The Institute for University Cooperation (ICU) was established in 1966, and is recognized as an NGO for development cooperation by the European Commission and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ICU has extensive experience in agriculture, water management, and the environmental sector. ICU has partnered with Nur Solar Systems in Jordan, and Mena Solar in Lebanon. Nur Solar Systems is a leading Jordanian solar systems manufacturing company; Mena Solar specializes in solar energy systems, with a particular expertise in photovoltaics.
Water is scarce in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and Jordan is one of the world's driest countries. In Jordan and Lebanon, the widespread use of inefficient irrigation methods results in the waste of large amounts of water. This wasted water could be used for wider and better irrigation of crops. The diffused use of fertilizers and agro-chemicals increases soil salinity and contaminates soil and groundwater. Farmers are also in remote areas with no, or unreliable, access to the electrical grid. Financing can be difficult to obtain and farmers may be reluctant to use innovative methods.
ICU will install a drip irrigation system powered by PV solar energy at pilot farms. The system supports fertigation, which provides the possibility of fertilizer distribution through the irrigation system. Farmers will be supported in accessing to financing for the installation of the system. The CES will provide a complete package for purchase and installation, including training and access to knowledgeable extension agents and companies’ staff.
The project will provide a comprehensive technology package for PV-Drip Irrigation and fertigation which will encourage the switch from diesel powered to solar powered pumps, resulting in reduced CO2 emissions and energy costs. In addition, the drip and fertigation system will reduce water and fertilizer use up to 30% compared to traditional systems due to efficient and localized application. In order to make the CES technology accessible to farmers the project will facilitate access to credit and widen the presence of trained technical staff able to provide technical and maintenance assistance.
The project has installed 6 PV-Integrated Irrigation Systems in Lebanon, and 4 in Jordan, for a total capacity of 87kW. As a result of the Powering Agriculture project’s visibility, ICU’s partner in Lebanon has installed an additional 600 kW of solar-powered irrigation systems. Some benefits from use of the systems include farming of previously unused land and extended growing seasons, both of which result in increased income. Fertigation also minimizes over-fertilization, which reduces costs. During the second half of 2017, ICU organized 8 commercial events between Jordan and Lebanon to introduce the system to new potential customers.