Ellen Chasokela recently in Gwanda
Scaling up linkages between the provision of renewable energy services and products with smallholder farming activities can boost agricultural output and the achievement of a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a development expert has said.
Langelihle Ndlovu, a Practical Action project officer, told The Herald at a Gwanda Solar Fair recently that smallholder farmers must not be left out in all efforts to promote the uptake of renewable energy products and services.
“We must co-locate the nexus between agriculture and renewable energy, between the farmers and the private companies that produce solar products and services to create mutually beneficial relationships that could boost farmer productivity and the attainment of a number of our Sustainable Development Goals targets,” she said.
Practical Action in conjunction with another non-governmental organisation, Fambidzanai, organised the Gwanda Solar Fair to create a platform to promote climate-smart ways to intensify agricultural production, as well as to enhance linkages between farmers and the renewable energy private sector.
The fair, which attracted 50 exhibitors and more than 200 people, was held under the Renewable Energy Empowering Women Farmer (REEWF) project funded by the Isle of Man Government.
The US$1,3 million project has supported the installation of solar power in 18 gardens in Matobo and Gwanda districts in Matabeleland South in a programme that seeks to empower women.
Ndlovu said the project, which would run until July 2020 was benefiting more than 990 farmers in the two districts.
“The objective of the project is to empower female smallholder farmers through access to clean renewable energy,” she said.
“When these gardens are fully functional we expect them to feed their families first and then sell the surplus to the local market.
“We have trained the farmers to select value chains and also how to add value to their products so as to maximize on profits.”
The use of renewable energy technologies is still in its infancy in most rural areas in Zimbabwe.
Several barriers still prevent green energy solutions at the nexus from reaching scale, including relatively high technology costs and limited awareness on the benefits of using green energy solutions.
Investing in the promotion of green energy solutions for sustainable agriculture has multiple benefits for the economy and the rural population.
“Investing in green energy solutions will boost economic growth and create decent jobs in rural areas,” said Ndlovu.
“It also addresses critical development challenges and contributes to achieving various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including food security, employment and enterprise creation, and climate action, which are also focus areas of our Government.”
Farmers are upbeat about the role of green energy in their farming activities.