Solar-Powered Irrigation in Kenya: Futurepump

Agriculture is the lifeblood of Kenya’s economy. To reduce poverty in the country, Kenya must improve its agricultural production, generate employment and prosperity, and feed a growing population. Irrigation is a key element of agrifood development, but current diesel-powered irrigation pumps are highly polluting and carbon intensive.

Futurepump, has developed a new model to enable smallholder farmers in Kenya to adopt sustainable irrigation solutions with a proprietary solar powered irrigation pump, combined with a finance programme that allows for flexible payments.

 

Background

As in many developing countries, agriculture is the lifeblood of Kenya’s economy, directly responsible for over a quarter of GDP and a fifth of formal employment (and over 70% of informal jobs in rural areas). 

A key element to improve agricultural production is irrigation. However, only 4% of irrigable land is currently under irrigation. To advance productivity and wealth generation in the agricultural sector, irrigation will need to expand to cover the full potential of irrigable land, a trend already well underway. Currently, diesel engine irrigation pumps are powering this expansion, a reality that will – if unchecked – lead to considerable growth in CO2 and particulate matter pollution. Investment in alternative technologies is lacking due to gaps in finance, understanding and know-how among primary segments.

REEEP estimates that broad expansion of a market for a renewable alternative could result in nearly 3 million tonnes CO2 of emissions avoidance per year by 2030. 

 

Purpose

Now receiving its second round of financing from REEEP, Futurepump has developed a new model to allow smallholder farmers in Kenya to adopt sustainable irrigation solutions with a proprietary solar powered irrigation pump, combined with an end-user finance programme that allows for flexible payments at a time when the farmer is gaining the economic benefits from irrigating their lands.

Kenya’s solar potential makes solar powered irrigation pumps, combined with low-pressure drip systems, an attractive technology that can drastically improve crop yields, productivity and farmer income while avoiding massive amounts of GHG Emissions.

 

Main Activities

With this innovative model, Futurepump is able to reach even very low income farmers with less than one acre of land – which constitute the majority of the agricultural sector in Kenya. By addressing a key barrier in up-front cost, and by targeting the market segment accounting for the majority of production (yet is most difficult to reach via conventional sales models), FuturePump’s model holds great potential for transforming the irrigation sector in the country from a product to a service model (affordable irrigation water) with flexible payment.

Expected Impact

Solar-Powered Irrigation in Kenya: Potential Market Impact

Direct Impact for Farmers

  • Cost savings in fuel and labour
  • Increase in crop yield 
  • A third growing season
 
Stage of project: 

Ongoing

Location: 

Kenya

Implementing agency: 

Futurepump