Over the last few decades, Cabo-Verdeans have progressively mastered low-cost and efficient technologies to produce in an increasingly constrained environment. Two technologies in particular struck me. A low-cost, extremely water efficient hydroponic system, which allows the growing of plants without soil, and the wide-spread use of photovoltaic energy to mobilize and manage water.

Widespread photovoltaic use

In Cabo Verde, water mobilization for human consumption and agriculture has been a challenge for decades. Modern technologies are easing up the burden on the rural population, particularly on women. Following a 2016 review of POSER and the design of its climate-focused component POSER-Climat – funded by IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) – IFAD and the Government of Cabo Verde decided to focus the interventions on “structuring” investments, mainly in the water sector.

Building on the upgrade of the existing water infrastructure, it was systematically decided to ensure the reliability of the pumping system and the downstream adduction system, including drip irrigation; increase the storage capacity of the reservoirs and cover them to avoid evaporation losses; and provide low-cost electricity supply with photovoltaic energy (PV). These upgrades were also made in a perspective of a watershed management, resulting in improved soil conservation, reduced erosion and better water infiltration.

The rural population, which now has access to energy through PV for water extraction and management, has largely benefited from the reduction in the cost of energy. Despite relatively high initial costs of about US$50,000 for 20kW for PV, the economic return on investments occur only four to five years after the introduction of the technology, according to an economic analysis conducted in 2018.