Power Africa partner the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) is partnering with farmers and agricultural cooperatives across sub-Saharan Africa to help transform small-scale agriculture and create direct benefits for farmers feeding their communities.
Below are stories from seven countries that are taking steps to power their local economies:
Smallholder farming is a demanding livelihood anywhere in the world, and small-scale farmers have always faced the unpredictability of seasons and weather patterns. However, in sub-Saharan Africa the real-time impacts of climate change make smallholder agriculture among the most high-risk enterprises. Renewable energy solutions, particularly those that are delinked from the existing and often underperforming grid, offer the opportunity to help transform African small-scale agriculture and create direct impacts for farmers.
USADF works at the grassroots level to deliver off-grid renewable energy solutions and decrease reliance on fossil fuels — funding 49 productive uses of energy enterprises and supporting over 14 agricultural cooperatives to add renewable energy to their value chains to date. As part of the Agency’s 10-year Off-Grid Energy Challenge, USADF is helping to increase agricultural productivity, farmers’ incomes, and food security across the continent.
Rafode, a local microfinance institution in Kenya, received a grant investment of $150,000 from USADF in 2015. Later, USADF and the investment platform Nithio partnered to provide a blended finance investment to Rafode allowing them to provide solar powered irrigation pumps to 620 beneficiaries in 12 Kenyan counties including Turkana, which experiences very high levels of food insecurity.
Another Kenyan grantee, SolarGen, utilizes an Islamic financing-based lease-to-own model to implement climate smart irrigation technologies and help transform northern Kenya into a leading horticultural producer.
Renewable energy installations power livelihoods and make diesel generators redundant, saving thousands of liters of gas. In Somaliland, USADF grantee ClearSky Power deployed six solar installations totaling 94.25 kW for small and medium enterprises (SMEs), funded through a Sharia-compliant revolving loan system.
One 12.6 kW installation is powering an irrigation scheme at Sa’ad Saleban farm, which despite being an area highly affected by drought, is now successfully growing corn, onions, garlic, cabbage, coriander, and lettuce.
In Zimbabwe, Natfort Energy has sold more than 120 solar water pumps using a pay-as-you-go model. The pumps benefit over 500 farmers like Mbusi Mlalazi. Mbusi grows produce including rape, shallots, and cabbage and needed a reliable and efficient water source to increase productivity, prompting him to purchase a solar water pump from Natfort Energy. As a result, Mbusi now earns more than $400 per month selling surplus produce to150 households in his community.
Solar powered solutions are not only limited to irrigation. In Burkina Faso, Green Engineering Services (GES) used USADF seed funding to deploy 10 solar mills in rural villages, the first of its kind in the country. GES identified women’s cooperatives to run the mills, now serving 436 households and saving six liters of gas consumption daily. Since 2019, GES has installed over 47 solar-powered mills, increasing farmers’ incomes/food security by $1 daily — a meaningful number in Burkina Faso, where most of the population lives on less than $1.90 per day.
In Zambia, milk refrigeration is a challenge during the dry season. Dairy cows do not have enough fodder or silage to produce milk and must seek food from sites up to 30 kilometers away. In response, USADF and local dairy cooperatives Mungaila and Magoye partnered to install solar powered satellite milk collection centers, enabling farmers to increase productivity and income during the dry season.
In Malawi, USADF awarded solar company Green Impact Technologies with an expansion grant to deploy solar water pumps and home systems for irrigated farming, providing over 250 farmers with climate resilient technology and reaching more than 3,000 off-grid households.
In Mauritania, USADF and two cooperatives successfully developed and installed solar mini-grids to power irrigated garden plots with water pumping distribution systems. One cooperative, Ganki Toro, now produces year-round crops for household consumption and surplus sale in the local market — upwards of 247 tons of vegetables and approximately six times the previous production output. In the Trarza region, Coopérative Agricole Falokone successfully developed an irrigation system for rice and vegetable crops, increasing production by 36 percent.
Weather patterns are no longer what they were a generation, or even a decade, ago and African farmers desperately need tools like solar powered irrigation, milling, and refrigeration services to adapt in the face of rapidly changing weather patterns. USADF and Power Africa are committed to helping scale up these off-grid renewable energy technologies to help transform small-scale agriculture and create direct impact for farmers and communities in the coming year and beyond.