The use of solar energy for irrigation is becoming one of the best options for farmers due to lower investment costs and the efficiency increase, according to senior agriculture official Yang Saing Koma.

Saing Koma – Minister attached to the Prime Minister and secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries – said he would look into potentially expanding solar irrigation in the country as Cambodia needs more irrigation systems, predicting that the use of solar panels for pumping water from lakes and rivers will likely play an even bigger role in agriculture here in the future.

He added that the ministry has been working to facilitate this through farmer training and by helping to find investment partners.

The ministry, he said, especially encourages farmers to use loans from the Agricultural and Rural Development Bank (ARDB) with reasonable interest rates to obtain the capital to invest in solar energy.

“Although the initial investment requires a sizeable sum of money, the long-term advantages, particularly the reduction of costs and helping the environment, may make our farmers more successful in growing other crops, especially potential crops for export,” he said.

Pailin Longan Agricultural Production Cooperative (PLAPC) president Suos Siyat said that the use of solar energy is very profitable, but farmers need to spend a lot of capital to get started.

“In the past, there has been a lot of guidance from professional officials from the agriculture ministry, always advising our farmers’ association on the benefits of using solar energy. But due to the losses we suffered last year, most of our farmers do not have access to it.

“On the other hand, we also lack any other irrigation system and we are currently asking relevant institutions to consider this irrigation issue,” he said.

Van Rithy, head of the agricultural export department at agri-machinery firm Angkor Green, also said there are numerous advantages and increased profits associated with using solar energy to pump water for irrigation, but that farmers must have money to invest in it first.

He added that despite growing enthusiasm, farmers and owners of mango plantations who are also partners of his company may only use solar energy to a limited extent since they lack the ability to do so.

“The majority of farmers are unable to invest in these advances due to the high cost of using solar energy and the fact that the price they receive from selling their products as small farmers prevents them from doing so.

“As for loans, we can see that all farmers require them, but because so many of them are already in debt, it can be challenging for them to obtain new loans,” he said.