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© 2013 Solar Electric Light Fund

© 2013 Solar Electric Light Fund

Combining Solar Water Pumping and Drip Irrigation for Income Generation and Food Security: Solar Market Garden

The Solar Market Garden™ (SMG) is a technology designed to help rural farmers generate income and to combat food and nutrition insecurity in the developing world. It combines solar (photovoltaic) water pumping and low-pressure drip irrigation, allowing farmers in remote, dry regions to grow high-value and nutritious crops year-round. 

In 2007, the non-profit organisation "Solar Electric Light Fund" (SELF), who designed the Solar Market Garden, installed three SMGs in northern Benin for women farming collectives in the villages of Dunkassa and Bessassi. Since then, residents have witnessed the transformative power that this simple and effective technology can have on their lives, as it has resulted in a significant increase in food security among the women farmers who are now able to grow high-value fruits and vegetables year-round.

In 2010, Stanford University’s Program on Food Security and the Environment department conducted a two-year study and found that the Solar Market Gardens, “significantly augments both household income and nutritional intake, particularly during the dry season, and is cost effective compared to alternative technologies.” 


More and better income due to Solar Market Garden
According to the study, each garden has supplied nearly two tons of produce per month; about 20 percent is kept for home consumption and the balance is sold at market, earning an extra $7.50 per week for each woman farmer selling fresh produce.

Not only has nutrition improved in Dunkassa and Bessassi, but income levels have also risen, helping to pay for other economic development initiatives, school fees, and medical treatment. It is during the six-month dry season that the use of these systems has had the greatest impact. By virtue of their new found ability to pump water from rivers and underground aquifers, the women in Dunkassa and Bessassi have succeeded in breaking free from their historical dependency on rain-fed agriculture.

In addition to the Solar Market Gardens, SELF has also installed three solar-powered community water wells. A survey of the region found that 58 percent of the children under the age of five in Benin suffer from chronic diarrhea, and that the communities typically only had access to contaminated or inconsistent water supplies. Each well will now provide the families in Dunkassa and Bessassi with safe, clean drinking water year-round.

In 2012, SELF installed eight additional SMGs. As a result, 264 women farmers and their families will directly benefit from the produce and increased income, and 48,000 people in the villages will benefit from the availability of high-quality produce during the dry season.

Download the Stanford University study here


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