4 out of 5 African families depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, but just 4 percent use irrigation with the rest relying on increasingly unreliable rainfall. Switching to irrigated agriculture increases yields by 90 percent when compared to nearby rain- fed farms, but high diesel costs make irrigation an unaffordable expense for many small farmers. With 620 million Africans lacking a connection to the electricity grid, electric water pumps are also not a viable option.
Founded in 2013 by Samir Ibrahim and Charlie Nichols, renewable energy and irrigation equipment manufacturer SunCulture has today launched RainMaker, an innovative internet-connected solar water pump system designed for irrigation on smallholder farms across Africa.
Launched in Kenya, RainMaker lifts up to 7,000 liters of water per day from wells up to 100 meters deep (328 feet) beating higher priced systems that can lift water only 10 meters. Using energy from the portable 120-watt solar panel and battery bank, RainMaker pumps enough water to irrigate a one -acre farm and support livestock and household water needs like drinking, cooking and cleaning.
According to Samir Ibrahim, CEO and co- founder of SunCulture, “Most small holder farmers in Africa are only one bad harvesting season away from financial ruin. Solar-powered irrigation offers farmers an affordable alternative to the cost of diesel and electric irrigation technology, enabling them to substantially reduce energy costs and boost agricultural output.”
The system comes with SunCulture’s Climate Smart pump controller to extend pumping by up to 6 hours on cloudy days. RainMaker is available in Kenya for 50,000 Kenyan Shillings ($480) for a solar pump, controller, battery bank, portable solar panel and sprinkler plus delivery, installation and after- sales services are included in the price.
The firm says the system will soon be available on SunCulture’s Pay -As -You-Grow platform for convenient mobile money installment payments in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia.