By Rob Jordan

A project that started with funding from the Stanford Woods Institute’s Environmental Venture Projects program recently received international recognition. The Benin solar market garden project, led by Center on Food Security and the Environment (FSE) Fellow Jennifer Burney, was named to National Geographic’s list of Five Most Hopeful Energy Stories of 2012.

National Geographic heralded the initiative, which aims to bring solar-powered drip-irrigation systems to arid regions with endemic food shortages, as a "solution in the developing world.” The magazine had previously featured the project in a March 2012 article.

The FSE project involves an economic and environmental assessment of a novel NGO program – the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) – which uses solar power to pump irrigation and drinking water in a set of rural villages in northern Benin, West Africa. Building on a research design in which the villages receiving the technology are selected at random, the project surveys treatment and control villages to isolate the effects of rural solar electrification on incomes, health and environmental well-being. More broadly, the study will help researchers understand the success of novel technological interventions such as solar electrification in improving rural livelihoods relative to other possible interventions in the context of Africa’s poor, agriculturally dependent communities.

FSE began its partnership with SELF in 2007 with the support of the Environmental Venture Projects (read about the original project here). Since then, FSE researchers, including Burney and Woods Senior Fellow Rosamond Naylor, have worked collaboratively with SELF to spread the technology into more West African villages.

Related video gallery here.