Sustainable Energy for Food

Project description

Programme title: Sustainable Energy for Food – Powering Agriculture
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Global
Overall term: 2013 to 2019


The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the global population will reach nine billion by 2050. To cope with the future needs, food production around the world must increase by 70 per cent. At the same time, the demand for energy will also increase. Today, the food sector accounts for a third of the world’s energy consumption. This remains strongly dependent on fossil fuels and, according to FAO, is responsible for 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Energy-efficient methods or alternatives to diesel-powered technologies have yet to take hold in agriculture and the food sector – even though successful examples of sustainable energy use exist.


Energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies have increased in agricultural value chains, leading to a rise in productivity and a fall in greenhouse gas emissions.


The project is responsible for the German contribution to the international initiative, Powering Agriculture – An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC). This is a collective undertaking by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), USAID, the Swedish development cooperation agency (Sida) the US Government’s development finance institution OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation) and the US company Duke Energy. The initiative aims to develop and disseminate economically viable innovative approaches to foster the use of climate-friendly energy technologies in agriculture in developing countries and emerging economies. It disburses direct grants to companies, universities and non-state organisations, by means of international competitive tenders. It is currently supporting 24 projects.

Beside its work within the initiative, the GIZ project also runs pilot projects for sustainable energy solutions in agricultural value chains, one example being the market introduction of solar-powered pumps in India. The knowledge and experience it obtains is processed and shared with others, for instance through the interactive wiki platform, the Powering Agriculture Portal. Its priority areas of interest include solar-powered irrigation systems, refrigeration and energy efficiency in value chains. It conducts studies to obtain an overview of the available sustainable energy technologies and their applications, for instance cooperating with FAO to examine the topic of solar-powered irrigation. It also feeds theoretical and practically based knowledge into the design of training programmes. One example of this is an energy auditors’ course it runs in cooperation with Strathmore University in Kenya.

The project ran a free massive open online course (MOOC), which was followed by 1,400 participants from around the world. This provided further training and an opportunity for interactive exchanges on sustainable energy solutions in agriculture and the food sector.

The project is based in Bonn, and it works together with private and state partners in the different partner countries. It also maintains a regional centre for East Africa in Kenya.

Results achieved so far

The first innovations supported by the Powering Agriculture initiative are nearing market readiness and will soon be shared more widely. For example, in the first year of its grant support, the innovator SunCulture sold 40 solar-powered irrigation kits to 187 farmers. It also trained 25 technicians to advise the farmers on the installation of these kits and on the harvesting and sale of their products.

Energy audits have been carried out in four Kenyan tea factories. The resulting investment recommendations have begun to improve their energy efficiency. Annual reductions of up to 10,000 tonnes of CO2 are now expected, while the factories’ productivity has increased. The local development partner, the Kenya Tea Development Agency, now plans to carry out audits itself in another 66 tea factories.

Thanks to the MOOC, awareness of the energy-agriculture nexus has grown among decision-makers in 55 developing countries and emerging economies. Networking structures have been strengthened and decision-makers from the private sector, academia and civil society, as well as policy-makers have benefited from further training measures.