Online interactive tool for sustainable upscaling of smallholder solar irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa
It is estimated that about 110-370 million smallholder farmers could benefit from various small scale irrigation technologies. Among them, solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies has emerged as a potential leading technology for smallholder irrigation, with significant investments already underway in Africa. This rapid increase of solar based irrigation activities shows potential for scaling, but also suggests the need for informed planning to avoid negative consequences, such as water resource depletion. Such concerns have generated demand for geo-spatial information from both governments and private sector to guide sustainable investments in solar powered irrigation systems (SPIS). This project proposes to develop an online, interactive solar suitability tool that will inform and strengthen planning and management of solar pump irrigation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) whilst reducing the risks of negative consequences such as water resource depletion. The online tool will incorporate open access geo-spatial information that can be used by development banks; private sector companies; agriculture, water and irrigation ministries and agency technical experts to improve identification of suitable areas, and related feasibility, for SPIS. IWMI developed a solar suitability framework to inform SPIS investment decisions with solar suitability maps. The framework which has been tested in Ethiopia, Ghana and Mali, takes into account factors that influence feasibility for SPIS, including solar irradiation, landscape features, groundwater and surface water resources, and market access. This project seeks to extend the application of the solar suitability framework developed by IWMI for Ethiopia, Ghana and Mali to the entire Sub-Saharan Africa region. Geo-spatial information for all of sub-Saharan Africa will be used to refine the framework and to incorporate crop water requirement estimates, information on in-field water abstraction by smallholder farmers, and additional information on water availability. Access to this online mapping tool and information will improve outcomes from public and private investments in SPIS by enabling sustainable scaling of SPIS by smallholder and commercial farmers. Inputs from SPIS stakeholders including project partners GIZ and Future Pump would be used to design the tool in order to provide inputs to policy making, allow for more detailed water resource studies, inform regulations on SPIS expansion and water abstraction, and support the development of context-based business models, thereby minimizing potential negative environmental impacts from SPIS investments.