Solar Irrigation Systems in Mozambique: Deep Dive with Experts

From energypedia

Webinar: Solar Irrigation Systems (SPIS) in Mozambique - Deep Dive with Experts


Helena Macune - AMER

Ricardo Pereira - AMER


Berry Van Del Pol - Pratica Foundation

Killan Blumrnthal – Giz Kenya

Business Model for SPIS

Panel Discussion

Here are all the questions that were asked during the panel discussion

1. What are the things to be considered while planning a SPIS for smallholder farmers?

Before developing a SPIS system, a rigorous study study should be done to understand who is providing the system, the targeted beneficiaries and what components will be used.

2. How to prevent overpumping using a SPIS ?

Many times the problem is not with the system, but with proper sizing of the system. To prevent overpumping, following system is needed:

  • Crop water requirement;
  • The climate of the region;
  • The structure of the soil to be irrigated;
  • Specifications of the level and gradient of the water source; and
  • At what time during the day the irrigation system will be used.

By collecting the above data it is possible to get the optimal pump size for SPIS. Also, when a SPIS is designed for an individual person it is easier to properly size it.

3. How easily can smallholder farmers operate and maintain a SPIS? Do they require training? What have been your experiences so far?

It is easy to manage irrigation systems (surface pumps) for farmers because it is just turning the button on and off, for other forms of water pumping it is difficult as the companies that offers SPIS do not take time to give farmers the instructions on how to use the equipment. For eg, from Berry's research, only 40% of the companies that sell irrigation systems gave instructions on how to use the equipment and 60% did not, which ends up making life difficult for the farmer.

4. What are the main components that an O&M manual should contain?

The manual should include:

- How the system works,

- What are the individual system components

- What are the things farmers should do and not do in case the system malfunctions,

- How to set up the system,

- Contacts for maintenance companies, and

- Ensure that the maintenance of the system is done by certified companies.

5. How important is it to clean the panels? What are the recommendations?

Dirt reduces the efficiency of the panel and degrades the components quickly when exposed, which will impair the performance of the pump, in this sense it is important to clean the panel with a dry or damp cloth and also control the box that contains the charge controllers, inverter, among other components so as not to leave them exposed to dirt/dust and it is important to keep these components in a closed place.

7. How do subsidies work for solar systems in Kenya?

In Kenya there are still many difficulties regarding subsidies for solar systems because the government has many limitations regarding financing for these projects. The banks also charge very high rates. But there are asset financing mechanisms where you sell the system with a 20% down payment and then pay the rest in installments.

8. What kind of knowledge do companies need to have to supply the solar irrigation systems on the market?

First of all, they must know the market they are in, who they are selling the system to, what is the purpose of the pumps and if there is an after-sales service including installation and maintenance. The company must be structured to not only sell, but to provide all the services during pre and post-sale of these systems. It is also necessary to know what area the market is in and have a target area where these pumps will be sold.

It is necessary to have technical knowledge about the systems, although the manufacturers already have this information in advance, however the companies should have this information so that in cases of doubt the farmers can be enlightened regarding the operation of the pumps. Have the ability to recognize that the supply is not only of the system but of a service.

9. Which are the local companies that sell solar irrigation systems in Mozambique?

This information can be found on energypedia: Solar Powered Irrigation in Mozambique : Market Landscape

10. How do the subsidy payments for solar irrigation systems work, and do you have any success stories?

In Kenya, there is no fund for subsidizing solar irrigation systems yet, so there is no way of saying if there is any success story in this regard. For the suppliers, there are a few companies here in Kenya that work with the solar irrigation system, and one of the famous ones called SUNCULTURE. The limitation in the ability to finance the systems for the agricultural sector, is due to risk aversion, both for suppliers as well as Banks and the Government. Asset financing is one of the popular options for financing solar irrigation systems.

11. Do you believe that solar systems can help in food security and poverty eradication? To what extent can the systems be exploited in agribusiness development? If yes, what are the possible challenges?

Yes, they can be a solution, but you have to be honest about when they are feasible and when they are not, when to use them and when not to use them, because although they are an answer they are not a solution for everything. This is necessary to avoid discontent and grief, having a clear difference of pumps to use, for example the diesel pumps are used at the time you need to irrigate 2 hectares, but the solar system pumps work as the sun provides energy, so it is not just a matter of switching on and off as the diesel pumps, and often the solar pumps work well in combination with other technologies.

At various times solar pumps are much better, and at a depth of 7 to 10 m where there is a lot of water, the effort that a Diesel pump makes is much greater than the effort that a solar pump makes, so it is almost ideal to use a system of irrigation pumps, the so-called submersible pumps, when you are extracting water from a certain depth.

They are an answer, they can be used in the quest to decrease poverty levels, but they have to be used honestly and in the right context, and not simply as a solution for everything and everyone.

12. Final Considerations

Berry: For me the acquisition costs of pumps is still expensive, especially in Mozambique where I have experience in. Since, the costs of pumps are high compared to Kenya, without a financial solution, this situation will not improved. Like in Kenya the PAYGO system, although it has not arrived here in Mozambique for the irrigation systems, can make the systems affordable. In Mozambique we (Pratica Foundation) have been working with GIZ to make this possible, and for more information you can find the expression of interest for grants for companies on energypedia)

Killian: We talk a lot about irrigation systems in the agricultural sector, taking into account climate change, and in this sense solar irrigation systems are more sustainable, innovative, and so companies need to see that despite the competition between companies, the costs are high, there should be some kind of subsidy to reduce costs. Also look at the sizing of the system, the verification of the amount of water available at the source, the financing problems, field policy problems, and so on, the companies that provide the systems should also provide the after-sales services in this sector, and see if with these factors it will be possible to eliminate these barriers with respect to irrigation based on solar systems, making the technology affordable or vice versa.

As for the challenges and efforts made to promote solar irrigation systems, the panelists recommended that although at various times solar pumps are ideas for irrigation systems, it is necessary for the entities/individuals providing solar products and services to be honest about when solar pumps are feasible and when they are not feasible for a given project.

Participant Carmen Mariado (Mozambican) shared during the webinar, that through the private finance advisory network it is possible to get free training and investment facilitation, especially for Renewable Energy projects.

For more information her contact information is: