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Solar-powered irrigation boosts production in Benin

Vegetable intake significantly increased in villages with irrigation systems (Marshall Burke)
Vegetable intake significantly increased in villages with irrigation systems
Marshall Burke

Solar-powered drip irrigation systems significantly improve nutrition, food security and household incomes, particularly during the dry season, a new study from Stanford University reports. The study revealed that in one year in Benin, vegetable intake increased by 500-750 grams per person per day in villages with irrigation systems. Intake also increased by 150 grams in control villages, suggesting that selling their surplus not only raised incomes, but also increased the availability of vegetables in local markets.

The three drip irrigation systems, conceived and financed by the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), were installed in two villages in Kalalé district, in Benin. Each system was used by 30-35 members of a women's agricultural group, each of whom farmed a 120 square metre plot. On average, the three irrigation systems produced almost 2 tons of produce each month, including tomatoes, okra, peppers and carrots. Despite higher set-up costs, the study concluded that the solar power system was a more cost-effective way of irrigating farmland than using irrigation systems powered by gasoline, diesel or kerosene.

Date published: March 2010


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