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Evaluation of Solar Market Gardens in West Africa



Prof. Roz Naylor and postdoc Jen Burney are studying the impact of a novel solar-powered drip irrigation project in rural northern Benin, West Africa. These photovoltaic drip irrigation (PVDI) systems were installed by an American NGO, the Solar Electric Light Fund, in an effort to combat high poverty and malnutrition in northern Benin. The systems are used by women's agricultural groups to produce nutritious and high-value produce year-round in a region where agricultural production is almost exclusively rain-fed and is typically limited to 3-6 months of the year. Using a matched-pair comparison of treatment and control villages, Naylor and Burney have found that the PVDI has had a significant and strong impact on both income and nutritional intake for households using the systems; additionally, they find that the systems are cost-competitive with alternative technologies. As rain-fed agricultural production is expected to suffer in sub-Saharan Africa under climate change in the next few decades, technologies like PVDI may be a critical part of the adaptation strategy for rural farmers. They plan to extend their analysis to southern Niger in the coming year.