Modelling and Assessment

Water-Energy-Food Nexus Assessment of Solar Energy Farming Interactions // The Azraq Case in Jordan with Insights from India

By Mohammad Al-Saidi. This report focuses on experiences with solar energy farming (SEF), and in particular the solar energy farming project in the Azraq basin in Jordan (referred to as SEF Azraq). SEF Azraq sought to encourage farmers to substitute farming with livelihoods as solar farmers. This report aims at generating relevant recommendations for the implementation of SEF projects in Jordan and the Arab region by integrating lessons learnt from SEF Azraq, insights from a water-energy-food nexus (referred to as nexus) assessment, and experiences from international cases on SEF, particularly in India.

In this sense, the analysis in this report is carried out in four main parts:

  1. a SEF nexus assessment;
  2. an in-depth analysis of SEF Azraq;
  3. a presentation of international SEF experiences with a special focus on India; and
  4. lessons learnt and illustration of options for enhancing SEF in Jordan and the region.

Summary

Agricultural water use has increased greatly over the last decades, globally well as in the most arid and hot environments. Reducing water use in the oversized and inefficient agricultural sectors in the Arab world represents a valuable societal project for ensuring a sustainable future. Promoting renewable energies is another such crucial project that will help in saving money, promoting low-carbon lifestyles, and developing clean production systems. These two projects can be linked in innovations such as SEF in order to create exemplary water-energy-food nexus synergies. SEF projects and public programmes exist worldwide, each presenting unique integration challenges. However, they are rarely motivated by water-sector concerns. A majority of SEF projects are developed as either modes of increasing solar energy or a reaction to the impacts of its dissemination. Solar energy is promoted in agriculture-strong countries such as India in order to promote energy and water access and improve the livelihoods of poor farmers. SEF in industrialised countries such as the USA, Canada or Japan focus on joint use of land for energy and agriculture. With solar energy becoming cheaper and more accessible, its dissemination starts to effect water use. However, it must not result in increased water use. It can be harnessed towards changing resource-use patterns to better reflect available resource potentials.

Solar energy for water abstraction and other productive on-farm uses is sorely needed for agriculture in the Arab region. It improves farmers’ resilience, produc- tivity, and income. However, water poverty is a major constraint for agriculture in the region. Reforming agriculture implies two important measures: reducing water use via improved efficiency, and releasing farmers towards more productive industries. SEF provides an alternative or additional income for farmers as solar farmers. While SEF will not lead to competitive jobs for famers of the required magnitude, it helps to mitigate the impacts of agricultural restructuring. Importantly, it can incentivise farmers to reduce water pumping or rethink irrigation patterns when set as a precondition for access to solar technology.

This report has highlighted insights from many recent SEF endeavours that aim at linking solar farming to water issues in a smart and integrated manner. It recom- mends the use of a WEF nexus perspective, more integrated approaches, inter- disciplinary and cross-sectoral feasibility studies, and smart design of subsidies and technologies. The comparison of the Indian and Jordanian experiences shows commonalities such as the concern about groundwater depletion. At the same time, Jordan’s experience with SEF is modest and recent. The example of the Azraq SEF project can be developed to serve as a valuable vision for future integrated and smart SEF initiatives in Jordan and the Arab World. The Indian case provides important lessons about the consequences of failures to address water issues, and the impacts of adverse incentives in projects linking solar energy to agriculture. At the same time, many new innovative designs link solar energy and water use in agriculture in promising public policies and projects. Much can be gained from updating SEF projects while reflecting the needs and contexts in Jordan and the Arab world. Strong public leadership and concrete commitments from public institutions in the energy, agricultural and water sectors are prerequisites for the viability of SEF. The degree of success or failure will depend on the careful design of the projects. This includes a careful study of the intervention case and the technical and non-technical options. It also means involving stakeholders and improving their capacities throughout the preparation and implementation phases of a SEF project.

Download

Nexus Resource Platform website

Published

March 2018

By

Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme (NRD)
c/o. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

The Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme (NRD) is a programme funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Further reading

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