Climate-Smart Agriculture: Solar Powered Pumps Empower Women Farmers

Apr 18, 2019 | All, Farmer Capability & Smart Farming, Women & Youth

‘When women benefit from irrigation technologies, this can lead to improved household nutrition and health’, Elizabeth Bryan and Hagar ElDidi, IFPRI.

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Christine Wajiru, 66 years-old, lives on a 1-acre farm in rural Kenya with no grid connection. Selling the milk from her two dairy cows, as well as the surplus maize on the half-acre on which she farms, is her main source of income.

For most of her farming life, Christine got her water from her 70m hand-dug well, where she would lower a 20-litre bucket, and use a pulley system to bring it to the surface. She would pull 10 buckets of water (200 litres) every day to meet her crop irrigation and domestic needs. She would rely on her husband to do the same and water the cows after he came home from work, but if he was too tired, their cows wouldn’t get enough water to produce much milk. Each cow was producing as little as 2 litres per day. This was having a negative effect on her income.

Christine’s situation is typical for most rural women. While water is central to any farming household, more than 70% of farm labour, including activities like finding and drawing water, are performed by women.  New and more appropriate technologies are often targeted at men, leaving women out. To address this inequality, AgriFin Accelerate supports farming-related service providers who set out to reach women farmers. AFA partnered with SunCulture, a solar micro-irrigation provider in Africa, to support their development of a targeted distribution strategy to ensure more women access the RainMaker, one of their products. The Rainmaker is a quality yet affordable solar water pump specially designed for smallholder farmers and their households. It can pump water from as deep as 100 meters to use for crop irrigation and livestock rearing, as well as domestic uses.

After hearing about SunCulture, Christine invested in a RainMaker, receiving the solar water pump under the pay-as-you-grow financing program. This has transformed her dairy and crop farming. She is now able to access up to 2,000 liters of water per day, which is more than enough for her domestic needs, as well as watering her cows and irrigating her half-acre of farmland. Her cows are now producing between 4 to 6 liters per day and with a more reliable water supply there is potential to increase her dairy productivity. When Christine is ready next year, SunCulture will refinance her to help her purchase a drip irrigation kit to pair with her water pump, through which she will be able to increase her crop yield further.

Through her investment in a Rainmaker, Christine not only increased the amount of water she has access to daily – she has been able to save time and energy which she would have used to draw water previously. This time she now can invest in her own leisure, her family, or even growing an additional business. All of which ensures her wellbeing as a woman.

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Lucy Kioko, Agriculture Product Manager, AgriFin Accelerate.

Marcus Watson, Partner, Dalberg Advisors