Energizing food and water systems

Work Package 3 (Energizing food and water systems sustainably and inclusively) co-develops scalable business and finance models for accelerated, inclusive access to clean energy for food and water systems, with a focus on women and other marginalized groups.

The challenge

In many low-income countries, lack of access to clean energy is a key obstacle to agricultural productivity and growth and hampers the development of agribusinesses. It also limits the production of nutritious, high-value foods, disempowers women, leads to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, and threatens overall ecosystem health and biodiversity. Clean energy technologies such as solar irrigation can improve access and incomes of smallholder farmers, but it has been challenging to reach women farmers and other marginalized groups with such technologies. Other clean energy solutions such as solar, micro-hydropower, wind, and bioenergy are also critical to transforming agrifood systems. However, a lack of knowledge about appropriate locations and the siloed development of water and energy interventions, as well as a lack of appropriate business and finance models that can reach poorer, marginalized farmers, limit their roll-out.

Our research

Work Package 3 implements action research to engage with water and energy ministries, the private sector, and rural communities within target basins to find out which technologies work best in different settings and how rural women and men can participate in the rural energy economy, with a particular focus on agrifood systems. The potential of solar-powered groundwater irrigation systems receives particular attention.

Research questions

  1. What rural energy portfolios and business and finance models best support and accelerate rural clean energy access for food system transformation and environmental sustainability?
  2. How can solar-powered irrigation enhance agricultural production while supporting sustainable groundwater utilization, inclusion, economic growth, and ecosystem health?
  3. What are effective pathways for women to access renewable energy in ways that strengthen their agency and entrepreneurship?

2022 outcomes

NEXUS Gains developed frameworks identifying pathways from women’s energy access to various benefit streams, and data were collected on rural energy sources, access, and use portfolios in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. An initial Women’s Empowerment through Clean Energy Index was developed and was field tested. The index will help identify changes in women’s agency from alternative energy access portfolios. Finally, a series of sites and modalities for pilot projects on energy access were identified in India and Nepal.

The initiative also contributed to the global discourse on groundwater-fed solar irrigation through participation in national, regional, and global events. Analyses in Ethiopia identified gendered benefit streams from electricity access.

Work Package 3 innovations

  • Model for evaluating economy-wide effects of water and energy interventions.
  • Solar irrigation pump sizing tool for South Asia.
  • Solar irrigation pump sizing tool for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Contact us

Claudia Ringler:

Find out more

Read about the Initiative’s other focus areas:


Please wait...