Agriculture Key to Opportunity in Africa

Agriculture is Key to Growth

Recent statements by the African Development Bank (AFDB) reflects that agriculture is key to unleashing vast opportunities in export growth. An increase in Africa’s exports will inevitably improve the GDP.

Presently, more than 65% of the worlds arable land is located in Africa. However, the sector only accounts for 25% of the overall gross domestic product (GDP). These numbers show that, despite the opportunity for economic potential in the agricultural sector in Africa, Africa is not utilising its full potential. In other words, there is plenty to be gained if the agricultural sector in Africa was able to expand further  into the vast amounts of arable land available on the continent. This growth would aid not only the improvement of the sector and thus the GDP, it would also aid decentralisation.

Projections show that the agricultural sector is expected to experience major growth over the next 10 plus years. However, this can only happen if the sector is able to overcome the challenges in its current societal and municipal infrastructure.

Energy in Agriculture

One such challenge in Infrastructure is that of affordable energy sources. Let us take South Africa as an example, the dire state of South Africa’s sole utility grid, Eskom, is no secret.

With its power stations running out of coal and the threat of nationwide electricity outages on the rise, large energy consuming sectors such as agriculture are in urgent need of immediate alternative energy solutions.

Renewable power solutions such as solar and wind provide a more reliable and cost-effective solution to the agriculture industry and other sectors. Further, they take far less time to build than traditional fossil-fuel based power plants.

Microgeneration to Aid Decentralisation

Considering the amount of arable land in remote areas of Africa, there is often no access to a grid. In those cases, the implementation of microgrids is a viable solution. Microgrids deploy smart utility services to previously underserved areas at the point of generation. Due to their flexible deployment, these microgrids provide localized power to areas that the national grid typically cannot reach, establishing decentralization. This setup provides rural communities with a range of benefits previously unimaginable including lighting, basic household appliances, Internet, an increase in jobs, as well as overall improved economic activity and social upliftment.

Decentralisation is becoming more and more necessary in Africa. Having a network of multiple technical devices enable a community to achieve a marketplace without a centralised location. This is creating a hunger among owner-controlled microgrids, allowing decentralised market models to gain much needed attention for growth and expansion.

Given the expanse of rural areas in Africa, microgeneration is key to providing power to the underprivileged and remote communities.

How Solar Benefits Agriculture

Now that we understand that solar is needed in Africa due to the expanse of arid land and opportunities in agriculture, how does this look?

Needless to say, Africa gets a lot of sun. The amount of energy that comes from the sun to the lands of Africa is beyond comprehension. To give an example, the collective amount of energy stored in the worlds coal, gas and oil is equivalent to the energy of just 20 days of sunshine.

Because of this fact, and the need for reliable energy sources in Africa, Agriculture solar power has sky-rocketed. Farmers are now investing in affordable and sustainable clean-technology that not only is reliable but helps save the environment.

Here are a few of the many useful functions that solar can fulfil on a farm.

  1. Solar Powered Vehicles

A common form of transportation on farms is tractors. Tractors are generally diesel-powered and contribute to air pollution and global warming. Further, they can add to potential groundwater pollution through diesel spills.

A viable solution to these risks is using solar powered vehicles. They are powered by renewable energy and will avert a ton of greenhouse gases each year.

  1. Solar Irrigation

For locations with no existing powerlines, Photovoltaic (PV) water pumping systems can be helpful. These systems are cost-effective and reliable, requiring very little maintenance. Large systems may require batteries as well as inverters and tracking mounts to follow the sun.

  1. Solar Greenhouse Heating

Generally, greenhouses rely on gas or oil heaters in order to maintain required temperatures. Solar greenhouses, however, work to collect and save the suns energy during bright, hot days. This makes it possible for the greenhouse to retain excess heat for use during the night and days where the sun is not shining.

  1. Solar Fence Chargers

Livestock farms require reliable and effective fencing solutions. Electric fences are a viable solution as they are powered by the sun and are very dependable.

Further, solar fencing is very cost-effective and convenient. The parts are becoming more affordable due to increased demand, and installation is very easy.

  1. Solar Powered Sensors

A crucial part of farming successfully is gathering and monitoring data to know what works and what to expect and plan for. Therefore, farmers make use of setting up sensors across their land. The sensors help determine precipitations, soil moisture, sunlight levels and more. Often, however, it is difficult to rely on batteries or the main supply to activate these sensors.

That is where solar powered sensor technology comes in and adds great value. It is easy and cost effective. It can even be tagged on to livestock to track and monitor feeding and watering times for animals.

If all of that isn’t enough to convince you of the endless value and need for solar in agriculture, this statistic should speak enough to the fact in and of itself. In 2011 it was calculated that the agricultural industry produces about 13% of the total global greenhouse emissions in the world. This places farming as the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, right behind the energy sector. Enough said.

Don’t wait. Ask us for a free initial assessment today and learn about our finance models to help you afford solar and add sustainable value to your business.

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