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Innovative solar-powered irrigation system on wheels

The productive use of energy, coupled with innovation, plays a crucial role in driving rural industrialisation. By harnessing energy resources efficiently and sustainably, rural communities can unlock their economic potential and foster local opportunities. As the solar sector continues to grow in Namibia, innovation has also capitalised on this growth.

Mungongi Agricultural Project, located just 500 metres from the Kavango River, in Musese village, Kavango West region, is one of the first few agriculture projects in Namibia to explore innovation with solar energy irrigation. This horticulture venture aims to grow vegetable produce, such as cabbage and green peppers for the local market. Benefiting from its proximity to the Kavango River, the project utilises water from the river through water extraction permits.

Mungongi Agricultural Project recently received an innovative and tailor-made mobile solar-powered irrigation system to meet the project’s water needs. With this innovative system, the project can now harness solar energy to pump water from the river to efficiently irrigate their crops.

The project benefited from the GIZ Green People’s Energy Project result-based financing subsidy scheme which was centered on the productive use of energy. Dritoven Engineering, a local solar photovoltaics system design and installation company was appointed as the service provider and partner for the design, procurement, and installation of the mobile solar-powered irrigation system.

The mobile irrigation system consists of solar panels integrated into a river pump mounted on a trailer. When water needs to be pumped, the trailer with the pump is driven to the river. There, the submersible pump is immersed in the water, which has a pumping capacity of 20 cubic metres per hour. The pumped water then enters the water network, which irrigates the fields via drip and sprinkler systems and feeds an 80,000 litre elevated tank. Once the pumping process is complete, the trailer is returned to the farm for safety reasons.

Benefits of a mobile irrigation system:

  • Flood protection: Unpredictable flooding of the Kavango River can threaten solar panels installed near the riverbank. A mobile irrigation system allows the modules to be positioned further away to reduce the risk.

  • Flexibility in water collection: The mobility of the system means that the water extraction point can be chosen flexibly depending on the season. This allows the system to operate more efficiently and ensures optimum access to water.

  • Anti-theft: Due to increasing theft and vandalism of solar panels and pumps in the region, a mobile system was introduced. It can be easily moved and placed in a safer location to reduce the risk of theft and damage.

Mungongi Agricultural Project has become the heart of Musese village by also providing free water supply to the community. The local school, kindergarten, church, and numerous households now benefit from this sustainable water source. Moreover, the project has created employment opportunities for four young individuals from the community.

In the past, the project relied on diesel-powered pumps to extract water from the river. The introduction of the mobile solar irrigation system has replaced the carbon-intensive diesel sources, eliminating the need to procure diesel from Rundu, the nearest town located 70 kilometers away. This transition offers multiple advantages, including significant reduction in fuel costs, lower maintenance requirements, energy independence, environmental friendliness, silent operation. The project can now experience significant monthly savings of approximately N$400, which was previously allocated towards diesel purchases.

The mobile solar powered irrigation system serves a benchmark for farmers in Namibia and beyond. By embracing solar energy, farmers can unlock tremendous potential for sustainable growth and contribute to a greener and more prosperous future for all.