Smallholder farmers in Ghana, who rely primarily on rainfed agriculture, are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In semi-arid northern Ghana, 90% of the population depends on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods. The predicted increase in temperature due to climate change could cause a decrease in the length of the wet season, an increase in rainfall intensity (i.e. increased risk of flooding), an increase in the number of dry days per month, and more frequent heatwaves. The fluctuating frequency and volume of rainfall directly affects water availability for agriculture, leading to decreased productivity for smallholder farmers and prolonged periods of food insecurity. The agriculture sector in Ghana employs about 47% of the country’s labour force, most of which are smallholder farmers who produce about 80% of the country’s total food. They are negatively impacted by a reliance on existing agricultural practices that still use rudimentary technology.
Solar powered irrigation systems (SPIS) provide a flexible and renewable energy source that would enable smallholder farmers to access water resources in an efficient manner during periods of water scarcity, benefiting productivity and food security. Rather than solely depending on rainfall for irrigation, smallholder farmers would benefit from irrigation systems that efficiently utilise available surface water and ground water reservoirs. SPIS provides reliable and affordable energy for irrigation especially in remote rural areas where diesel fuel is expensive or where access to electricity from the grid is lacking. As costs for solar powered irrigation systems (SPIS) have dramatically decreased over the past decade, solar technologies are becoming a viable option for smallholder farmers. Although SPIS technology has been widely introduced for agriculture in some countries, it has not as yet fully penetrated the Ghanaian market. Several barriers remain to its uptake, including high capital costs, lack of information and training, the absence of an integrated equipment supply chain and certification standards, access to finance and insufficient enabling policies and institutional frameworks. The government of Ghana has constrained resources, both in meeting the gap between formal and informal irrigation systems but also in the capacity and skills required for solar powered irrigation systems,
Taking into consideration SPIS that build on any existing hard technology options and soft technology solutions that create an enabling environment to enable the uptake and dissemination of the technology (policy, financing, training), the objective is to provide a sustainable and efficient means of irrigation for smallholder farmers by providing the following:
- bankable proof of technology concept, including available technology options best suited to smallholder farmers along with a cost-benefit analysis;
- policy and legislature framework for technology standards and certification;
- financing structures targeted at smallholder farmers;
- training modules for stakeholders across the supply chain.
Obtaining access to a sustainable source of water supply through SPIS could enable women engaged in agricultural practices in Ghana to improve agricultural productivity and food security for their families. In addition, providing solar irrigation solutions at the farm site will increase security for women, who have typically needed to walk long distances to access water, and allow them to spend their time on other activities. In addition, by increasing the productivity of smallholder farmers and targeting women specifically, it is more likely that additional revenue will be spent on healthcare, children’s education and nutritious meals.
Importantly, diesel use would be curtailed, reducing concerns regarding air pollution and other health issues.
Lastly, the provision of SPIS would contribute to Ghana’s NDC, which references improved water resource management as an adaptation intervention, increased penetration of renewable energy solutions for rural areas, increased agriculture resilience for food security, and increased community-based conservation agriculture.