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Monica_55905 Jul 15

Women, Energy and Agriculture

Women, Energy and Agriculture image
This rich discussion gave an agricultural perspective on energy with Mbali Nwoko, CEO of Green Terrace, setting the scene by outlining what she needs from energy providers as a farm in South Africa. At present national power grids in Africa can be unstable which is disruptive to production – farmers need innovative technologies to solve this issue.  
When considering access to energy for agriculture it is critical to consider the elements of finance, energy, and agriculture together, not in separate silos. Stable access to low-cost energy is key to productive and profitable farming in Africa. Panellists from IFC, Siemens and RTI discussed the various renewable energy off-grid solutions available to farmers – from small-scale to large-scale - to provide a cost-effective and reliable supply of energy.

The panellists discussed how many smallholder farmers do not have access to traditional finance and how creative solutions are needed to enable them to invest in a secure energy access strategy without high financing costs. Many farmers are unbanked, they don’t have access to assets that would allow them to finance these solutions and they don’t have cash to pay for the system upfront. Also, the costs associated with a billing and collections system can add up especially when dealing with rural areas. Different financing models such as leasing and pay-as-you-go schemes can be used to tackle many of these issues, and new technologies such as mobile banking can also reduce payment costs.

Siemens talked about a PV solution that they installed in a small village in Ethiopia for a mid-scale farmer. Using a hybrid micro-grid system they were able to use a mix of electricity and solar to minimise energy costs and use electricity efficiently.  The local school for 300 children was also given access to electricity through this project – they look beyond the farm to the surrounding community as well. It was agreed that one of the main things that can empower women especially in the rural communities is access to energy – for cooking, for the household and for productive services.


Poll: The audience overwhelmingly (100%) felt that there is a misalignment between agriculture’s energy requirements and how these requirements are perceived by financiers and service providers.. 


Takeaways
  • In Africa the bulk of farmers are small scale, the majority of the food that comes into the market in Africa is from smallholder farmers and much is dependent on rainfall for irrigation. Therefore cost-effective and stable energy access is a key issue.
  • There are a large number of diverse energy access solutions for every scale of farmer in Africa. The supply chains are in place and there are international and local companies that sell these solutions. However these solutions have not reached the end users efficiently due to inefficiencies in the market – the matching of supply and demand isn’t happening which increases the customer acquisition cost and makes it prohibitively expensive.
  • Recent innovations in data mapping, research, financing models and payment technology should encourage an increased up-take of renewable energy off-grid solutions for farmers in Africa.