Solar Power For Third-World Ag Boosted

The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) – a U.S.-based nonprofit that we last encountered as it worked to bring solar power to remote medical centers in earthquake ravaged Haiti – is vowing to scale up its “Whole Village” development model that has been in a pilot phase in West Africa.

The organization describes the program as an integrated approach to implementing solar energy systems that empower rural communities in developing countries to improve their health, education, economic development and food and water security. SELF’s commitment to expand the program was made to the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative at the recent United Nations Private Sector Forum.

solar market gardens program, SELF

image via SELF

“We believe that energy is a human right and that access to it is essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” said Bob Freling, executive director of SELF. “Our commitment seeks to both validate the Whole Village model’s value and demonstrate that it can be used throughout the developing world to alleviate poverty through the use of solar energy.

Solar Market Gardens program, SELF

image via SELF

In the pilot program, SELF installed “Solar Market Gardens” (SMG) – what it describes as “innovative, unique solar-powered drip irrigation system(s) for women farming collectives” – in Dunkassa and Bessassi, two villages in the Kalalé district of northern Benin in West Africa. The organization said that a two-year study by Stanford University researchers found the SMG model “significantly augments both household income and nutritional intake, particularly during the dry season, and is cost effective compared to alternative technologies.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.


  • Reply October 15, 2011

    d'Albert Matlhoko

    It was as far back as 1997 that a submitted a 7 – 10 pages memorandum to a President who was a leading member of the u00a0Southern Africa Community Development with headquarters in Botswana , suggesting that large swathes of land in a corridor running from the Southern banks of the Zambezi (Zimbabwe) to the Northern banks of the u00a0Orange River (Northern Cape) be bought u00a0with funds from the World Bank and African Development tand set aside for farms with large banks of SOLAR PANEL ARRAYS to generate ELECTRICITY to help develop the area . I did not believe THEN that ‘King COAL’ would be able to meet the needs of the growing Population of the area. This is an area that remains cloudless or about 65 days out of 365 during an average year, especially in its Northern part in Botswana where the S A C D has its head-quarters to my amazement anger ,humiliation and and embarrassment the idea u00a0was completely ignored with a short note that the memorandum had been passed on to someone ! Companies in the business of developing Solar Power were very much viable u00a0and active in Texas USA where I had bought a hat (1981) with a very effective Solar-powered hat witha fan under the forehead brim that still works very effectively in 2011. I was shocked at the manner in which that idea was so contemptuously dismissed even after following up a few years with a letter and not a memorandum this time, to the President of Botswana at the time. I had suggested a wide-area transnational Electricity Grid secured by a special Police-Force employed by the SACD itself into which night-time Hydro-Electric Power from the Kariba-Dam (Zambezi) and Zambian River Turbines would complement whatever power was stored in banks of u00a0Capacitors that was excess from day-time harvesting of Solar-Electric Power. I had also suggested that a Water-Pipe line (evaporation is too high and a cheaper Canal option would not be viable) run along the Core Power-grid running from the Luangwa Valley in Northern Zambia to the Orange-Vaal River System u00a0to provide WATER SECURITY for COMMUNITIES LIVING IN THE REGION, with subterraneans reservoir to store u00a0excess run-off from u00a0flash-flooding during rainy seasons in those parts of the SAC D that had frequent heavy seasonal tropical downpours u00a0the various parts of the region. I thought ideas of GREENING the area could be solicited from Countries such as India u00a0and especially Israel which had expertise and experience in GREENING the NEGEV DESERT to provide peasant farmers in the region with training, skills and perhaps even loans. I had titled my memorandum “THE FRESH WATER AFRICAN VOLE” u00a0as I saw u00a0the frequent droughts and WATER INSECURITY as posing the BIGGEST PROBLEMS FOR FUTURE CONFLICT in the already impoverished area. u00a0Reference to the rare African Vole was to high-light the fact that a HUGE WATER conduit would need to be buried all of the way to link the major river systems in the area as the HIGH EVAPORATION RATES would lead to unacceptable losses making the project unviable economically. I had put a lot of thought and research into all this that was why I was left stunned and crest-fallen when it was ignored by the High and Mighty u00a0but took solace in the idea that I WAS CONFIDENT THT SOME DAY, THE CHICKENS WOULD COME BACK HOME TO ROOST !!!!!! SOLAR POWER , EXPENSIVE AS IT MAY BE FOR NOW, IS THE ONLY HOPE FOR THE EXPLODING POPULATIONS OF THE REGION. In one part of that region the Population was 12,million when I left. It is now reported to be 50 millions ! Where are they going to get WATER,FOOD and POWER from ? ONLY THE SUN THAT GAVE THEM LIFE CAN PROVIDE THAT IF WISELY ,INNOVATIVELY AND GREENISHLY (SUSTAINABLY) HARVESTED u00a0through Solar and hydro powered TURBINES!!!!! Let us hope ‘SOLAR LIFE’ will pitch in with some help ‘up front’ too !

Leave a Reply