All data from the first dry season of operation (November 2007 - May 2008) have been integrated and matched with the baseline household survey data (conducted November 2007, data entered spring 2008). While a full assessment of project impact will not be possible until a second round of household surveys has been completed (November 2008), some mid-pilot metrics are illustrative:
As measured in the baseline survey undertaken in November 2007, the median per capita daily consumption expenditure in pilot and control villages is just around $1 (PPP, 1993 US dollar), and over $0.60 of that amount is spent on food, confirming that Kalalé's population is among the poorest on the planet. (These values vary slightly between villages; however, across both treatment and control villages, the households of women participating in the women's groups are slightly poorer than average.) Furthermore, while virtually all of the households in Kalalé are engaged in agricultural and/or livestock production as a primary activity, most are net consumers of food, particularly of non-staples (proteins, vegetables, fats: See Figure 1). These households either rely on sales of cotton (grown across northern Benin) or draw down assets (usually livestock) to supplement poor production. Against this food- and nutrition- insecure backdrop, the Solar Market Garden's impact has been striking. Not only have households, on average, earned $3.82 per week by selling produce over the first 6 months of operation, they have also consumed, on average, 1-2 kg of their own production (including tomatoes, amaranth, okra, and carrots) per week. This represents a substantial improvement in both food and nutrition security for the participants, as this amount is, in almost all cases, more than they reported purchasing and/or producing before project implementation. [It has been determined that the average earnings ($3.82) represented a significant under-reporting; the actual number is most likely between $7-$8.] Additionally, these early data suggest that the payback time of a half-hectare Solar Market Garden is 2-3 years (this estimate is closer to 2 years for a surface system, closer to 3 for a submersible system, and will be refined over the second year of operation).
Almost all agriculture in rural West Africa is rain-fed; production thus stops during the six-month dry season. During this harsh time, some women and young girls will haul water for several hours each day in an attempt to hand-water small plots of vegetables, as the economic and nutritional payoffs for such labor are enormous. The Solar Market Garden provides an obvious improvement to this traditional method, allowing cultivation of a much larger area with a labor-saving technology that frees women to engage in other activities and girls to attend school. A full estimate of labor reallocation can only be measured with the second round of household surveys. However, women participating in the Solar Market Garden pilot have already reported in interviews that they spend up to 50% less time working on their current plots than they had hand-watering their previous plots (which were 10-30 times smaller). Additionally, they report that they spend the time in the gardens engaged in more income generating activities -- including seed replication for sale to other farmers -- than simply hauling water as they had before.
Finally, it is worth noting that the three Solar Market Gardens represent a total deployment of 3kW of photovoltaic (PV) power in non-electrified villages and, compared to diesel generators (the most common energy alternative in rural West Africa), avoid greenhouse gas emissions of 4.592 Metric Tons Carbon Dioxide Equivalent (CDE) per year. In addition to measures of cost-effectiveness, the metrics of income change per kW (and equivalents) and nutritional change per kW (and equivalents) will be useful for comparing the Solar Market Garden to other development technologies and investments.