event 20 Apr 2018

Solar-powered Irrigation Systems // The Benefits and Risks of Solar-powered Irrigation - A Global Overview

By Hans Hartung and Lucie Pluschke. This report takes stock of the experiences with SPIS around the world. What are the real costs and benefits of SPIS compared with other technologies? What rules, regulations and policies are needed to manage the risks and realize the potential of such systems? What are viable business models? How can smallholders benefit? How can the risk of groundwater depletion be addressed effectively? How can SPIS help to empower women and promote gender equity? What types of capacity development programmes are needed to support farmers, extension workers, local private sectors and others? What are the opportunities for knowledge exchange and technology transfer?

Cover spis benefits and risks of solar powered irrigation fao

There are also challenges with the uptake and use of SPIS that this report explores. It finds that access to finance, especially for small-scale farmers, as well as the accessibility of good quality products and services remains an issue in many countries. Further capacity development activities are needed to ensure to users have a basic understanding of set-up and functions of the system, and can take care of the daily operation and maintenance.

In line with this, FAO and GIZ have also developed a Toolbox on Solar-Powered irrigation Systems for advisors.

The report also stresses the importance of water resources assessments and planning to avoid increasing pressures on water resources. By reducing costs, SPIS can improve people’s access to water. Nevertheless, without incentive to moderate water consumption, there is a strong risk of overexploitation, and even depletion of water resources. Coupling SPIS with efficient irrigation methods, such as drip irrigation, does not guarantee that water is saved. Water is simply reallocated to a greater area of land, more water-intensive crops, an additional cropping season, or to other uses. In some cases, water is sold to neighbours, generating an extra income for farmers and adding further pressure on water resources where they are scarce.

This report looks at how different countries work to create an enabling environment for SPIS technologies, while managing the risks and challenges that come with it. As such, it is a timely reflection of past and future trends and clearly highlights the interlinked nature of water, energy and agriculture.


FAO website


March 2018


Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC)

In 2012, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Sweden (SIDA), the Government of Germany (BMZ), Duke Energy Corporation and the United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC (collectively, the “Founding Partners”) combined resources to create the “Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development” (PAEGC) initiative. The objective of PAEGC is to support new and sustainable approaches to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy solutions to increase agriculture productivity and/or value for farmers and agribusinesses in developing countries and emerging regions that lack access to reliable, affordable clean energy.

PAEGC utilizes the financial and technical resources of its Founding Partners to support its innovator cohort’s implementation of clean energy technologies and business models that: (i) enhance agricultural yields/productivity; (ii) decrease post-harvest loss; (iii) improve farmer and agribusiness income-generating opportunities and revenues; and/or (iv) increase energy efficiency and associated savings within the operations of farms and agribusinesses – while stimulating lowcarbon economic growth within the agriculture sector of developing countries and emerging regions.

For more information: PoweringAg.org

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