Solar Irrigation in Rwanda: working with the IFC, EUCORD and Heineken to increase smallholder crop production

Farmers in the Isuka Irakiza Cooperative in the Eastern Region of Rwanda have been cultivating maize for many seasons. They farm a productive tranche of land in the Kavura Valley, Muhazi Sector, Rwamagana District – but in recent years the rains have been more and more inconsistent, and in 2016, the area was hit by drought, seriously harming production. The cooperative sells their maize to ProDev, linked to Heineken’s local subsidiary, Bralirwa (and via maize processor Minimex). However, volumes are inconsistent and poorly tracked; they cannot deliver a reliable harvest to the biggest buyer in the country.

Bralirwa and the Netherlands Government enlisted the help of EUCORD  (European Cooperative for Rural Development) and the IFC (International Finance Corporation), to provide the cooperative with small-scale irrigation equipment. The project aims to improve the reliability and volume of supply from smallholder farmers, and boost their overall crop productivity.

Map of Rwanda
Map of Rwanda showing Rwamagana – Adapted from Google maps 2017

Futurepump in Rwanda

Futurepump launched operations in Rwanda in early 2017, and is providing the equipment for this exciting project. 13 SF1 solar pumps have been supplied for use across a five-hectare site, along with hosepipes, sprinklers and a tank. Some pumps are trialing an innovative ‘double-panel’ system – the first time SF1 pumps have been given this power boost. All the pumps will be tracked by our online monitoring platform, giving us in-depth knowledge of how the pumps are being used and what the impact will be.

To support this project, Futurepump provided training for all farmers in pump use and maintenance, best-practice agronomy, and on how to measure and track their inputs and outputs. An on-site field officer will support the farmers and report on their progress. We look forward to seeing increased harvests over the next three seasons of soya, vegetables and maize.

This project is particularly exciting as we will be able to thoroughly measure yields and outcomes, giving a real insight to the increased crop productivity and income possible from using the SF1 solar pump. We will share this information with other farmers to demonstrate the difference solar irrigation technology can make to them. As Rwanda is a new market for solar irrigation, this all-important evidence will demonstrate the potential for Futurepump to make a big difference in this small but important market.

Solar irrigation in Rwanda
Setting up the SF1 solar pumps across the five hectare site

Scaling up

The IFC and EUCORD have plans to scale small-scale irrigation technology across Rwanda – and indeed the continent – and this project will help prove what a difference solar irrigation technology can make.

Futurepump (Rwanda) Ltd is now operating from Kigali. Our mission, supported by partners and distributors, is to sell the SF1 solar pump to the thousands of smallholder farmers in Rwanda who would benefit from solar irrigation. We are also working closely with the Rwanda Agriculture Board so farmers can benefit from their subsidy scheme.

Photo credit: Ganza Prince