Along with benefits to individual farmers, solar pumps also help address the continent’s overall lack of irrigation. Indeed, only 5 percent of arable land in Africa is currently irrigated, compared to 40 percent of Asia. Tapping into Africa’s groundwater using solar pumps would provide the reliable access to water necessary to feed the continent’s growing population.
Winrock’s Pandey sees a parallel with India’s successful efforts to expand irrigation. “India tripled food production since independence [in 1947] with only 5 percent more land in production,” he said. “It came overwhelmingly from increased irrigation from individual pumps, where the agency for irrigation was with the individual farmer and not the government. Nobody expects African governments to provide irrigation.”
Research conducted for Juhudi Kilimo showed the profound impact a person’s income level has on their decision-making. “The lower your income levels are, the more short-term oriented you are because you have more pressing problems. You have children to feed, you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, you are worried about school fees,” said Elvin Walela, a senior partnership officer at Juhudi Kilimo.