Tanzania: Renewable energy powers water supply and irrigation system

22 Mar 2010

Solar panels power a water supply system for irrigation and for domestic water use in Chanyauru.
(Photo: UNDP/CWI/SGP)

Lake Victoria, located in Tanzania’s north, offers enough water for agricultural irrigation but local communities lack financial resources and adequate technologies to take advantage of it. Instead, they rely on rain-fed agriculture in the area, where rainfall is scarce and variable from season to season. As a result, they do not produce enough crops to address food and income poverty.

The same challenges, along with additional uncertainties caused by climate change, impact the life of communities in the Chanyauru region, on the southeastern shore of Lake Victoria. These communities suffer from a lack of safe drinking water and food shortages. UNDP’s CWI is working with a community organization as well as local government to construct a dual purpose water supply system for irrigation and for domestic water use, powered by solar panels. Villagers were trained in the operation and maintenance of the system and a ‘water fund’ was established to cover maintenance costs.

The project benefited at least 1,000 villagers. It has improved food security, increased income generation through the sale of higher value crops and provided employment opportunity for young people. Immediate access to water for domestic purposes has also lessened the women’s water fetching burden, and eliminated the danger of crocodile attacks on women who in the past would draw water from the open lake. Statistics from the local dispensary show a decline in water borne diseases by as much as 75 percent, which is attributed to the increased availability of water and water treatment. Awareness raising and training in the use of organic fertilizers, as well as proper tillage methods to avoid soil erosion and siltation, have improved the lake water quality for drinking water purposes.

This successful project concept has been replicated, with the support of Government and church organizations, by other local communities in the region.