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Using the sun to water Tanzanian fields

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Most Tanzanian farmers use diesel pumps to water their fields when there is no rain. But the pumps are polluting and not reliable. Switching to solar panels is a more attractive and less expensive alternative. The Tanzanian Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) wants to help farmers use the sun to water their fields.

Water the plants when they need water

The diesel generators only last a few years. After being used for only a month, they no longer burn all the fuel. As a result, the generator gives off thick black clouds of smoke. Although the farmers have access to electricity, running a power line to one's property is expensive. Besides, electricity bills are higher than the costs of diesel.

Dr Ing. Matthew Matimbwi from TAREA has researched alternative energy sources. TAREA has concluded that solar irrigation systems are the most affordable, even if they need a higher investment than diesel generators. Solar pumps are cheaper to operate as they do not need diesel. Solar pumps are also cheaper in the long run; the return on investment comes after 2.6 years.

Another benefit is the increase in annual yields, as farmers can manage water content in the soil. "Some farmers depend completely on rain to irrigate their plants," Dr Matimbwi explains. "But with the solar pump, they can water the plants when they need water."

Quality standards

"When solar equipment first became available, many people bought it," Dr Matimbwi says. "But the market mainly offered cheap, low-quality equipment. People thought that solar technology did not work. But they did not realise they had bought low-quality equipment." To make sure there are proper standards for solar pumps, TAREA and the Tanzania Bureau of Standards are working together. Also, to ensure that the quality standards for solar pumps will be enforced.

The need to include policy-makers

TAREA informs farmers and policy-makers about the potential of solar-powered irrigation. The Tanzanian agricultural policy does not charge VAT on agricultural equipment. TAREA expects the government to include solar pumps in their Irrigation Masterplan. This will open the solar pump market for Tanzanian farmers.

Energy Transition Facility

The NGO TAREA received financial support from the Energy Transition Facility (ETF). ETF was a collaboration between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Netherlands Enterprise Agency. The programme aimed to support countries in the Middle East and Africa with their shift to a more sustainable energy supply. In doing so, ETF helped to achieve sustainable development goals.

You may also find it interesting to read more on increasing the use of solar-powered pumps in Tanzania.

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