During the course of 2016, Ace Africa Kenya was chosen as winner of the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) Power Africa Off-Grid Energy Challenge. This competition invited 100% African owned and managed organisations to apply for programmes aiming to promote innovative and sustainable ways to deliver reliable energy to underserved communities.
The Off-Grid Challenge is part of the Power Africa initiative, a US Government presidential initiative with the ultimate goal of adding 30,000 megawatts (MW) of more efficient electricity generation capacity to reach 60 million new home and business connections by 2030. This is based on the knowledge that modern energy services are crucial to human wellbeing and economic development, yet communities in Eastern Africa suffer from severe energy poverty. Off-grid energy approaches therefore must play a central role, particularly in areas unconnected to grid infrastructure.
Through the support of USADF, Ace Africa Kenya has begun to implement a 14-month project, which aims to train 120 community members in the utilisation of solar photovoltaic drip irrigation technology in Siaya County. This technology will enable farmers to effectively produce a range of nutritious vegetables for sale and household consumption. The technology is critical in Kenya where droughts have become increasingly long and regular leaving farmers vulnerable to crop failure.
In Siaya County, poverty is deeply entrenched, including extreme food poverty. Indeed, 34% are considered to live in absolute food poverty and 14.9% are severely malnourished. This degree of food poverty is proven to have far reaching impact, preventing people from acquiring an education, an income and other basic needs which in turn results in other socio-economic problems. Erratic rainfall and lengthening periods of drought are exacerbating poverty levels in Siaya where the majority of households’ main source of income derives from agriculture.
The solar powered drip irrigation systems are proven to reduce the risk of food poverty by increasing yields by as much as 100% and reducing water consumption by 40-80%. The technology also decreases the amount of fertiliser, pesticide, and labour needed compared to conventional irrigation systems. Through the implementation of this project, Ace Africa Kenya will improve food, nutritional and economic security of 120 community members and their households in rural Siaya, Kenya, through training on improved irrigated agricultural practices and solar power installations. Each system once installed will pump enough water to irrigate 20 acres per group, providing uninterrupted irrigation for the 6 organic community kitchen gardens.
Communities in Sub-Saharan Africa will be severely impacted by climate change and must adapt to cope with its impact. Thus, Ace Africa Kenya, with support from USADF, is increasing its clean energy centred projects to mitigate the impact of climate change, as well as to improve livelihoods through increased access to clean energy.