Access to drinking water in the Sahel region - harnessing the power of the sun

Access to drinking water in the Sahel region - harnessing the power of the sun

Faced with encroaching desertification, the Sahel region is heavily affected by the realities of climate change. To mitigate its effects and combat poverty and pollution in a sustainable way, it is therefore vital to reap the benefits of the abundant source of energy that is the sun.

Three million people living in the region have gained access to drinking water thanks to the EU funded installation of solar-powered pumps. In cooperation with the Permanent Interstate Committee on the Fight against Desertification in the Sahel (CILSS) and the partner countries Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Chad, Niger and Gambia, rural populations could be provided with drinking water supply systems.

The 2010 food crisis has highlighted the urgent need for action in this region: according to UNICEF estimations, 300 000 children under 5 years die every year in the Sahel from malnutrition. The poor quality of water is aggravating the health condition of these populations.

The Regional Solar Programme  has made an important contribution to relieving their condition. The installation of solar pumps on sealed boreholes allowed for the provision of water of better quality than the water fetched from large wells.

As many as 1 000 solar installations and almost 400 solar systems have been built. In addition to the benefits in terms of access to clean water, households, schools and hospitals could be equipped with electricity.

The economic benefits are tangible: the project has strengthened the photovoltaic energy sector, creating 28 new industries and training almost 1 000 people.

In addition to relieving poverty, environmental targets are met through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.