Solar-powered Irrigationin Yemen: Opportunities, Challenges And Policies

Yemen is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, with renewable water resources currently capable of providing only 75 m3 per capita per year – well below the water scarcity threshold. And this volume is steadily dropping. The agricultural sector in Yemen is the dominant user of groundwater resources, accounting for around 90 percent of total consumption. Due to the current crisis, fuel required for pumps has become scarce and very expensive; as a result, solar energy has begun to play a role in the extraction and supply of groundwater for irrigation. However, there is concern about the misuse of this new technology.

This study examines the current trend of solar-powered irrigation system (SPIS) use in Sana’a Basin, identifying the pros and cons of this approach. It presents the perspectives of farmers and experts in terms of what is happening and what should be done to maximize the benefits and minimize the negative impacts of SPIS. The incidence of SPIS installation is increasing at a rate of more than 4 percent annually. Farmers spoken to as a part of this study expressed enthusiasm to use SPIS and cited capital cost as the biggest obstacle to their acquiring this technology.

This paper proposes governance and policy recommendations for overall water management and, in particular, for future studies and regulation of SPIS-driven groundwater use. Setting appropriate policies for water-pumping powered by renewable energy will help to conserve groundwater sources and sustainably preserve livelihoods