Reflections on water: crops and profit in the International Year of Water Cooperation

March 22, 2013

Looking out across healthy, ripe sweet peppers as far as the eye could see in a field in Nicaragua last week made me reflect on how water has the potential to transform poor people’s economic reality. We are often blinkered when it comes to water: just seeing it through the lens of health and sanitation. However, critically it is also a key way for farmers to make money. 

The impact of water on development takes to the global stage this year, with the United Nations declaring 2013 the International Year of Water Cooperation. It aims to raise awareness about water management, promote cooperation to tackle water-related challenges and highlight links with the Millennium Development Goals. 
At Renewable World we are working to unlock the commercial potential of water. Lifting water using affordable renewable energy allows agricultural production, and sales of produce, to go from 12 weeks a year to 12 months a year. Irrigation allows savvy poor farmers to grow crops that are in demand but in short supply and get the cash reward for higher prices.
That is where the sweet peppers come in. The field I was standing in belongs to a poor Nicaraguan farmer who invested in a new solar water pumping system with the aid of Renewable World’s local partner AsoFenix. Now this farmer’s peers can’t stop talking about how much extra money he’ll earn – and they want some of the action! Renewable World is helping to expand the solar water pumping project, facilitating investment in similar systems for nearby farmers.
Water storage tank and pv solar panel in front of maize and squash crops; ripening sweet peppers; Jaime Muñoz Director of AsoFenix surveys a promising field of irrigated tomatoes. 
It is a clear example of how we help to close the gap between a functioning energy market and poor consumers, generating a virtuous circle of more energy, more water, more crops, and more money.
‘Joined-up’ approaches, linking renewable energy to water and increased production, can yield enormous benefits for poor farmers from Nicaragua to Nepal. The BBC recently gave Renewable World the opportunity to share this approach on national television. Our BBC Lifeline Appeal tells the story of two women, Sita and Sumina, whose lives are transformed through combining water and renewable energy. Watch the Appeal and let us know what you think.
The examples in the Appeal illustrate the enormous benefits that can be derived from appropriate technologies linked to that effective business models. Renewable World’s unique contribution of building business modelling and technical skills has served to link energy to other development goals – not just water, but improved livelihoods.
Learn more about our transformative work and visit the UN Water website to read about World Water Day celebrations.