(ERGO) – An irrigation scheme in Puntland is gradually changing the approach to farming after years of reliance on rain-fed agriculture.
With no rivers to tap for irrigation and very minimal rainfall, farmers are adopting new technologies through solar-powered generators to pump water from underground wells.
The small scale farmers in Jibagale locality near Garowe town have started tapping the sun’s energy to pump water from wells to irrigate their subsistence farms.
Abdikadir Abshir Nur is the chairperson of a small group of farmers with a 14-hectare farm growing fruits, vegetables and cereals.
He says the adoption of solar power has helped the group cut the costs of running petrol generators.
“Before adopting solar power, during rainy seasons we used to spend $500 on petrol and engine oil every month. We paid a one-off amount of $2,500 to get these solar generators and water pumps. I bought 100 pieces of solar panels. Since installing this we spend nothing else,” Nur said.
He said the solar-powered irrigation system introduced in this area has increased yields, saved water, and cut fuel and labour costs.
The system uses solar power to pump water from the well to a tank and then to irrigation pipes. The solar system enables many irrigation pipes to operate at once, with regulated water flows.
Abdikadir said the farmers have expanded their cultivation onto many more hectares of land and started to grow new crops.
The equipment is designed to withstand harsh climatic conditions and has a lifespan of 30 years, according to Samatar Omar, the chief executive of Solar Energy Consulting & Construction Company (SECCCO).
“The solar pumps are the solution to farmers because they are less expensive to operate. High cost of diesel was eating into most of their profit but this system saves a lot for them,” he said.
Speaking to Radio Ergo, Hassan Yussuf Karshe, the deputy chairman of Jibagale Farmers Association said 14 members had transited to solar-powered irrigation systems.
“It is a cost-effective system. The solar-powered pumps generate more water which has resulted in increase in higher crop yields,” Hassan said.
Nadiifo Yussuf Jama, who has been farming for the last 24 years, has planted a variety of new crops using the solar-power irrigation from a newly dug borehole.
In 2014, Nadiifo and several of her colleagues secured a loan of spend $36,000 from a local cooperative which they used to dig the well and buy solar panels and water pumps. The drip-irrigation boosted their crop yields and product sales from their farms to enable the women to settle their loan over a four year payback period.