4R Digital gets PREO funding to launch affordable solar water pumps and irrigation kits in Kenya

The digital finance solutions agency 4R Digital is set to receive €198,000 funding from PREO, the Powering Renewable Energy Opportunities programme, for a partnership project with water equipment supplier Davis & Shirtliff. The project seeks to address the need for high quality, affordable solar water pumps and irrigation kits amongst small-scale producers in Kenya.

Davis & Shirtliff are well-established suppliers of solar irrigation equipment in sub-Saharan Africa, but have so far struggled to penetrate the potentially huge market of smallholder farmers. In Kenya, smallholder farmers produce the majority of the food supply, but most rely on increasingly unpredictable rainfall for irrigation. However, formal finance providers have long been averse to extending credit to smallholder farmers because they are perceived as high risk. Without tailored financing, most smallholder farmers are unable to access the solar irrigation that could almost double their daily income.

To address this challenge, 4R Digital is partnering with Davis & Shirtliff to adapt their business model to bring solar irrigation solutions within reach of smallholder farmers. Specialists in developing digital micropayment solutions that enable credit sales, 4R Digital will build a payment platform that offers credit for solar irrigation equipment on flexible and affordable terms appropriate to smallholder farmers.

During the initial phase, the project will support up to 35,000 farmers in Kenya to replace unsustainable and inefficient hand, petrol and diesel pumps with modern smart solar water pumping systems. Davis & Shirtliff has a pre-existing range of solar pumping kits, the Sunflo Solar Pumping Systems, consisting of panels, a controller and a pump. The digital payment and monitoring platform designed by 4R Digital will be incorporated into the pump controller providing a payment facility. By tailoring payments to the agricultural or income cycles of the individual farmers, the initial phase will develop and test different plans to reach an understanding of the farmers’ ability to repay loans and the extent to which seasonality and harvesting affects the payments.

Funding from PREO will enable the development and trialling of a digital PAYG platform suitable for the sale of solar water pumps and irrigation equipment to smallholder farmers. Ultimately, the partners hope this project will lay the groundwork for launching a commercially sustainable new water management company called New Water Management Company (NWMC) that can provide asset financing and solar water pumps to smallholder farmers more widely across the region.

4R Digital is the second Partnership Services project to receive PREO funding in order to maximise its potential. PREO is co-funded by the IKEA Foundation and UK aid via the Transforming Energy Access platform. The Partnership Services initiative aims to build, fund and support three corporate organisations for the purpose of developing mutually beneficial partnerships in their sub-Saharan African value chains. Their productive use of energy will bring with it social and economic benefits such as improved earnings potential, job creation, empowerment of female rural workers, localisation of value-chains, as well as more profitable and reliable supply chains for these corporate actors. PREO has allocated a total of €580,000 for funding Partnership Services projects.

Read more about 4R Digital:

Read more about David & Shirtliff: