In sub-Saharan Africa 80% of agricultural production is from smallholder farmers, who face constraints on increasing farm productivity resulting in a large yield gap. Extensive rain-fed agriculture (90% of all cropland) under unpredictable and erratic rainfall pattern is a leading cause of the low productivity and food insecurity in Africa, together with a low degree of mechanization. This has been reinforcing a persistent poverty trap, triggered by cyclical famines that are jeopardizing local development opportunities.
In a new IIASA-led study, published in Environmental Research Letters, as part of the research project Renewables for African Agriculture (RE4AFAGRI), an international team of researchers developed an open-source modeling framework that used various datasets related to agriculture, water, energy, expenses, and infrastructure. This framework was employed to calculate local irrigation needs, determine the necessary size and cost of technology components like water pumps, solar PV modules, batteries, and irrigation systems, and assess the economic prospects and sustainable development impacts of adopting solar pumps.