Agricultural institutions have been challenged to invest more in solar power technology as a way of intensifying climate smart agriculture, a farming technique that helps farmers to be more productive while using clean power.
In Zimbabwe many agriculture institutions are located out of towns and cities where the availability of electricity is very low, hence investing in solar system will answer the call for frequent power shortages and could be a long-term solution for energy requirements within such institutions.
Developing solar energies in agriculture institutions will reduce national greenhouse gas emissions believed to be the biggest driver of global warming and climate change.
The level of investment in low carbon technologies in agriculture institutions at present is disappointing despite empirical evidence of the high level of risk caused by climate change in the short and long run.
The source of this power, the sun, is fully renewable and available in good quantities in the country and a correctly designed and installed solar system for both power and water pumping will provide many years of green, safe and reliable service and can be applied to any electrical use.
Speaking at a workshop for the Climate Smart Agriculture Manual, Training of the Trainer Programme at Gwebi Agriculture College yesterday, deputy director of Agriculture Education and Farmers Training Mr Francis Borgia Vengai, said all agriculture colleges must invest more in renewable energy techniques for sustainable production.
“Building resilience in renewable energy and food production is a fundamental challenge in today’s changing world, especially in agricultural institutions where the training of farming originates.
“Agriculture is the sole provider of human food. Most agricultural institutions in Zimbabwe’s equipment are mainly driven by fossil fuels, which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and in turn, accelerate climate change.
“Such environmental damage can be mitigated by the promotion of renewable resource such as solar, wind, biomass, tidal, geo-thermal, small-scale hydro, biofuels and wave-generated power,” he said.
He said renewable energy resources have a huge potential for the growth of the agriculture industry in Zimbabwe.
“The farmers should be encouraged by subsidies to use renewable energy technology but it has to start by agriculture training institutions. The concept of sustainable agriculture lies on a delicate balance of maximising crop productivity and maintaining economic stability, while minimising the utilisation of finite natural resources and detrimental environmental impacts.
“Zimbabwe agriculture institutions should also start to expose students to new technologies in the agriculture sector. The solar systems which we want to be invested here is one of the technologies, which will improve production,” Mr Vengai said.
Speaking at the same event, climate change scientist in the Ministry of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mr Tatenda Mutasa said agricultural colleges must not be left out in all efforts to promote the uptake of renewable energy production and services.
“Scaling up linkages between the provision of renewable energy services and products in agriculture colleges can boost agricultural output and the achievement of a number of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs.
“We must co-locate the nexus between agriculture and renewable energy, between the agriculture institutions and the private companies that produce solar products and services to create mutually beneficial relationships that could boost college’s productivity and the attainment of a number of our Sustainable Development Goals targets,” he said.
Mr Mutasa said renewable energy in agriculture institutions is a roadmap of attaining sustainable agriculture system. Sustainable agricultural system is based on the prudent use of renewable and or recyclable resources. A system which depends on exhaustible (finite) resources such as fossil fuels cannot be sustained indefinitely. A sustainable system would use renewable energy sources such as solar or wind.
“Smart farming should start at college farms. We need students that are innovative, and that is how as a country we can be able to sustain ourselves.”
Gwebi Agriculture College Principal Mrs Shupikai Sibanda said investing into solar production will upgrade the standards and production in agriculture institutions.
She sought to facilitate access to affordable, reliable and renewable energy for powering agriculture production through solar power is the colleges’ main priority.
“Through providing access to solar energy in our agriculture institutions and conducting farmer trainings, will empower us and students as well and it will improve the productivity and production of crop production here. We are facing challenges of electricity here and usually when power cuts occur we will not be able to access water as well and it will a double tragedy.
“Investing in solar production will empower us through improved access to clean renewable energy that supports water production for irrigation and garden plots for our institutions,” she said. Government extension workers and other agencies have been very supportive. All this has contributed to the overall success of the project.”