Increasing Resilience through a Small-Scale Solar Drip Irrigation System in Burkina Faso
This post is written by Ajit Srivastava, Ph.D., P.E., Professor, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University.
Agriculture in Burkina Faso is primarily rainfed with little or no irrigation. During the dry season, household diets mainly include stored grains and animal protein from small animals, such as chickens and goats, and lack vegetables — the main source of nutrients. As a result, over 500,000 children in Burkina Faso suffer from acute malnutrition and 88% of children under five suffer from anemia. According to a government study, 20% of the 233,500 ha of irrigable land has been targeted for irrigation in Burkina Faso. Thus, there is the potential to significantly improve household nutrition and income by growing crops during the dry season (October to May). A solar drip irrigation system was installed in the village of Sansogona near Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso on a cooperating farmer’s field as a part of the Appropriate-Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC) funded by the USAID Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab.
The system is based on a submersible axial flow pump (Lorentz Model PS200 HR 07) readily available in Burkina Faso with a flow rate of 1.2 m3/h. A 1.2 m diameter well was hand dug to a depth of 7 m, and the pump was suspended in well water and was powered by two 135 W solar panels. A 2,000-liter tank was installed at the height of 2 m to gravity feed water to emitters. A float switch was installed in the tank to turn off the pump when the tank was full. Two filters were installed — one at the pump inlet to prevent the pump from fouling and another to filter water before it reached emitters to keep them from plugging.
Crops were grown during two seasons: 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. During the first growing season, vegetables, such as onions, tomatoes, cabbage and green beans, were grown. Replicated plots were set up to observe the effect of rice straw mulch on water conservation and yields. During the 2018-2019 growing season, maize was grown intercropped with legumes, such as peanuts, green beans and mung beans. Again, replicated experimental plots were set up to measure the effect of legume variety and mulching. Based on these experiments, we can conclude that crops, including vegetables, can be successfully grown during the dry season in Burkina Faso to significantly improve household nutrition and income. Solar drip irrigation is a good way to build resilience against climate change.
The system should be installed by a professional service provider. Drip lines, mains and laterals should be laid out properly to ensure uniform distribution of water. It is important that the system be maintained properly by regularly cleaning filters. Solar panel surfaces should be cleaned daily, as dust will affect energy production and pump performance. Care should be taken to ensure that emitters are not plugged and are flowing properly to maintain uniformity of irrigation. During field operations, such as weeding and harvesting, care should be taken so as to not damage drip lines and emitters. After the growing season is over, the drip lines should be carefully removed and emitters cleaned, inspected and stored if the field is to be used for growing a different crop during the rainy season. Otherwise, we recommend that this plot of land be permanently dedicated to growing vegetables or intercropped using the irrigation system throughout the year, thus growing up to three crops per year.
This system was an experimental prototype unit. The pump was $3,000 and the cost of solar panels, storage tank, drip lines and emitters were an additional $2,000, so the total price of the system was approximately $5,000. The ASMC has initiated the scaling-up process and has identified steps toward scaling that include conducting a survey to assess interest and demand; completing an economic analysis; determining net present value, payback period and return on investment; developing ownership/business models; funding partners; and identifying service providers. Many farmers have visited the pilot irrigation site and have expressed interest in acquiring the system so they may produce vegetables to improve household nutrition and income.
For more information, contact:
Vinsoun Millogo — [email protected]; University of New Brunswick (Bobo Dioulasso)
Ajit Srivastava — [email protected]; Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
The ASMC, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is part of the Feed the Future Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab, funded by USAID.
ASMC’s “ecosystem of innovation” approach includes the development of local Innovation Hubs comprised of relevant stakeholders to develop and promote appropriate agricultural mechanization technologies for smallholder farmers.
Key leaders and implementers include Michigan State University, North Carolina A&T University, Tillers International, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Royal Agricultural University at Phnom Penh, Nazi Boni University at Bobo-Dioulasso and the Senegalese Agricultural Research Institute.