Strengthening institutional capacities for sustainable management of solar powered irrigation systems (SPIS) workshop took place in Islamabad on 24 April 2019. The event was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).
In recent years, solar powered irrigation systems (SPIS) have become increasingly viable for countries as a reliable, clean-energy solution for agriculture water use, especially in areas with high-incident solar radiation. As investment costs for SPIS decrease, and governments continue to subsidize technology, SPIS are becoming an attractive option for many farmers. In rural areas, SPIS can be a means of ensuring access to energy for agriculture, specifically for users in rural areas that lack reliable access to electricity or where diesel fuel is expensive. In addition, a growing number of countries are promoting SPIS in the framework of national action plans against climate change as a way of reducing carbon emissions in agriculture.
With SPIS expansion and promotion continuing in South Asia, there is an opportunity to carefully consider the impacts of this technology. This workshop highlighted the need for a better understanding of how this technology effects groundwater regulation and use, in addition to exploring financial models and policies that can ensure the poorest farmers benefit from the technology where water resource conditions are suitable.
Muhammad Hashim Popalzai, Federal Secretary, Ministry of Food Security and Research inaugurated the training saying he hoped that this workshop would come up with policy solutions for the stakeholders as well as the government.
FAO Representative Mina Dowlatchahi said there is an urgent need to use water more efficiently in agriculture, but, on the other hand, irrigation is one of the main ways to increase food production and rural incomes. It is imperative, therefore, to improve water management to achieve both high water productivity and increase rural incomes. FAO stood ready training and capacity building are needed to develop the skills, knowledge and means to define, plan and implement programmes in integrated water resource development in agriculture.
A panel discussion also took place, which emphasized the need for institutional framework, and capacity development of the irrigation institutions of the country. The panelist included Robina Wahaj, Land and Water Officer FAO, Dr. Muhammad Ashraf DG-PCRWR, Dr. Pervez Amir water expert, Dr. Abdul Majeed, water, energy, and climate specialist IUCN, and Dr. Bashir Ahmad, CEWRI, NARC.
Dr Robina Wahaj from FAO stated that consolidated data about the groundwater in Pakistan needs to be available and made accessible to all the stakeholders, which can only be done through capacity development and the better connectivity of institution.
Inefficient irrigation system is the reason for the mismatched demand and supply of ample water to agriculture, however, over extraction of the ground water can quickly deplete the natural resource, and solar powered irrigation could be a solution for that.
Group discussion followed where over thirty participants divided into clusters to discuss the policy framework, socio economic indicators for SPIS feasibility mapping, and the physical indicators for the mapping.