Linking minigrids and agriculture in Nigeria to catalyse economic growth
The Nigerian Rural Electrification Agency (REA) seeks to catalyse economic development and improve rural livelihoods in Nigeria by linking minigrids and agricultural productivity.
In collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the REA has launched the Energizing Agriculture Program (EAP). The programme is a three-year initiative with the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP), with funding from The Rockefeller Foundation.
The programme’s goals to stimulate the use of minigrid electricity in agricultural productive uses that drive local economic growth. It is focused on enabling market-led solutions and breaking the silos separating electrification and agricultural development.
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Goddy Jedy-Agba, OFR, Minister of State, Nigerian Federal Ministry of Power: “As the renewable energy space improves yearly, we have continued to keep a keen eye on the deployment of programmes and solutions geared toward socioeconomic impact in unserved and underserved communities across Nigeria. The EAP is one of those programmes.”
Over the next three years, the EAP initiative aims to foster a pipeline of agriculture-energy projects. This includes those that demonstrate the impact of collaborative development efforts across the energy and agriculture sectors.
Across these activities, the EAP is designed to ensure local ownership of solutions and scaling by partnering widely and sharing insights. The EAP will build on existing agriculture and electrification initiatives in Nigeria and then accelerate the deployment and adoption of the most effective solutions.
It hopes to achieve this by gathering local partners to validate commercially led business models, demonstrate agricultural appliances and scale proven solutions.
Dr Mohammed Mahmoud Abubakar, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development said the programme encourages the productive use of energy to deepen their objective of organising and managing the agricultural sector in Nigeria.
“Leveraging renewable energy technologies for productive use in off-grid communities greatly helps to strengthen production capacity of the average Nigerian farmer in rural communities,” he explained.
The link between agriculture and the economy in Nigeria
Agriculture is considered the economic backbone of rural Nigerian communities. Minigrids, which are small-scale electricity grids powering communities independently, are often the least-cost electrification option.
Experts estimate that Nigeria’s agricultural sector has the potential to generate $40 billion in exports.
Using electricity to power opportunities like these can drive a virtuous cycle for rural development. Enhancing income generation, community resilience and the minigrid utility’s financial performance are ways to do so.
Justin Locke, RMI’s Global South Programme Managing Director, explained that addressing the energy deficit challenge in sub-Saharan Africa is fundamental to unlocking agricultural productivity, new income-generating activities and accelerating of global decarbonisation efforts.
“The EAP’s potential to electrify agricultural loads can catalyse scaling the adoption of decentralised renewable energy systems and spur local community development,” explained Locke.
Supporting demand, jobs and SME growth by increasing agricultural productive use at minigrid sites are critical to uplifting low-income communities in Nigeria.
The EAP will contribute to these efforts by deploying productive use cases in rural communities and proving out business models to scale similar interventions at minigrid sites.
For example, equipment like electric grain mills and cold storage can plug directly into existing agricultural value chains once electricity is available.
Joseph Nganga, executive director for Africa at the GEAPP said that despite incredible advances in renewable energy technologies, we haven’t seen these innovations spread at the speed and scale needed to reach the communities most in need, especially in the agricultural sector.
“The EAP will bring together farmer organisations, private agricultural companies, donors, equipment manufacturers and governments to surface innovations and embed them within existing value chains. If we are successful, some of these solutions will have wide uptake, helping to catalyse more equitable and sustainable economic development,” explained Nganga.