How Solar Energy Can Improve Food Security in Nigeria

Role of Solar Energy in Food Security in Nigeria

Solar is being adopted around the world to address various challenges including those in agriculture. In Almere, near Amsterdam, the Symbizon initiative has united a Swedish energy firm with Dutch researchers and a private organic farm to establish a 700-kilowatt solar park, featuring alternating strips of PV modules and rows of crops. Also, agrivoltaics are being tested in East Africa, where their shade help reduce heat stress, water loss, improve farmer incomes in disadvantaged rural communities.

In Nigeria, the agriculture sector is the largest employer, engaging more than two-thirds of the labour force and contributing significantly to the country’s economy, accounting for 22% of the GDP. Despite the considerable potential for growth and improvement in the agriculture sector, the lack of reliable power has remained a major obstacle for both food producers and rural communities in Nigeria.

In recent years, Nigeria has battled with food security challenges stemming from factors like climate change, economic development, conflict, population growth, and poor infrastructure – access roads, electricity and water. Among the various challenges faced by the agricultural sector, inadequate power supply stands out. The inconsistent power situation in Nigeria stresses the need for government authorities to explore alternative energy sources. In tackling the energy deficit impeding the growth of the agricultural sector, there is a growing focus on renewable energy. In 2023, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Rural Electrification Agency deployed solar mini-grids across agrarian communities nationwide in a bid to ensure food security in the country. 

The link between Electricity and Agriculture

Electricity is the heart of modern agriculture, powering irrigation systems, processing facilities, and storage units. However, in Nigeria, many rural areas face erratic power supply, hindering agricultural productivity and efficiency. This power shortage hurts the entire food supply chain, from cultivation to distribution, and poses a threat to the nation’s ability to feed its growing population. 

Nigeria’s power generation revolves between 3,500MW and 4,500MW which is insufficient for a country of approximately 200 million people. This power deficit and poor energy supply in rural areas hinder farmers from processing and storing crops for future sales when prices are better. This means they often have to sell their produce quickly, even at lower prices, before it goes bad. This situation makes it challenging for farmers to invest in methods that could increase their overall crop production. Post-harvest losses due to inadequate storage facilities and unreliable power supply are a major concern for Nigerian farmers.

Energizing agriculture through clean energy solutions proves significant here. Solar power can be used to power irrigation, cold storage units, processing facilities and more, extending the shelf life of perishable goods and reducing waste. This not only ensures that more food reaches the market but also creates opportunities for farmers to access higher-value markets through improved processing and preservation.

Equipping Farmers with Solar Solutions

In addition to its contributions to food security, solar power solutions address other challenges faced by rural farmers, such as access to credit, limited access to water, transportation etc, and knowledge gap on farming practices. By providing a reliable and decentralized source of power, solar power offers a sustainable alternative to traditional electricity sources, enabling essential agricultural activities in remote areas. Solar-powered irrigation systems are a prime example of how this technology can improve farming practices, allowing consistent irrigation, enhancing crop yields and food supply stability.

Economic Empowerment and Sustainability

Beyond addressing immediate challenges, the widespread adoption of solar-powered solutions in agriculture contributes to economic empowerment and environmental sustainability. By mitigating post-harvest loss and several other aforementioned challenges, farmers can experience increased productivity and income which translates to a boost in the entire economy from a more thriving agricultural sector.

Solar power plays a crucial role in Nigeria’s food security. Through decentralized power solutions, solar can contribute significantly to food security economic growth and environmental sustainability.