Increasing the use of solar powered pumps for Irrigation in Tanzania

Tanzania’s smallholder farmers are more frequently practising irrigation as a means of increasing agricultural productivity. At the moment, the main source of power used for irrigation is the petroleum generator. The use of petroleum generator-powered pumps has negative impacts on both on the financial means of the farmer and the environment. However, the initial investment of the solar pump still prevents many farmers from using this technology. To promote the uptake of the solar powered pump the Solar Water Pumping Policy Dialogue Project was started in Tanzania, with the help of financing from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Netherlands.

An irrigated pepper farm in Ruaha Tanzania
An irrigated pepper farm in Ruaha Tanzania

Benefits of the solar pump

The average cost of one petroleum generator-powered pump per year is TZS 3,810,000 with a lifespan of 4 years. The cost of using 3 Hp solar pump for the life span of 20 years is TZS 10,000,000. So already after 2.6 years the financial benefits of the solar powered pump outweigh the petroleum generator. On top of that the petroleum generator-powered pump has an average emission of 487KgCO2. There is therefore a strong incentive to increase the uptake of the solar pump.  The main challenge for smallholder farmers is the high investment needed for procuring a solar irrigation pump. To this effect, the Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) is partnering with the Energy Transition Facility of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to create enabling environment for more affordable solar irrigation pumps for smallholders.

An example of a solar pumping system

The market for clean irrigation technologies

TAREA is in close contact with the Government of Tanzania and the responsible line ministries of energy and agriculture to see if it is possible to offer fiscal incentives to smallholders for the solar powered irrigation pump.  Moreover, it is also necessary to ensure that the products that are supplied to the consumers meet minimum standards. To ensure the quality of solar irrigation pumps, TAREA advocated with the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) to develop minimum performances standards of solar irrigation pumps. TBS consequentlyadopted solar pumps standards from the International Electrotechnical Committee and they are awaiting these to be published in the Government Gazette. After the standards have been published, TAREA is planning to raise awareness with the public, to inform them on the existence of the solar pump standards and how to procure quality pumps.

Currently only 2.36%, of the potential land for irrigation is being irrigated, Dr. – Ing. Matthew Matimbwi from TAREA therefore exaplains:

“There is ample of opportunity in this market as it is expected that the use of irrigation pumps by smallholders will increase once the enabling environment is in place.”

The Government of Tanzania has set a target of reaching coverage of 1,243,230 hectares in the year 2025 from the current one of 694,715 hectares. The private sector has been allocated an area of 222,000 hectares to develop irrigation systems. Also, the increase of horticulture activities that contribute to the foreign revenue, offers the opportunity of scaling up the use of smallholder solar irrigation pumps.

Dr. Matthew Matimbwi talking to farmer Abdalah Salah on irrigation at his farm

The use of smallholder solar irrigation pumps has following social-economic impacts:

  1. Enhanced agricultural productivity and profitability
  2. Efficient use of water resource
  3. Reduced environmental degradation
  4. Increased youth employment
  5. Reduced poverty of smallholder farming households.

“One of the lessons learned so far during the project is that awareness-raising of all stakeholders in the sector of solar irrigation technology is important” explains Dr. Matthew Matimbwi.

During the meetings with the different Ministries it was proposed to install demonstration solar pumps at exhibition sites in Dodoma. The installation of these demonstration pumps will create further awareness on the benefits of solar irrigation with relevant stakeholders.

The Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA) is encouraged by the interest in solar pumps. “An increased adoption of the solar irrigation will strengthen the agriculture sector and its farmers. The multiple benefits are evident, one only has to look at the Sustainable Development Goals and see to how many the adoption of solar irrigation contributes to realize its enormous impact.”

The adoption of the smallholder irrigation pump will contribute to the realization of the following Sustainable Development Goals.

  1. Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere.
  2. Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
  3. Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.
  4. Goal 7: Ensure access the affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.
  5. Goal 8: Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.
  6. Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.
  7. Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

For more information about the project you can reach out to Dr. –Ing. Matthew Matimbwi from TAREA at For any questions for the Agricultural department feel free to contact us via For the latest updates on activities, new articles and more follow us on twitter on @NLAgiTanzania and you can subscribe to our newsletter by sending us an email.