Improving Smallholders’ Access to Irrigation Through Solar Powered Pumps in Egypt

Last registered on May 29, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

Improving Smallholders’ Access to Irrigation Through Solar Powered Pumps in Egypt
Initial registration date
May 22, 2024

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
May 29, 2024, 1:38 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.



Primary Investigator


Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
PI Affiliation
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Additional Trial Information

On going
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Rural communities in Egypt continue to suffer from rising diesel prices, increasing water scarcity, water management challenges and climate change, which ultimately contribute to deteriorating food security, especially after the Russia- Ukraine crisis. This project provides access to solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS) to farmers in rural Egypt to improve access to affordable renewable energy and hence facilitate sustainable production systems and improved irrigation efficiency. Such an intervention can improve smallholders’ production potential while addressing water scarcity and related climate change-induced challenges. Using a cluster randomized control trial, we aim to estimate the impact of access to SPIS on cost of production and farm income as well as ultimate food and nutrition security.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Abay , Kibrom , Reem Hashad and Futoshi Yamauchi . 2024. "Improving Smallholders’ Access to Irrigation Through Solar Powered Pumps in Egypt." AEA RCT Registry. May 29.
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Experimental Details


This project promotes SPIS to address smallholders’ access to affordable renewable energy and improve irrigation efficiency in Egypt. Our intervention will provide free automatic and solar-powered water pumps for rural communities in Egypt that have been impacted by deteriorating food security situations, rising diesel prices, increasing water scarcity, and water management challenges (especially after the Russia-Ukraine crisis). SPIS will address existing water shortages and other difficulties in access to and management of irrigation water, where rolling back energy subsidies have increased the cost of powering water pumps, and at the same time, there is a need to extract water from deeper depths. This is expected to improve smallholders’ production potential and choices as well as marketing potential, which ultimately can increase households’ income and ensure food security. Access to affordable renewable energy can also help smallholders diversify their production and hence improve household consumption and nutrition outcomes. Besides providing access to affordable renewable energy, the project is expected to enhance farming knowledge of smallholders. The intervention would reduce water waste and improve irrigation efficiency. By improving productivity and incomes, the intervention is expected to improve resilience of targeted communities by increasing their capacity to cope with food insecurity challenges. Furthermore, these communities and households will be supported to follow modern agricultural farming methods, and positive environmental impacts are expected, including the reduction of water consumption and soil pollution through decreasing usage of fuel for water pumping.
The intervention will ultimately lead to installation of 28 SPIS that are imported from Japan to smallholder farmers in Egypt. These SPIS will replace the farmers’ traditional method of using diesel pumps for irrigation and introduce renewable energy to allow farmers to extract water for irrigation instead. The farmers will agree to manage these solar-powered water pumps to maximize yields and improve nutrition through the production of nutrition rich foods such as vegetables and fruits. The impact evaluation embedded in this work will provide rigorous evidence that can inform scale-up of similar projects.
The intervention focuses on two governorates in Upper Egypt: Beni Suef and Fayoum. Both governorates are located around the Nile Delta, where most of the farming takes place due to proximity to the Nile. An initial site preparation phase has been conducted and community meetings took place to locate the villages within these governorates, and exact land plots for the intervention. These locations are selected based on their potential for large-scale SPIS as well as the imminent water and energy scarcity these areas face.
Fayoum is a governorate located in the middle of the country, which is located about 130 km southwest of Cairo. Fayoum is classified as an agricultural governorate with a large share of its 3.85 million population working in agriculture. Land is cultivated with different strategic crops including wheat, sugar cane, sugar beet, corn, potatoes, medicinal and aromatic plants, fava beans, and export crops such as grapes and garlic; all of which are irrigated from Bahr Yusef canal through a group of sub canals.
Beni Suef is located about 120 km south of Cairo, on the west bank of the Nile River with a population of approximately 4 million. The governorate had a total cultivated area of approximately 320,000 feddans in 2022. The main crops cultivated in Beni Suef Governorate include medicinal and aromatic plants, clover, cotton, wheat, sugarcane, fava beans and vegetables. The governorate has a history of producing high-quality agricultural produce for export such as chamomile, potatoes, onions, and garlic. Because of these attributes, the governorate has been recently a candidate for government projects that are dedicated to improving irrigation systems; including interventions leading to the expansion of modern drip irrigation systems to increase productivity and enhance the quality of crops for export. Most of Beni Suef’s industries are related to agriculture, including flour milling, drying and processing of medicinal and aromatic plants, cotton ginning and textile manufacturing.
Our target sample is 58 water communities (group of farmers) that have been screened using certain evaluation criteria including farm size, number of farmers within the community, and water scarcity, among others. Of the 58 water communities, 19 are based in Fayoum and 39 in Beni Suef. The 19 communities in Fayoum are located across 4 villages, and the 39 in Beni Suef are located across 5 villages. Within the 58 water communities, the sites for intervention and control will be determined randomly. We stratify the randomization within each governorate to create comparable treated and control samples. Following randomization, the 28 panels imported from Japan along with other equipment will be installed. Training on the type of technology, how to use it, and different benefits that can come from it will also be delivered to farmers.
We will employ quantitative methods to evaluate the potential of our interventions. Before the installation of the solar pumps, we conducted a comprehensive baseline survey. Our baseline includes approximately 1,140 farmers, which come from the 58 water communities. Once installation is complete and the pumps are operational and monitored for a few months, an endline survey will take place. This endline survey will collect the critically needed information to evaluate the impact of our interventions in improving smallholders’ production potential and livelihoods. These household surveys will collect detailed household and plot-level information, including those related to production and productivity, marketing, consumption, and nutrition outcomes. Thus, our evaluations will inform the potential of SPIS to improve smallholders’ productivity and marketing potential while also enabling us to quantify water-saving and irrigation efficiency gains. We will also be able to evaluate the impact of our interventions to improve the overall welfare and livelihood of smallholders. The results of the study will be communicated to relevant stakeholders and will inform experts and policymakers for future consideration of upscaling of solar energy in the study area and beyond.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
1. Farm income
2. Cost of production
3. Diesel Usage and Cost
4. Food Consumption Expenditure
5. Women’s Dietary Diversity Score (WDDS)
6. Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES)
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
1. Farm income: we measure farm income by converting total production into value of total production by multiplying crop output by price of each crop.
2. Cost of production: this is computed by adding diesel cost as well as other costs reported by farmers. Some of these costs will be collected at plot level while some are reported at the farm level.
3. Diesel Usage and Cost: we measure the farmers’ choice of using diesel and associated cost on both the intensive and extensive margins. At the intensive margin, we measure the total cost of diesel paid by the farmer in the summer season for all plots. This cost is measured in Egyptian pounds (EGP). At the extensive margin, we measure whether farmers no longer pay for diesel by fully substituting the use of the diesel pump with the solar panel. Thus, we generate a binary indicator variable assuming a value of 1 if the farmer incurs a non-zero diesel cost and 0 otherwise. We do this for each plot a farmer manages.
4. Food consumption expenditure: we elicit food consumption expenditure using the household consumption expenditure module, which collects information on households’ consumption of various food and non-food items.
5. Women’s Dietary Diversity Score (WDDS): the WDDS comes from a report of foods consumed in the last 24-hours. The WDDS captures the number of food groups consumed in the previous day by women. The food groups in reference are grouped into 10 groups. The 10 food groups include: (1) grains, roots, and tubers; (2) legumes and beans; (3) nuts and seeds; (4) dairy products; (5) eggs; (6) flesh foods, including organ meat and miscellaneous small animal protein; (7) vitamin A-rich dark green leafy vegetables; (8) other vitamin A-rich vegetables and fruits; (9) other fruits; and (10) other vegetables. The value of the WDDS ranges from 0 to 10.
6. Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES): The FIES is an experience-based and self-reported food insecurity metric developed by the FAO of the United Nations, which is widely applied to measure perception and prevalence of food insecurity (FAO, 2014; FAO, 2020). The FIES uses an eight-question module eliciting respondents’ experiences and perceived access to sufficient and nutritious food in the last 30 days. Using these eight questions, we will construct an aggregate FIES measure by summing the responses to these eight questions. Thus, the value of the FIES ranges from zero to eight, zero standing for those households reporting no experience of food insecurity across all eight dimensions of food insecurity. Based on the responses to these eight questions, we also aim to generate a binary indicator variable assuming a value of 1 if the household experiences one or more types of food insecurity and 0 otherwise.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
1. Subjective well-being
2. Cooperation
3. Social Cohesion
4. Time allocation
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
1. Subjective well-being: we measure subjective well-being using an ordered indicator of overall life satisfaction. This scale ranges from 1 (“completely dissatisfied”) to 10 (“completely satisfied”).
2. Cooperation: we aim to measure cooperation among community members using an incentivized public good experiment involving contribution to a public good.
3. Social Cohesion: social cohesion is measured based on the responses to a set of eight questions that describe the farmers’ sense of belonging in the community, participation in community-based activities, and social relationships among community members especially during times of need.
4. Time allocation: we measure time allocation according to the total number of hours that the farmer has spent on several activities in the past 7 days. These activities include raising livestock, production activities, fetching water, household chores, spending time caring for a child, elderly or sick person, leisure time, and attending special events such as weddings, festivals or funerals.

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
We aim to rigorously evaluate the impact of this intervention using a carefully designed impact evaluation method, clustered randomized controlled trial (cRCT). Clustered randomized trial allows us to create plausibly comparable groups of treatment and control by offering the intervention to randomly selected communities. We began by conducting a scoping mission to identify water communities or farmer groups who are eligible to receive solar panels in Fayoum and Beni Suef. In each water community, we mobilized and solicited interested small-scale farmers to create groups of farmers who can share and manage a shared solar-powered water pump for irrigation of interconnected plots. These groups of farmers will be encouraged to operate the solar-powered pump together. Following the scoping mission, we conducted a baseline survey covering about 1,140 farmers to document the landscape and potential of SPIS in the two governorates as well as related water and energy scarcities.
Our sample includes 58 water communities or farmer groups that are eligible and willing to receive solar panels, where a water community represents a group of farmers who share the same water source. Of the 58 water communities, we randomly select 35 water communities (and associated farmers) to receive the solar panels at no cost as well as necessary equipment and training to maintain them. Those represent the treated group. We anticipate that not all of the randomly selected communities in the treatment group will agree to receive the solar panels. We assume a compliance rate of 80%, and under this assumption we randomly select 35 water communities to be treated out of which we anticipate around 28 communities to agree to use the 28 solar panels imported from Japan. The remaining 23 communities (and associated farmers) associations are assigned to the control group. This number of water communities receiving the treatment was informed using statistical power calculations as well as the overall budget. Random assignment of the SPIS allows us to compare the livelihood and production outcomes of communities receiving solar-powered irrigation pumps and those who do not. The endline survey will enable us to quantify the impact of access to solar pumps to improve the livelihood of smallholder farmers while also facilitating identification of the ultimate and potential heterogeneous impacts of the SPIS on farmers’ livelihoods.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Cluster-based randomization was conducted at the water community level, using the baseline list of 58 water communities.
Randomization Unit
Water community level
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
58 water communities
Sample size: planned number of observations
Approximately 1,140 farmers.
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Treatment group : 35 water communities
Control group : 23 water communities

Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
Considering the primary outcomes described, we compute the number of clusters (water communities) needed for detecting a reasonable impact of access to SPIS. We assume that there are a known and fixed number of households in each cluster (water community) and the baseline sample shows an average of 20 farmers in each water community. As usual, our power calculations aim to achieve 80 percent power at a significance level of 5 percent. Power calculations are performed only for selected primary outcomes. We start with power calculations for detecting meaningful impact on farm income. We compiled mean and standard deviation of the main outcomes from our baseline survey as well as other recent surveys in upper Egypt (e.g., El Enbaby et al., 2019; Abay et al., 2022). Similar studies introducing different variants of solar powered pumps report average impacts ranging from 13 percent to 20 percent (Dyer and Shapiro, 2023). For example, Dyer and Shapiro (2023) introduced relatively smaller size solar pumps in Kenya and document a 13 percent increase in farm income. Several studies report heterogeneous impacts of these technologies across different farmers. For example, heterogenous impacts were found among low-income farmers in rural areas in Mali, where SPIS contributed to as high as a 40 percent increase in income among some farmers and a low of 5 percent increase among others (Birhanu et al., 2023). Similar estimates were found by Gupta (2019) who reports a range of 3.1 percent to 41.5 increase in farm income following SPIS adoption. In our study, we assumed 15-20 percent increase (decrease) in farm income (cost of production or diesel cost). Similarly, we assumed a 9-10 percentage point reduction in dependence on diesel pumps, which requires about 33 treatment and 24 control water communities. Similarly, previous studies show that similar interventions can improve dietary diversity (and food consumption expenditure) by 11-15 percent, which require about 24 treatment villages and 19 control communities. Thus, we decided to assign 35 water communities into the treatment group (assuming that 28 of them will accept and install the SPIS) and 23 communities into the control group.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
International Food Policy Research Institute Institutional Review Board (IFPRI IRB)
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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