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Sustainable Energies in the Agadez et Tillaberi Regions

Place: niger, Africa
Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products
Total Budget: € 1.139.706,00 | Period: From July 2011 To


This project aims to enhance the agricultural production and to develop the transformation of the agro-pastoral production in rural areas of Sahel, by means of appropriate technologies, powered by renewable energies
The beneficiaries are about 200.000 inhabitants of three regions of Niger (mainly rural areas), young and women's groups.
A drip irrigation system powered by solar energy has been installed to demonstrate the benefits of this technique.
Two centres for the transformation of food and its packaging, powered by photovoltaic systems, have been set up in rural areas, and their production and sells are steadily rising as new markets open.
A production of pellet from hay for livestock has been set up, together with a production of pellets from agricultural residues. Those last  are being used as fuel for cooking purposes in gasification stoves, instead of forest wood, as a contribute to stop deforestation.


Terre Solidali Onlus - Italy

Lead applicant

RESEDA - Niger

Initiative partner

Reseda is a group of enterprises, associations and NGOs, set up in 2001. It has competences in terms of consuelling, building and training. Since its start RESEDA puts stress on the enhancement of the quality of life of users, the strengthening of their revenues, and the number of jobs created. RESEDA puts renewable energies first, and has a special attention towards women activities. Reseda works in the field of water raising by means of hand operated and electrical pumps, mobile and fixed PV powered pumps; in the field of solar drying of foods with the building of different types of solar driers; food transformation for seed grinding and oil extraction. Reseda works on the building of buildings without wood, with presses to produce bricks. In the field of trainiing Reseda provides studies and consuelling in the above cited fields, feasibility studies, local development plans for communities, management in the development of projects, development and realization of innovations.

Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning - Italy

Initiative partner

The Interuniversity Department of REGIONAL AND URBAN STUDIES AND PLANNING (DIST) is the point of reference in Politecnico and Università di Torino for the areas of knowledge that study the processes of territorial transformation and government, both on a local and on a global scale. These processes are analysed from a sustainability perspective in their physical, economic, social, political and cultural aspects, as well as in their interrelationships. DIST promotes, coordinates and manages basic and applied research, training, technology transfer and services for the local community with regard to urban and regional sciences and policies, as well as to spatial, urban and environmental-landscape planning.

Promec Elettronica - Italy

Initiative partner

Promec elettronica operates in the fields of professional electronics and renewable energies. In the field of professional electronics it produces inverters, custom and industrial power transformers, special transformers for medical products (cardiology, ecography, magnetic resonance). In the field of renewable energies Promec operates with project and supply of all components for small and medium grid connected photovoltaic applications, project and supply of all components for stand alone photovoltaic applications, microturbines and turbines for micro and minihydro power applications.

The main idea of the project has been to develop the transformation of the agro-pastoral production in rural areas, in order to produce packed processed food, for it to reach relatively far markets. The lack of electricity in these areas represented a further challenge for the project. But it gave the opportunity to develop an approach based on energy supply from solar sources. To achieve the goal,two centers for food processing have been installed, completely powered by solar energy for processing, testing and packaging of products. Besides the main idea,three other important issues have been developed: to promote local agricultural production in a sustainable way with drip irrigation powered by solar energy, to promote a new type of gasification stove to stop deforestation, caused by the heavy use of woodfuel, obtained cutting the forest, and to introduce in Niger pellet food for livestock.

The project has produced several innovations.
First, the construction of two centres for food processing suitable for rural areas without electricity, that can be used as a model. Their photovoltaic systems are specifically designed with respect to tropical conditions (type and size batteries, control voltages and currents to high temperatures).
Second, the introduction of drip irrigation, a practice still largely unknown in Sahel rural areas.
Third, the beginning of a local production of pellets from biomass (mainly agricultural and pruning residues), to be used as biofuel in gasification stoves.
Fourth, introduction in Niger of the preservation of hay in the form of pellets, with improved nutrition of livestock.
These four innovations, together,represent the beginning of a new approach in the management of natural resources in Niger, with a better use of water resources, with the enhancement of the total agricultural production, and a more efficient way of cooking.

Field with drip irrigation The solar-powered drip irrigation system was installed in December 2013. This system has allowed the beneficiaries to distribute water more efficiently, with an extension of cultivations. It also eased the work of people, mainly women, for watering. The beneficiaries were trained in operation and maintenance of the system with a practical training. A control on the system at the end of the season verified the optimal conditions and efficiency of the installation.
Food packaging Thanks to solar electricity, the two food processing centers are equipped with machines for vacuum packaging. The 220 VAC electrical system supplies power up to 3000 VA, with 4000 VA peak. Dried food moisture is controlled following the oven method. The beneficiaries have quickly learned the use of the machines thanks to training.These technologies make it possible to produce safe and clean dried food, controlled and bagged with modern means, in areas not served by the electric grid.
Starting pellet production Tests to optimize the machines and thepellet making process have been carried out in order to start the production from local biomass. In this picture the testing of powder made with millets stalks grinded at different dimensions can be seen. Besides the grinding degree, the right moisture content has been found, and the way to achieve it. After the process, the pellets have to dry in the sun for one day, to get rid of the residual moisture.

Niger is a Sahelian country where 63% of the population lives below the poverty line (UNICEF, 2013), with a 3.9% population increase per year.
Human nutrition is largely insufficient, as the local food supply is adversely affected by low skills, poor technologies, and shortage of surface water resources and energy.
However, there is a good potential for a local food production, with fertile soils and groundwater aquifers at low depth.
The project we are carrying on, strengthens food sovereignty by improving local skills, and rationalizing the use of natural resources. The project uses renewable energy to pump and distribute of water for irrigation and to power plants to perform transformation and preservation of locally produced food. The used technologies are mainly produced in Italy, and adapted to the situation of developing countries, but also directly produced in Niger, following appropriate designs set up by the project partners in several years of research and cooperation.

Fodder preservation Hay making is poorly diffused in Niger, and the storage facilities do not protect hay from direct sun or rain. A typical storage is on a roof or on an open structure, as in this photo. Those are conditions favourable to the loss of nutrients.
Selling almost only fresh Given the lack of means of preservation, the horticultural products are mainly marketed fresh. Particularly in the countryside, where refrigeration does not exist, the fresh product that is not quickly sold on the market, is often lost, because its quality gets bad after only few days because of the heat. some products are dried and sold, but their quality is normally low because of degradation of colour after direct exposure to the sun, and contamination with dust and insects.
Woman carrying water Watering plants in orchards is traditionally done rising water from a well with a bucket and bringing this water to the plants by foot. This operation is quite heavy and is performed mainly by women. As a result the limit to vegetables production is not given by the availability of water, but by the time and fatigue needed to perform watering. Electrical pumping, especially solar powered, solves this problem and gives much free time to workers, to do other works, but for themselves too.

The main results obtained can be summarized as follows:
The start of a steady production of processed food, by drying and packaging.
The opening of new markets for local products.
The increase in cultivated areas due to the greater irrigation water efficiency.
The installation of two plants for pellet productionfrom agricultural residues and pruning.
The creation and dissemination of a new gasification stove.
The creation of direct stable employment for 75 people,workers and entrepreneurs,involved in the various activities of the project,mainly in small rural centres.
The improvement in nutritional propertiesof food for livestock, thanks to pelletizing, with a sharp reduction in volume, with a reduction in transport costs. In addition, pellets avoid the fire risks typical of the traditional storing of hay on roofs.
The creation of free time for women working in agriculture, thanks to the reduction of the harder part of their work, thanks to drip irrigation.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Food transformation centres This power point presentation was used to support the oral presentation of the project at the 2014 ASABE-CSBE conference in Montréal (Canada) on July 14. It describes the work carried out and the results on the agricultural production and transformation.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Introducing pelletized fodder In parallel with pellet making with agricultural residues for energy purposes, the project also introduced in Niger the making of pellets with the entire plants, to produce fodder. This experience immediately met the interest of local farmers and of other cooperation actors (i.e. the Swiss cooperation office). In this short document the main aspects of this promising activity are highlighted.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Making pellets from hay for fodder or from waste biomass as fuel This presentation was one of the two used to support the oral presentation of the project at the ASABE-CSBE 2014 conference in Montréal. It describes the production of pellets from hay, to be used as animal food and pellets from agriculural residues as fuel for cooking in the gasification stove Aaron, set up in the framework of the same project.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Manual of the solar drip irrigation system This manual describes the solar drip irrigation system set up in Makalondi, and gives useful informations for its use. As the drip irrigation system itself, this manual has been prepared in a simple way, to be specifically addressed to the final users.

The main beneficiaries are about 200,000 inhabitants of the three areas of intervention (Agadez, Tillabery and Niamey regions) in Niger. The intervention areas were chosen for the diversity of their socio-economic and geographical characteristics: Agadez is in a semi-desert region with about half a million people (mostly Tuareg). The region is rich in minerals but poor in natural resources. The region of Niamey surrounds and encompasses the capital city, multi-ethnic urban center of more than one million people with an economy tied to commerce, handicrafts, and tothe main international cooperation agencies. Tillabery region is sparsely populated, mainly rural, and “favored” by the exchanges with the neighboring Burkina Faso.
Privileged partners of the project are the women's cooperatives that deal with food processing, youth associations that operate in the environmental sector, and small and medium-sized enterprises of artisans.

Food transformation An overview of two centres for food transformation set up in rural Niger, in Agadez and Makalondi. The two twin centres, are both equipped with a 6 kWp photovoltaic array that provides the necessary energy in 220 VAC, and with 20 Icaro solar driers. The final product is packed and sealed, to assure the best conservation of dried food. A clear example of how an existing technology can help in producing sound preserved and packed food even in rural places with poor infrastructures.
Solar powered irrigation In this video the installation of the drip irrigation system in the village of Makalondi is shown. The system works with a solar pump powered by a photovoltaic array. The water pumped by the system is distributed in two different areas, one managed traditionally with hand distribution, and the other equipped with a drip irrigation system organized in 4 sub-sectors. This installation took place in December 2013 and allowed the increasing of the horticultural production for the local community.
Using residues as fuel Deforestation in Sahel is mainly due to the use of wood as a fuel for cooking . To stop this process alternative solutions must be found. The present project is proposing a solution based on the use of agricultural residues as a fuel instead of wood. To do so, a pellet production chain has been set up, that converts millet stalks and small pruning to pellets that can be used as a fuel. To maximize the impact, a quite efficient gasification stove was also set up, to be used with this pellet.

Coordination of activities (in Niger and from Europe) is done by the Terresolidali NGO experts, together with a scientific officer fom the University of Turin staff.
The different activities in Niger are managed by local associations that collaborate with the local Terresolidali experts and technicians. This cooperation has lasted for years and has created a “team” of technicians, with three regional coordinators based in Agadez, Niamey and Makalondi (North, Centre and South of the country), each one supported by 2 animators and trainers.
Local associations are also involved (women's cooperatives and farmers and small business artisans), and the municipalities of Makalondi, Agadez and Niamey give their full support to the initiative.
The activities employ, directly and indirectly, about 150 people, mostly young people and women, with the expression of a strong ethnic integration, a factor that has been stressed several times by local authorities.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Human resources and chart In this short document, a list of human resources, and an organization chart of the bodies working for the project are provided.

Some errors in the installation of solar energy systems have occurred, due to the poor understanding of the instructions bya local installer. The errors have been corrected with the intervention of a technician from Promec Elettronica, and, to avoid further possible problems, by improving the assembly instructions.
The pellet making process needed to be adapted to the local biomass type, and, in the first months, a low production rate was observed, due to the low work capacity of the first machines introduced. With the experience acquired in the field, and with new electric machines with higher work capacity, thepellet quality and the production rate are now fully satisfactory.
Bags for vacuum packaging of the product were not available on the market in Niger. The two “Groupements Féminins” in Makalondi and Agadez worked togethersearching to overcome this drawback, and found the solutionby buying bags in neighboring Burkina Faso.

PV installation A problem occurred during the installation of the photovoltaic system, due to partial comprehension of the installing instructions. The problem has been solved sending a technician on place.
Pellet production The tests with the first Diesel powered machines that were sent to Niger had to define the right parameters for the material to be processed. After that, the production of those machines was not sufficient to feed all the stoves that were expected to be in use during the project. The problem has been solved acquiring larger machines.

The environmental impact of the initiative is fairly positive.
There are no negative impacts for the operation of the food processing plants as they are electrified by means of photovoltaic arrays.
The environmental impact of pumping water for irrigation with solar power is nil as well.
The impact is negative for the use of Diesel in some equipment (transport, the first small pellet machines), but it is overcome by the better exploitation of the hay and the consequent decrease of the pressure exerted by animals on pastures.
The recent shift to electric pellet machines,makes it possible to power the pellet making operation, in the future, with solar systems.
The impact on forest resources is strongly positive as the energetic use of the pellets produced from agricultural residues and urban areas, greatly reduces the pressure on forest resources for cooking purposes, and represents a real hope against deforestation.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Saving forests with residues In Niger, Almost all households (96.4%) use wood / coal as the main fuel for cooking. Electricity and oil are rarely used by households. This contributes to an increasingly marked deforestation in the country. The biomass of agricultural origin, or from trees pruning, is unused at present, and it is simply dispersed. With the pellet making process and its use in the Aaron stove, materials that have been ignored so far, are becoming an important resource. If the technology provided by this project will be adopted by a large part of the Niger population, then a stop to deforestation will be a real possibility.

The project was created on the constant and active participation of the beneficiaries, and it is based particularly on the strong commitment of women's associations, artisans, and small businesses associated with the RESEDA Federation.
Beneficiaries already run autonomously most of the activity.
The increase in agricultural production and food processing generates immediate income for the involved families, a positive key factor for sustainability.
Craftsmen and small enterprises build directly on site most of the useful equipment (the Icaro driers are fully built in Niger), as well as the provision of innovative equipment.
The innovations in energy services are compatible with the skills of local management.
The immediate benefit in terms of increased food availability (production and storage) has already triggered the involvement of other actors working with the cooperation services of Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, with their Niger delegations.

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Aaron manual This document describes the Aaron gasification stove and its use. Sketches, drawings, measures, necessary materials, and performance of the stove are reported. A section of this manual deals with the preparation of the pelletized fuel from agricultural residues and prunings. As for the Icaro manual, also this document can be found on, to maximise its diffusion worldwide.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Icaro Manual The Icaro drier, the one that is used in the two centres for food transformation set up in this project, is fully built in Africa (especially in Niger, but also in Mali, Cabo Verde, Madagascar), with the simple machines that can be found in the average blacksmith shop. To assure diffusion the of this drier, this manual, issued by the University of Turin, provides all the necessary informations to build the drier and to operate it. The manual can also be downloaded at:

Our project carried out the usual dissemination activities: seminars, web site etc. We highlight here only some of all the work and dissemination initiatives that have been triggered whenits results become known.
The Swiss Cooperation finances the production of pelletized animal food.
The Damien Foundation regularly buys our packaged food, for itstuberculosiscare Centers.
The British OXFAM NGO sent a delegation to Agadez to study our experience, and it is evaluating to replicateit in Chad.
The Prodex Project (Word Bank) started in Tchirozerine (Niger) a new food processing unitbased on our model. The women of the Agadez centre are forming by themselves the women of Tchirozerine.
OXFAM, HED Tamat, the Regional AgadezHospital are planning the launch of new processing units for  the needs of malnourished children in the North health districts.
The NGO SWISS contact started a food transformation unit in Timia.
USAID MercyCorp started a food processing unit in Tabelot (Agadez Region).

../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf GIZ manual cooking with gas from biomass This manual is the second edition of the well known "Micro Gasification Cooking with gas from dry biomass" manual, written by Dr. Christa Roth and produced by GIZ, the German agency for cooperation (Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit). This manual is well known and appreciated worldwide, and is an exceptional means of diffusion for technologies that are described inside. The Aaron stove is here described in the pages 119 and 120.
../file-system/small/pdf ../file-system/small/pdf Project brochure A brochure that shortly describes the project objectives has been produced and has been distributed in several seminars, in Europe and Africa.