From Irrigated Agriculture to Solar Energy Farming in The Azraq Basin, Jordan

Countries: Jordan
Level: Local
Region: MENA Region
Tags: Adaptation measure | Agriculture
Target audience: Farmers

The Azraq Basin is one of the most important water sources of Jordan’s groundwater. The highland groundwater aquifers (and the Azraq Basin in particular) are heavily over-pumped by as much as 200 percent of renewable capacity, and salinity levels are increasing. Irrigated agriculture uses almost half of the abstracted groundwater. In light of increasing water scarcity in Jordan and growing competition for water resources, pressure to reduce agricultural sector water consumption is growing.

The “Azraq Groundwater Management Action Plan” encompassed a measure called “solar energy farming” that is based on creating non-water consuming economic alternatives—which in this case meant the introduction of decentralised grid-tied solar energy plants to replace water-intensive agricultural production. This was done to ease pressure on the single water resource and sustain the region’s socio-economic structure. The “solar farming” pilot project, implemented by Ministry of Water and Irrigation (MWI), aimed to motivate farmers to invest in solar projects on their property, which in turn would demonstrate viability of solar farming as an alternative source of income. Generated electricity from photovoltaic systems could be sold to the electricity utility, thus providing an alternative income stream for the farmers.

Results obtained

  • Farmers installed a 100 kWh-capacity photovoltaic power plant on one Jordanian dunum of farm land.
  • Income from the power plan equals 1,000 m2 agricultural field income, translating into a net income of EUR 1,000 for farmers equipped with solar energy technology. This is four times higher than their maximum income from agricultural labour.

Success factors

  • Wide involvement of farmers.
  • Generated interest in new technology among farmers.
  • Clear benefits for farmers.
  • Possibility of supplemental income for farmers.

Indicators used

  • Reduced amount of pumped groundwater used for drinking water.
  • Reduced dependence for Jordan on fossil fuels and gas imports.

The project can be implemented in areas where costly agricultural activities (mostly costs of irrigation), can be replaced with other income-producing activity (e.g. solar energy production). There needs to be a contract between farmers and network operators concerning the price for feeding energy into the national power network. Farmers also require technical support (as they will be new to field of solar energy production) as well as sufficient financial assistance to start with.

Total cost

  • USD 120,000

Dr. Matthias Bartels

Dr. Gerhard Lichtenthaeler