men with solar panel, awash, Ethiopia

Project Details

Country Programme
Efficient & Productive Use
Dawit Mekonnen
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Addis Ababa
Dawit Mekonnen, IFPRI

Dawit Mekonnen

Principal Investigator

Improving productive uses of electricity in Ethiopia’s agriculture

Background, challenges and context

Electricity has potential direct benefits for farm income and productivity by enabling irrigation, cold storage, post-harvest processing, etc. It can also help strengthen resilience to drought when used to run irrigation pumps.

Despite these potential benefits, electricity use in Ethiopia’s agricultural sector has been limited, though irrigated agriculture has made some headway in the last decade.  

The energy investment needs and options to support the development of irrigated agriculture in Ethiopia remain largely unknown. Energy planning studies have not explicitly assessed the energy demand for expanding irrigated agriculture. Existing irrigation suitability maps in the country are mainly based on land and water availability and proximities to markets; wherein energy has not been specifically included.


Research overview and objectives 

This project aims to fill two specific knowledge gaps on the productive use of electricity in agriculture.

First, the study will explore the costs and benefits of three different energy technologies for pumping water for irrigation: grid-connected pumps, diesel pumps and photovoltaic (PV) solar pumps. Diesel is the most commonly used energy solution for water pumping in the country, but solar PV and grid connections offer potentially more cost-effective options.

The costs of each energy solution will be mapped under a suite of ‘if-then scenarios’ based on different irrigated crops (vegetables, maize, etc.) and types of irrigation technology (flood, sprinkler, and drip irrigation etc).

The team will estimate the national irrigation development potential in Ethiopia and will determine the cost-effective placement of the three energy options to support development. This research will build on the team’s previous strategic irrigation investment analysis in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The second component of the study will examine the determinants of irrigation technology adoption and crop selection, and the profitability of irrigated farming, differentiated by water sources and irrigation technologies.

The analysis will be based on World Bank LSMS-ISA data, a nationally representative survey of 3,969 households living in rural and small-town areas (with a population of less than 1,000 people). This data will be complemented with a targeted IFPRI survey focusing on crop selection, water demand, and pumping and other irrigation related costs.

The project will produce a refined irrigation suitability map for Ethiopia that considers least-cost water pumping energy options. It will also generate highly informative evidence for policy making on opportunities, constraints, enablers, and disablers of irrigation adoption in Ethiopia.

To ensure that this evidence is utilised, the project will provide capacity building training for staff at the Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD). The training is expected to focus on the estimation of crop water requirements and the corresponding energy demand. Software and tools used in the team’s analysis (for example, for the sizing of solar panels) will be shared.

Beyond these benefits to Ethiopia, this research project will advance our broader understanding of how to forecast energy demand for irrigation and identify the least-cost ways of meeting demand through on-grid and off-grid sources.


Local partner

Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE)

External Journal Articles
Capturing the Productive Use Dividend: Valuing the Synergies between Rural Electrification and Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia