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Energy 4 Impact granted US$1 million to develop the small scale solar irrigation market in Rwanda


The OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) has approved a US$1 million grant for Energy 4 Impact to develop the small scale solar irrigation market in Rwanda, as a way of increasing farmers’ productivity and the country’s food security. Targeting 3,000 smallholder farmers across the country, as well as technology suppliers and lenders, the project seeks to create the conditions for a sustainable market by increasing awareness, availability and affordability of appropriate solar irrigation technologies.

Agriculture is the backbone of Rwanda’s economy - employing 79% of the population – and is key to the country’s growth and poverty reduction strategy. However, dependence on rains and lack of irrigation are holding back productivity and affecting food security. Small-scale solar irrigation has the potential to contribute to improved food security and higher rural incomes. However, a combination of factors has hampered its development. These include low awareness among farmers and high upfront costs of solar irrigation systems, as well as limited access to finance for farmers and technology suppliers.

Ben Good, CEO of Energy 4 Impact commented:

The lack of penetration of small scale solar irrigation is both a challenge and an opportunity. The development of the market is held back by farmers’ lack of awareness, non-affordability of the high upfront cost, minimal sales/distribution presence of suppliers and poor availability of agricultural finance. This project will seek to build a sustainable market by effectively addressing each of these stumbling blocks.

Through the Solar Irrigation in Rwanda (SIR) project, Energy 4 Impact is designing financial mechanisms to increase affordability of small-scale solar irrigation technologies. System suppliers will be supported through a working capital facility to finance inventory purchase and a receivables facility to bridge the gap between sale and receipt of funds. At the same time, a consumer credit facility will enable farmers and farming cooperatives to purchase the systems on credit. Energy 4 Impact will also provide technical assistance to the farmers and help them connect them with technology suppliers and financial institutions for credit access.

The overall project objective is to support 13,000 farmers over five years with access to solar irrigation systems, resulting in improved productivity and increased income benefiting their family members representing 65,000 people. The Energy 4 Impact team has completed a detailed design of the project generously supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and it will now be implemented in three phases: 1) a three month project mobilization phase; 2) an initial implementation phase for two years, addressing the findings and recommendations of the design phase, targeting 3,000 farmers, of whom 50% will be women, and 3) a scale-up phase that will depend on the success and lessons of the previous phase, in which an additional 10,000 farmers will be targeted. Energy 4 Impact is currently seeking additional funding partners, both to complete the delivery of the initial implementation phase and for the scale-up phase.

The project will be implemented in Rwanda in over eight districts in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country. The districts include: Bugesera, Kirehe, Nyagatare, Ngoma, and Gatsibo in the East; and Gisagara, Kamonyi and Muhanga in the South.

OFID is the development finance institution established by the Member States of OPEC in 1976 as a channel of aid to developing countries. OFID works in cooperation with developing country partners and the international donor community to stimulate economic growth and alleviate poverty in all disadvantaged regions of the world. It does this by providing financing to build essential infrastructure, strengthen social services delivery and promote productivity, competitiveness and trade. OFID’s work is people-centred, focusing on projects that meet basic needs—such as food, energy, clean water and sanitation, healthcare and education. OFID aims to encourage self-reliance and inspire hope for the future.