Smallholder farmers in Mozambique embrace solar energy
10 March 2020 Elisabeth Kisakye
By Elisabeth Kisakye
‘’We set up the water pump, we follow the sun, align the panel, the water comes out and we start irrigating,” said Ines Maria Paulo, a smallholder farmer and president of the Wanga Udje Farmers Club.
Paulo lives in Mozambique, a country that is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. With 90% of the population relying on agriculture for their livelihoods, protecting the country’s smallholder farms is crucial for helping to buffer the country from the worst impacts of climate change and reducing poverty.
A project implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), with the financial support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), is helping smallholder farmers to use renewable energy to increase their harvests and ensure their resilience in the face of climate change.
The UNIDO project, Towards sustainable energy for all in Mozambique, is introducing solar-powered water pumping and small irrigation systems as methods to enhance the production capacity of smallholder farmers.
Since 2018, as part of this project, UNIDO has partnered with the non-governmental organization, Ajuda de Desenvolvimento de Povo para Povo (ADPP, Development Aid From People to People) to implement a community project that uses photovoltaic irrigation systems for agricultural activities in the central provinces of Zambezia, Sofala and Tete.
Through its Farmers Club programme, the ADPP works with small-scale farmers to increase agricultural household income in a sustainable manner. As Abdulahi Chabane, a smallholder farmers' project coordinator in the Nhamatanda district of Sofala Province, explained, “In the demonstration fields, farmers learn about the negative impacts of some of their practices on the environment and about sustainable ways to mitigate the effects of global warming, while ensuring the food security of their families. A total of 32,000 small-scale farmers in eight provinces have been trained intensively since the beginning of the Farmers’ Club programme.”
In the project inception phase, 20 farmers’ clubs received SF1 pumps. The SF1 is a portable and robust solar irrigation pump created for seasonal vegetable farmers. It offers an environmentally sustainable alternative to gasoline and diesel-powered pumps, which are expensive and lock farmers into recurring fuel costs. Around 1,000 farmers benefitted directly and 5,000 indirectly.
According to Pedrito Andre Sete, the President of the Cheia Farmers Club in the Nhamatanda district of Sofala Province, “This model has the capacity of to irrigate 0.25 hectare. Now we have five bigger systems with the capacity to irrigate one hectare.”
In addition to the distribution of solar pumps for irrigation, the project has helped to increase awareness about renewable energy technologies through numerous capacity-building sessions held to emphasize the importance of clean technology adoption not only for environmental conservation, but also for increased agricultural productivity.
Today, the 20 farmers’ clubs that participated in the project are able to independently assemble, start and conduct pump maintenance, as well as ensure proper water use and management.
One of the farmers, Ines Maria Paulo could not hold back her joy as she described how things have changed since they embraced the solar water pumps. She explained that before, farmers used to toil fetching water from a well to irrigate their crops. Now they have witnessed increased crop production and income generation with the use of the solar water pumps.
Paulo enthused, “The quantities of crops we are selling today, like pepper, green beans, lettuce, onions and corn, are surpassing what we used to grow before, when we used watering cans.”
To date, the project has installed 80 photovoltaic systems irrigating 31 hectares of land cultivated by 4,000 farmers.
“By using the irrigation system, the income of the farmers has been increasing in comparison to other farmers who are not using a solar irrigation system. Besides, farmers now have the ability to irrigate regularly all year round and are not dependent on rainwater,” said Jose Paulo Sara, a smallholder farmer in the Beira district, Sofala Province.