Techno-economic feasibility of small-scale pressurized irrigation in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda through an integrated modeling approach

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IOP Publishing Ltd
Agriculture contributes up to 50% of the gross domestic product in some East African countries and is the backbone of the region’s economy. Most farmers rely on traditional, small-scale subsistence farming with low fertilizer use and low-yield seeds. Similarly, less than 3% of the total cultivated area employs any form of irrigation, mostly non-pressurized. Meanwhile, electricity providers frequently struggle with low and unpredictable demand, challenging their ability to recover rural infrastructure investments. Using electricity to pump irrigation water can increase agricultural productivity and improve the financial sustainability of rural electricity supply. This study evaluates the productive and economic feasibility of pressurized small-scale irrigation systems in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda for three staple crops and two horticulture crops. To study these effects, we develop simplified engineering-based irrigation and hydrology models and combine them with an existing biophysical crop growth model using district-level agrometeorological, soil, and crop physiology data as inputs. Our results indicate that small-scale pressurized irrigation can significantly increase yields for horticulture crops and staples such as maize or potato grown with improved seeds and moderate or greater fertility levels. The sensitivity analysis shows that irrigation may be techno-economically viable in up to 36% of Ethiopian woredas, 67% of Rwandan districts, and 45% of Ugandan districts provided the use of improved cultivars and non-limiting fertility conditions. These results highlight the value of complementing irrigation investments with electricity infrastructure in East Africa.
Small-scale irrigation, techno-economic analysis, electricity use, East Africa
Izar-Tenorio, Jorge L., Paulina Jaramillo, and Nathan Williams. 'Techno-Economic Feasibility of Small-Scale Pressurized Irrigation in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda through an Integrated Modeling Approach', Environmental Research Letters, vol. 16/no. 10, (2021), pp. 104048.