Last July, Zambia found itself in the midst of a crippling energy crisis caused by low water levels in the reservoirs for hydropower generation. Load shedding (cutting off supply to parts of the power grid) became the norm, sending politicians into a frenzy because electricity is the lifeblood of the economy. The blackouts had many negative knock-on effects for food producers. For example, while some large-scale poultry farmers were able to switch to alternative energy sources, such as generators to power vital equipment such as refrigerators, many of their smaller-scale fellows were unable to make this investment and lost income. And dairy farmers were faced with a range of other challenges related to the load shedding, as their plants can take several hours to regenerate after each power cut. Of course the lack of rainfall meant there was also less water for farmers. While there is a general need in Zambia to increase irrigation to bridge droughts and dry spells and improve yields, in cases like this irrigation would be in direct competition with hydropower generation for any stored water. Power cuts today or a poor harvest next month – which is worse? Similar dilemmas face countries all over Africa.