This is the VOA Special English Development Report.
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new study in West Africa shows how farm irrigation systems powered by the sun can
produce more food and money for villagers. The study in Benin found that solar-powered
pumps are effective in supplying water, especially during the long dry season.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the part of the
world with the least food security. The United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization estimates that more than one billion of the world's people faced
hunger last year. Around two hundred sixty-five million of them live south of
the Sahara Desert. Lack of rainfall is one of their main causes of food
Jennifer Burney from Stanford University in California led
the study. The research team helped build three solar-powered drip irrigation
systems in northern Benin.
Between thirty and thirty-five
women used each system to pump water from the ground or a stream. Each woman
was responsible for farming her own one hundred twenty square meters of land. They
also farmed other land collectively.
The solar-powered irrigation systems produced an
average of nearly two metric tons of vegetables per month. During the first
year, the women kept a monthly average of almost nine kilograms of vegetables
for home use.
They sold the surplus produce at local markets.
The earnings greatly increased their ability to buy food during the dry season
which can last six to nine months.
People in the two villages with
the systems were able to eat three to five more servings of vegetables per day.
But making the surplus available at markets also had a wider effect.
study compared the villages with two others where women farmed with traditional
methods like carrying water in buckets. The amount of vegetables eaten in those
villages also increased, though not as much.
The researchers note that only
four percent of the cropland in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated. Using solar
power to pump water has higher costs at first. But the study says it can be
more economical in the long term than using fuels like gasoline, diesel or kerosene.
And solar power is environmentally
study appears this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of
that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. You
can post comments and learn about other issues in the developing world at
voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.
Correction: Stanford researchers studied the impact of the irrigation systems but did not build them, as this story suggested. The project was financed and built by the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF), a nongovernmental organization.