrigation easier and are aligned with government policies to improve small scale irrigation development. Since they emit no carbon, they also contribute to more sustainable agricultural practices. The intention is to identify appropriate business models that can boost small scale irrigation development in Ethiopia by saving water, reducing costs, and manage natural resources more sustainably.


We asked researchers and famers what they thought about the initiative:

Read the full article: IWMI


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.