Author: UNDP Sudan/Will Seal
Agriculture offers significant opportunities in Sudan but often relies on diesel-powered water pumps. Introducing solar technology has increased land use & productivity by nearly 50%.
Divided by the Nile and rich in fertile land, Sudan’s agricultural opportunities are vast, and a lifeline for poverty alleviation and the country’s troubled economy.
Roughly one-third of Sudan’s 1.886 million km² is suitable for agriculture. But, while some parts are highly productive, others struggle with limited water or electricity supply and other barriers.
For many farmers, the solution is simple: using diesel-powered pumps to irrigate fields from nearby wells or waterways. However, limited electrical grid access means reliance on fossil fuels, bringing a host of problems.
In remote areas, fuel can be difficult to source. And, regardless of location, regular nationwide shortages and potential subsidy-reduction cost increases mean fossil fuels remain problematic – irrespective of carbon emissions or ongoing maintenance costs.
To demonstrate the potential of renewables in Sudan, a US$4.4m Global Environmental Facility (GEF) grant allowed UNDP to trial 29 solar-pumped farms in the Sahara-encompassed Northern State. This provided two years (four seasons) of crucial data and experience for farmers before rolling out an additional 1,440 pumps by 2022.
Complementing this, an additional 450 solar pumps are planned in River Nile State with support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
For Abdel Rahman Isam Ahmed and his family, the results have been immediate and transformative.
“I was not eager to farm before,” he said. “I became interested only after I saw the benefits of solar energy with regards to savings.”
“The output from growing date palms using solar pumps is covering the expenses of three families in our household. Before, I had a lot of overheads for running the farm, now we only need the sun and boom, water comes out for us and we just plant.”
“The same plot of land now cultivated by solar energy was using 16-17 gasoline barrels,” said Al-Fatih.
“Solar energy has really made our lives easier, we used to buy a lot of gasoline and spare parts for the pumps and bring it over using small canoes. Now, we come over only to see how far the plants have grown, we really have less things to worry about now.”
“I can’t begin to explain how much good solar energy has brought to us,” said Aicha, who has been able to increase her family’s income, light her home and put her time to more productive use.
Abdel Rahman, Al-Fatih and Aicha’s successes were replicated across the 29 farms, with 257 kWp of solar-generated energy cultivating 463 acres in total. An in-depth analysis of 11 farms demonstrated the productive impact.
With reliable, constant power the threat of ruinous losses from incomplete farming cycles due to a lack of fuel has been…