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Sustainable development for Ethiopian farmers

5. March 2024

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In Ethiopia, where water scarcity is a pressing issue, farmers in the Awash River basin face significant challenges in irrigating their crops. The reliance on diesel or petrol pumps for lifting surface water and shallow groundwater is hindered by high fuel costs and limited access, especially for those situated far from markets and roads.

With over 60% of the country’s land being arid or semi-arid, the need for sustainable irrigation solutions becomes critical for the livelihoods of farmers as well as citizens. Additionally, 80% of Ethiopia’s population is dependent on agriculture for employment, which emphasises the urgency to address these challenges and the establishment of a more resilient agricultural sector.


To tackle the challenges faced by Ethiopian farmers, the government has initiated a pilot project aimed at utilising rivers like the Awash for irrigation through a sustainable approach. Recognising the potential of solar-powered pumps as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly solution, the project focuses on transitioning from traditional fuel-based pumps to solar technology.

Grundfos has played a pivotal role by providing solar water pumps that prove to be a game-changer. The shift to solar-powered pumps not only overcomes the constraints of high fuel costs but also aligns with a broader vision of climate change resilience. The plan mandates the use of solar-powered or electrical pumps connected to a national electricity grid, promoting eco-friendly practices, and reducing the reliance on fossil fuels.


Solar irrigation in Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, irrigation is one of the focus areas of the government and the communities. The solar irrigation solutions are cheap to maintain and can provide local communities with additional seasons of harvesting. By reaping the full potential of available water sources for irrigation, they can improve their lives and increase their income.

Credit: Grundfos


The implementation of solar-powered irrigation pumps has yielded positive outcomes for Ethiopian farmers and communities. The Oromia Irrigation and Pastoral Development Bureau, in collaboration with Grundfos, secured funding to supply centrifugal water pumps for resource-poor farmers. With solar-powered pumps efficiently providing water for 100 hectares of irrigable land, confidence among stakeholders has grown, paving the way for broader initiatives.

The Grundfos NB pump, chosen for its ability to handle sandy river water during rainy seasons, has proven effective in creating a diversion from ponds near rivers. The integrated sensor technology ensures optimal pump operation by stopping it during low water levels or slowed flow due to sediments.

The success of this project has not only increased agricultural production in off-grid areas but has also contributed to rural electrification through mini-grid projects. Farmers report a substantial improvement in their lives, with reduced financial burdens, quieter and more reliable technology, and increased income, ultimately transforming their communities and enhancing overall quality of life.