Barriers to the Adoption of Renewable Energy Technologies in Agriculture
Lotenna Nwana* & Ifeoma Malo**
Nigeria is blessed with an abundance of natural resources that can be utilized to achieve immense benefits. Particularly, the agriculture sector in Nigeria has an abundance of natural resources — soil, sunlight,water and oil. These resources are being leveraged to produce food for the populace. According to the World Bank, agricultural development has the potential to end extreme poverty as it is projected to feed about 9.7 billion people globally by 2050. This emphasizes the point that a country that has increased agricultural development should have reduced poverty levels. Subsequently, given the significant contribution of the agricultural sector to Nigeria’s GDP (24.65% as at Q2 of 2020), It becomes a wonder that over 86 million (nearly 50%) of the country’s population are living in abject poverty. According to the Global Hunger Index 2020, which was adopted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Nigeria was one of the top ten countries affected by hunger and malnutrition, with an index of 29.2. This further highlights the need for an improvement in the country’s agricultural processes.
One key element that will positively affect the agriculture sector is access to and adoption of Renewable Energy (RE), which is why there are a lot of efforts geared towards the electrification of rural communities, where the majority of the country’s agricultural activities take place. Recent engagements with Nigerian farmers found that 65% of them were unable to scale their businesses because of poor electricity supply.
The major issues that affect the adoption of Renewable Energy (RE) in the agricultural sector come in two folds — high level of poverty (inadequate financing opportunities), and behavioural change. The high level of poverty in rural communities makes it difficult for the farmers to switch from manual farming practices to RE technologies given their low income levels. Some of the reasons why farmers in rural areas realize low income include post harvest losses, loss of crops as a result of poor farming methods and small scale farming.. It is a known saying that “change is the only constant thing in life” but generally, human beings are afraid of change and this constitutes the issue of behavioural change. Farmers are accustomed to and comfortable with traditional methods of farming — sun-drying perishable products, livestock manure for soil enrichment and poor irrigation methods. There is a reluctance by these farmers to switch to the use of these RE technologies as they lack the required knowledge to transition to RE technologies, are scared of the unknown, and are stuck in their ways.
Aside from the issues identified above, other issues that hinder the adoption of RE technologies by farmers are (i) Access to adequate finance and credit facilities is a barrier that affects the adoption of RE. The small scale nature of farming in rural areas makes it difficult for farmers to be able to afford the upfront costs associated with accessing clean energy solutions, which is why the subscription business model of companies like Cold Hubs, which makes farmers pay to leverage their services, in a way addresses this issue; (ii) Many of the small-scale farmers in the country are unaware of the available, cost-effective clean energy options that have the potential to greatly improve their productivity and profitability and enhance food security; (iii) There is also the issue of “no mind-shift”. Most farmers in rural areas are comfortable with the manual farming methods (burning of agriculture residue, poor manure management etc.) they currently use, not minding the adverse effects they may have on the environment.
To address these issues, Clean Technology Hub, Nigeria in continuation of her advocacy for access to clean, as well as reliable and sustainable energy solutions, recently conducted a one-day workshop in three states namely: Ondo, Delta and Ebonyi in quarter 3 and quarter 4 of 2020 to educate farmers on the available alternative renewable energy solutions for their businesses. The sensitisation programme titled: “Pathway to Increased Income, Profit and Yield using Renewable Energy” for smallholder farmers was aimed at helping the smallholder farmers navigate the particular issues faced in their businesses, particularly around the effects of poor access to energy, and environmental degradation. The training further delved into how these small farmer holding communities can effectively enhance their business productivity and profits, as well expand on their operations with the aid of these renewable energy technologies.
One of the major issues that farmers face is post-harvest losses. In Nigeria, about 40% of foods spoil due to inadequate means of storing harvested goods. This highlights the importance of the work being done by companies like Cold Hubs, Nigeria in the development of solar-powered cold storage. Solar-powered cold storage systems are very important to combat the issue of post-harvest losses. When farmers harvest perishable goods, they are under great pressure to sell off all the goods to prevent losses as a result of spoilage which makes them drastically reduce the prices of the goods. The exorbitant upfront cost of setting up a cold storage facility has made it difficult for this issue to be solved by the farmers. To address this, Cold Hubs sets up solar-powered cold storage in different parts of Nigeria and operates them with a flexible pay-as-you-store subscription model. The farmers transfer their perishable goods into reusable crates for storage in Cold Hubs storage facilities and pay a daily flat fee for each crate of food they store. This has helped, to some extent, to address post-harvest losses in parts of Nigeria without the farmers bearing the accompanying burden of setting up cold storage facilities.
Energy is necessary for promoting social and economic development in a country. Over the years, Nigeria has grappled with ensuring the adequate provision of this basic amenity (electricity) to various areas of the country. There is a dearth of adequate policies that will foster the adoption of renewable energy in the Agricultural sector. The government needs to develop policies that will encourage the adoption of RE technologies by farmers as well as incentivise and encourage investment of energy solutions in the agricultural sector.
Lotenna Nwana* is a Research Analyst at Clean Technology Hub.
Ifeoma Malo** is the Founder & CEO of Clean Technology Hub.