Policy Brief - July 2022

Improving Rural Livelihoods, Energy Access, and Resilience Where It’s Needed Most: The Case for Solar Mini-Grid Irrigation in Ethiopia

Matthew Ingram, Jonathan Phillips, Hizkyas Dufera, Liuel Hizikias, Marc Jeuland, and James Lovedale
Ethiopia’s levels of agricultural productivity and energy access are among the lowest in the world. Now Ethiopia is moving forward with the new Distributed Renewable Energy-Agriculture Modalities (DREAM) project to test distributed solar mini-grids as a solution for improving irrigation, increasing agricultural productivity and farmer incomes, expanding rural electricity access, and enhancing gender and social inclusion. DREAM—the largest project in the world of its kind—aims to achieve these outcomes while also demonstrating an approach that can mobilize private investment to deliver scale. This policy brief summarizes the approach, along with findings of an economic viability analysis examining how the solar mini-grid irrigation projects are likely to impact farmers' incomes at nine unique sites in rural Ethiopia. A full evaluation will be conducted over the next three years to understand the broader impacts of the intervention on the resilience of farm enterprises and households. It will further impart lessons for the scale-up of DREAM in Ethiopia as well as similar programs elsewhere in Africa.
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