Without access to power, agriculture can be an uphill battle—literally. For instance, pumping water uphill to irrigate fields becomes an arduous task that relies on heavy labour. In turn, this reduces the yield capacity, increases costs per acre, and can lead to poor quality products.
In many rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), access to reliable grid electricity is not a near-future reality. According to the World Bank, the majority of the hundreds of millions of people living in these areas rely on agricultural activities to sustain their families. Without power, low farm yields and food insecurity are the current and near-future reality.
WATT’s Battery Energy Storage System (BESS)
The success of our agricultural projects in SSA act as proof that adding sustainable power to agriculture operations is one way to shift this trajectory. WATT Renewables has commissioned, installed, and overseen dozens of renewable energy solutions for off-grid farms in these regions.
WATT decentralized sustainable energy systems for off-grid areas include BESS (battery energy storage system) solutions. By combining renewable energy collection with a battery system, we can provide farmers with a stable and reliable power source.
The practical difference this makes is immeasurable. Even a solution as simple as a solar-powered water pump and irrigation system can provide immense and immediate benefits for farmers, their families, and their communities. It can also lead to worldwide impacts, from reducing pollution and global warming to improving overall food security.
The Results of Generating Sustainable Energy on Farms in SSA
The relationship between sustainable power and agriculture in SSA is largely cyclical. Current conditions do not allow farmers to improve or scale their operations at any significant rate. High labour costs, low yields, and dependence on unpredictable factors like weather patterns prevent growth in agricultural outputs.
However, this changes drastically when off-grid renewable energy sources are integrated. At the production level, access to consistent power makes agricultural production easier, faster, less costly. In turn, these benefits lead farmers to gain access to larger and more profitable markets and scale their farming operations, ensuring better outcomes for farmers and added food security for communities and rural regions. At the global level, access to renewable energy resources reduces the impact on the environment. In turn, this creates greater environmental stability for farmers.
Better Yields for Improve Efficiency, Productivity, and Profitability
It’s common that regions in SSA without access to power experience lower yields on average from their agricultural activities. Boosting farm yields is of critical concern for the people and communities in these areas. One of the main challenges is the level of manual labour required for caring for crops and livestock. When powered options are available, yields can be drastically increased. In turn, this improves efficiency for a plot of land, which means there is more productivity overall, and increased profitability for farmers. Renewable power also relieves continuous long-term spending on other fuel products, such as diesel, leading to additional cost-savings.
Better Product Quality
Product quality suffers for many reasons when grid access isn’t available to farmers, which in turn lowers output and inhibits access to larger and more globally widespread markets. First, there is the manual labour required for tilling, ploughing, weeding, and planting, which often leads to subpar conditions for plants.
Another primary obstacle to product quality is the lack of availability of cooled storage for post-harvest products. Cooling after harvest provides longer shelf lives for agricultural products, but these systems are not widely available due to a lack of consistent energy. With the BESS system, reliability is incorporated into the system, allowing farmers to cool and store produce for longer periods of time so they can be shipped.
Community and Global-Level Benefits
The future of food security in SSA is in question. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (A Global Initiative for the United Nations) writes that “on the one hand, the population [of SSA] is growing rapidly and needs an abundant supply of affordable and nutritious food, while on the other, farmers do not have the right incentives and access to investment to raise productivity.” There are undoubtedly many ways to raise productivity in these regions, including providing solutions for access to renewable, off-grid energy.
Farmers make their living (and often gain sustenance) from their operations. Low yields and high costs contribute to a cycle of poverty in rural SSA. The World Bank states that “the UNEP estimates that every 10% increase in farm yield has led to a 7% decrease in poverty in Africa.” Better outcomes for farmers lead to better outcomes for entire communities.
Reducing Climate Change
Although much of the labour on farms in regions without grid access is performed manually, there is also a high reliance on diesel and gas-powered equipment. Compounded with global impacts on the climate due to pollution, these conditions create instabilities in the weather system. Without efficient or effective irrigation systems, farmers have to wait for the rain. Without the rain, their crops suffer. Again, climate change is a cycle that farmers in these areas can’t fight without more sustainable solutions.
Financing Opportunities for Off-Grid Systems
An investment in advancing opportunities for SSA farmers is an investment that has sustainability at its core. WATT Renewables is seeking motivated investors with sustainable investing goals to be part of our upcoming projects in Africa and North America. If you would like more information about our past successes, the technology, or our start-to-finish renewable energy solutions, reach out to us directly!