Solar water pumping project: lessons learned and future perspective

Tanzania depends on agriculture as the main economic stay and source of domestic and foreign earnings. The annual growth rate of horticulture sector is 5.8% according to Minister for Agriculture budget speech 2020/21. The growth of the sector however is challenged by the climate change, which impacts on farm productivity. To mitigate the situation farmers especially smallholder farmers embarked on the use of water irrigation technologies such as the use of diesel and petrol operated water pumps, which are detrimental to the environments.  It is estimated that single petrol operated water pump produces 487kgs of carbon dioxide per acre per year while consuming around 210 liters of petrol costing which is expensive and lowers farmer’s income.

Solar Water Pumping is very relevant and welcomed by the Vice President’s office as it deals with a lot of emission issues and supports the national climate change strategy

Cooperation between Tanzania and the Netherlands

To complement various efforts on mitigating the climate change and increase farmer’s production and income, the Solar Water Pumping Project started on March 2020 and completed in August 2021.

Diesel irrigation pump at Ruaha Mbuyuni

The project was financed by The Netherlands Energy Transition Facility (ETF) and implemented by Tanzania Renewable Energy Association (TAREA). The objective of the project was to raise awareness and advocate for solar water pumping as strategic technology in policy development through establishing policy dialogue with relevant government authorities.

On 29 July 2021, the final workshop on the Solar Water Pumping Project by TAREA took place in Dodoma. Around 20 participants representing ministries, authorities and private sector attended. High appreciation was expressed to the Tanzanian Government for collaboration with TAREA and the private sector was invited to embrace the technology due to potentiality not only on the business case as lowering the costs of production but also towards social economic benefits.

Awareness creation and lessons learned

Project implementation involved engaging with relevant authorities and the public to firstly create awareness on the existence of solar water pumping technology. Various media campaigns through TV, newspaper, online social media and radio were used. Technical Standards for the Solar Water Pumping were adopted by the Tanzania Bureau of Standards and given the number FTZS 2916. The policy dialogue to improve the enabling environment for Solar Water Pumping is well established.

Solar irrigation power plant at Kibidula Farm

The Vice President’s office proposed to include solar water pumping technology in the National Government Energy Strategy, since solar water pumping contributes to saving Green House Gas emissions and implementation supports the National Climate Change Strategy.

On the other hand, the National Irrigation Commission proposed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with TAREA and to set-up a Technical Project Committee with all relevant Ministries.

During the course of project implementation, it was obviously that farmers are ready to embrace the technology however higher upfront costs for the solar pumps is the main drawback and therefore adoption level is still very low. Improvement of the cost structure through VAT exemptions and introducing smart financing programs through viable business cases, which make the technology more competitive and encourage more utilization. The project continues to bring the policy makers to further facilitate the enabling environment for the solar water pumping.

The representative of the Ministry of Energy thanked the Netherlands, ETF and TAREA for the project and said: “The work just started and we will continue, since implementation of solar water umping supports the National Energy Strategy”.

Availability of technicians at local level is another area which needs to be looked at especially when adoption of this sustainable technology expands and for appropriate maintenance to ensure long-term operation, even though solar powered water pumps require less maintenance than diesel generator in general. In the absence of a skilled local workforce, solar pump systems may scale and yet may underperform or fall into disrepair, misuse, or disuse. Unfortunately, this is a common theme with the introduction of technically complex products in remote, impoverished areas. The required skills and credentials to repair the solar pump systems without jeopardizing manufacturer warranties can only be obtained in larger urban areas, and once fully trained, technicians may be unwilling or unable to relocate to rural areas where the market is much smaller. The local government authorities can play a vital role through putting mechanisms in place to fully support the adoption of technology.

The use of solar irrigation for smallholder agriculture can be mainstreamed and up scaled through the activities of the Ministry of Agriculture (Farmers Extension Services) and the National Commission for the Irrigation (NIRC) through its Irrigation Master Plan.

NIRC has several solar irrigation schemes that are not working which provides opportunity to cooperate and find out what is wrong and use the results in the future development of the irrigation schemes. This will include mainstreaming renewable energy to the national irrigation strategic plan.

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. Also read more information through our website Tanzania | Landeninformatie | Agroberichten Buitenland