Solar Irrigation Helping Senegalese Farmers

By 2050, the world will need to produce 70 percent more food than we did in 2007 to feed a global population expected to reach 9.6 billion, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Increased food production means a greater demand for energy. But many farmers in developing countries do not have access to clean and affordable modern energy. Moreover, they are often unaware of what technology might enable them to farm more efficiently and have no way to finance the up-front costs of new technology.

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development, launched by the United States Agency for International Development and international partners, provides grants to entities exploring clean energy solutions for agriculture that have the potential to be scaled up. In 2013, the Earth Institute at Columbia University received a grant for its pilot Acacia Irrigation project in Senegal.

Senegalese farmers (over 85 percent of agriculture workers are women) typically irrigate their fields by hand, carrying water from wells with buckets, or use diesel pumps, which are expensive to fuel at approximately one dollar a day.