Developing a supply chain for the solar-steam irrigation pump in Ethiopia


Today in sub-Saharan African, small-scale farmers who need irrigation source their water through labour intensive methods such as buckets or manual pumps, or with pumps driven by expensive fossil fuels.

Based on the needs of smallholder farmers, iDE, a non-profit organisation helping poor rural households, and PRACTICA foundation have designed a prototype low-cost solar-steam pump suitable for micro-irrigation. In field testing, the pump has shown consistent output exceeding the design goal of lifting 2,000 liters/day from a depth of 15 meters. It is now being refined to improve its reliability, affordability, versatility, simplicity and ease of manufacture.

To facilitate its widespread adoption, it is necessary to overcome farmer skepticism about RE based solutions, demonstrate the solar-steam irrigation pump in real conditions, and develop an efficient and sustainable supply chain for the technology.  This effort will not only provide rural markets with access to a RE powered pump, but is envisioned to be the first phase of a larger initiative to create a market for low-cost RE and EE technologies in Ethiopia, and eventually throughout Africa.


To facilitate the production, distribution and purchase of the solar-steam pump among small-scale farmers in Ethiopia, enabling them to access irrigation water in a low-cost, labour-saving and sustainable manner. 

Main Activities

  • Determine customer needs and demand for RE and EE technologies through the Human Centred Design (HCD) process and market assessments
  • Analyse existing supply chains and assess the pros and cons of local vs. international production
  • Produce a supply chain and market development strategy for the solar-steam pump
  • Implement promotional activities, including rural marketing and on-site demonstrations, to facilitate the creation of demand for the solar-steam pump
  • Train international, national and local supply chain actors on the product, its sales and servicing in rural areas

Expected Impact

  • Fundamental change in beliefs of small-scale farmers about the potential of RE and EE technologies to provide real benefits
  • Increased income for farmers, which is then reinvested contributing to family health, education and security
  • Significant market opportunity opened up for RE and EE technologies with small-scale farmers
  • Reduced diesel fuel expenses for poor farmers
  • Improved rural access to RE technologies
  • Stage set for larger programme to serve as a model for other developing countries
Programme sector: 

RE & EE (Business&Finance)

Stage of project: 





2011 - 2013


€ 294,000 including co-funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Implementing agency: 

IDE - International Development Enterprise

REEEP grant funded by: