According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, nearly 32 million people across drought-hit southern Africa are food insecure. Food insecurity and dependence on rain-fed water threatens the ability for subsistence farming as well as commercial farming in the marketplace. If an efficient irrigation system is available, these smallholder farmers can substantially increase their yield and income and improve their quality of life.
Reginald Mapfumo, southern Africa green energy manager for HIVOS, a Dutch NGO, said that farmers often face unreliable rain-fed agricultural seasons, but with irrigation it is possible to irrigate for three seasons a year. This means that food security for a family is almost guaranteed. Additionally, farmers can sell the surplus produce and diversify their crops to sell to local markets.
Toby Hammond, managing director for FuturePump, a company that designs and manufactures solar panels for smallholder farmers, said that access to technologies can help to ensure that smallholder farmers’ livelihoods are secure. Farmers depend on expensive and inefficient petrol and diesel pumps for irrigation, which have a high extraction rate of water. Solar-powered irrigation is more affordable as well as sustainable for the purpose.