In a resolute move towards environmental sustainability and resilience against climate challenges, Rwanda is taking significant strides to phase out fossil fuel dependency in its agricultural sector. Against the backdrop of the ongoing 28th UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, Jerome Hitayezu, Head of the Irrigation Programme at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB), shared ambitious plans to expand solar-powered irrigation, ushering in a new era of green agriculture.
Solar Power Illuminates Rwanda’s Agriculture Landscape
Jerome Hitayezu, at the forefront of Rwanda’s irrigation initiatives, unveiled plans to add over 1,050 hectares to the small-scale irrigation scheme using solar power in the coming year. This visionary move is a key component of Rwanda’s strategy to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and adapt agriculture to the challenges posed by drought.
The government has already subsidized solar-powered irrigation interventions on 646 hectares, with additional support from partners and the private sector. Hitayezu emphasized the commitment to “promote solar-powered irrigation on 1,050 hectares next year,” showcasing Rwanda’s determination to embrace sustainable farming practices.
Financial Investment for a Greener Tomorrow
The financial commitment to this green transition is significant. Rwanda estimates that solar-powered irrigation could slash emissions by 10% by 2030. The country’s 10-year climate plan, known as “NDCs” from 2021 to 2030, outlines a comprehensive strategy. To finance the transition from diesel pumps to solar water pumping systems, Rwanda seeks $285 million (Rwf356 billion). Additional funds will be allocated for developing climate-resilient crops and expanding crop and livestock insurance, amounting to $24 million and $109.6 million, respectively.
This investment, sourced from the government, private sector, and external funding, is poised to reduce Rwanda’s dependency on imported fossil fuels while enhancing food security. The move will also expand the surface area under irrigation, optimizing agricultural productivity.
Rwanda’s Solar-Powered Future: A Climate-Forward Vision
While at present, only 10% of Rwanda’s irrigable land is under cultivation, ambitious targets aim to irrigate 102,284 hectares by 2024. Solar-powered irrigation, although currently a fraction of the total irrigated area, has seen significant growth since 2015. By 2021, at least 1,200 hectares were irrigated using solar power, with a 75% subsidy contributing to the surge.
Rwanda’s Global Commitment at COP28
At the 28th UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, Rwanda reaffirmed its commitment to a sustainable future. Joining a coalition of nations, Rwanda pledged to triple the world’s installed renewable energy generation capacity to at least 11,000 GW by 2030. This commitment aligns with the Africa Climate Summit’s Nairobi Declaration of September 2023, aiming to increase Africa’s renewable generation capacity from 56 GW in 2022 to at least 300 GW by 2030.
Rwanda’s vision extends beyond energy independence; the country aims to derive 60% of its energy from renewable sources like hydropower and solar by 2030. The potential for tapping into the carbon market through renewable energy initiatives further underscores Rwanda’s dedication to a sustainable, low-carbon future.
The Just Transition Debate: Africa’s Call for Equitable Development
While global consensus at COP28 leans towards transitioning away from fossil fuels, African leaders, including Rwanda, advocate for a just transition. Acknowledging the need to industrialize and provide energy to millions, these nations seek opportunities to leverage fossil fuel resources responsibly before reinvesting in green energy.
This story was produced with valuable assistance from MESHA and IDRC Eastern and Southern Africa Office for science journalists reporting on COP28. Rwanda’s solar-powered revolution stands as a testament to its commitment to sustainable agriculture and a greener future.
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