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A holiday gift with impact: crowdfunding solar-powered water access in Africa

23 December 2020

Rome, 23 December 2020 – This holiday season, some of the world’s poorest families in Somalia and Malawi look set to access water through innovative solar energy products financed through a crowdfunding project set up by the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

“Tackling extreme poverty can sometimes seem overwhelming, but there are some incredibly simple and effective technologies that can literally change the lives of people living in some of the most remote places in the world,” said Ambrosio Barros, IFAD’s Country Director for Malawi. “Crowdfunding is a quick and effective way to mobilise finance so that we can immediately bring these innovative products to the people who need them.”

Through this pilot project, IFAD has invested in training NGOs, who currently work with them in Africa, to raise funds through crowdfunding to bring solar-powered irrigation to Malawi, and purified water to Somalia.

“This crowdfunding initiative puts IFAD in the forefront of innovation,” said Dennis Whittle, Co-founder of GlobalGiving, the crowdfunding platform that has provided the training and is hosting the campaign. “By helping their programmes gain a broader base of support, IFAD is leading the way toward longer term sustainability of high-impact initiatives.”

In Somalia, only 30 per cent of people have access to clean water, leaving them vulnerable to life-threating diseases. Through this crowdfunding campaign, 2,400 Somalis could access clean water and energy through a OffGridBox - a mobile solar system that purifies water and distributes energy with no environmental impact.

In Malawi, food insecurity is a major issue with over 3 million people requiring food aid this year, and with more than a third of children under five chronically malnourished. Farmers are at the mercy of unreliable weather and battle to produce enough food. With donations from crowdfunding, a solar irrigation system will provide water for 30 farming families, enabling them to supply food to 12 surrounding villages. The families will be trained to use and maintain the system.

“For a development agency like IFAD, using crowdfunding as an alternate way to mobilise finance is very exciting because it could be used to strengthen entrepreneurship within the countries we work, and provide another channel to raise funds for local solutions to local challenges,” said Barros. “It also helps drive innovation, and raise awareness amongst the general public about some of the issues that rural people face – and gives them the opportunity to contribute to funding a specific and tangible solution.”

Crowdfunding emerged after the 2008 financial crisis. When entrepreneurs faced difficulties in raising funds, they turned to the internet to access pooled donations from multiple individuals. In 2017, US$65 billion was raised on global crowdfunding platforms and there is a growing trend to use crowdfunding to mobilise finance in developing countries. The World Bank has estimated that by contributing small amounts, households in developing countries could deploy up to $96 billion a year in crowdfunding investments by 2025.

IFAD’s crowdfunding campaign will run until 15 January.


Press release No.: IFAD/63/2020

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided US$22.4 billion in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached an estimated 512 million people. IFAD is an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency based in Rome – the United Nations food and agriculture hub.