Decentralised solar electricity for agri-food value chains in the Jindu Kush Himalaya region
International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in the cooperation with International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and SELCO Foundation have published a report about findings and recommendations on the use of decentralised solar photovoltaic (PV) solutions for selected food value chains in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region.
The Hindukush Himalayan region relies mostly on agriculture and farming to provide food security and livelihoods. Agriculture sector in mountain environments faces challenges of climate change, limited accessibility as well as insufficient access to markets, a high degree of fragility, lack of production and post-harvest technologies.
The present study was carried out to assess the viability of solar PV solutions to meet energy needs in four selected food value chains of economic importance of the HKH region – buckwheat, yak milk, potato and other vegetables. The existing hydropower energy supply is not able to fully meet the electricity needs of the selected values chains. Furthermore, the seasonal variability in the water flow and subsequent drop in hydropower generation amplifies the need for diversification of energy supply to meet the growing demand.
Clean and affordable decentralised renewable energy can reinforce the resilience of local population by improving the agricultural productivity and income generation as well as the adaptation to the growing impacts of climate change. Decentralised photovoltaic (PV) solutions propose the potential to add value, what will lead to reduction of manual labour, increasing of yield and market scope and reduction of wastage as well as opportunities for women owned/-operated enterprises. This could bring substantive socio-economic growth to the region. It will also help to reduce the dependence of mountain areas in the HKH region on external food supplies.
- Increasing the capacity and skills of local communities - skills training and certification, trained persons at the local level to ensure proper operations, troubleshooting and repairs.
- Enhance the commercial viability of local food products - government and public sector support in the form of concessional loans, tax credits and subsidies to encourage private sector investment, reduction of sales and duties on purchase of equipment and machinery etc.
- Build awareness and inform local communities about policies and programmes – it´s necessary to make isolated communities aware of available tools and opportunities for PVs deployment.
- Promote solar PV solutions to support climate resilience and adaptation
The report proposes an inclusive ecosystem approach to be adapted to the needs of rural areas. Most innovations in the agri-food sector have focused on centralized, industrial-scale set-ups and their benefits for rural and marginalized communities are limited. Therefore, innovations need to be tailored to rural areas and decentralized with the focus not only on technology but also on sustainable and appropriate ownership models, financing and supply chain models. The potential to improve and decentralize agricultural value chains through energy is great, but financing has been a barrier to scaling and for self-sustainable and long-term investment.
Decentralized solar-powered solutions and energy-efficient machinery have the potential to transform food value chains. However, this transformation must take place while preserving the socio-cultural patterns of the region and ensuring green and sustainable development in line with local needs.