Strategies for Energy, Water and Agriculture in Rural Ethiopia (2020-2021)


Increasing access to electricity is a top development priority, yet nearly one billion people lack access to electricity and another billion have unreliable access that hinders productivity and economic development among households, firms and public institutions. In Ethiopia, 56 percent of the population have no access to electricity, and only six percent have electricity access for at least 23 hours per day.

To increase access, the Ethiopian government has implemented the National Electrification Program 2.0. This program, which aims to achieve universal access to electricity by 2025, has been praised for its detail, its focus on off-grid and productive uses of energy and the way it has organized the private sector and the donor community. However, it is unclear how productive use – broadly defined as electricity use that generates increased agricultural, commercial or industrial productivity – should be integrated into development plans.

Off-grid power provision could require higher tariffs and coordination between private and public stakeholders, which are challenging to implement and could result in unintended consequences, such as over-exploitation of groundwater resources. Ethiopia needs tools that help the stakeholders understand the gains of expanding electricity access for productivity, the different modalities that can deliver them, potential trade-offs of such investment and how energy access investments should be distributed spatially, temporally and across different communities.

Project Description

This project team will fill critical knowledge gaps on the “productive use” landscape, including developing tools to identify hotspots for investment in technologies such as microgrids and solar-powered groundwater pumps to expand irrigation opportunities, and new business models for enhancing agricultural value chains in the presence of off-grid power sources. The project will support the development of a unified roadmap for integrated energy access with a focus on electrification in rural areas where agricultural production is the dominant source of income.

Team members will evaluate Ethiopia’s productive use landscape through a combination of local stakeholder engagement, spatial and economic analytics and business models, applying a holistic approach that considers connections between energy, agriculture and water resource systems. The team will develop methods to assess economic opportunities for agricultural producers that come with electrification, including increased yields and enhanced ability to store, process, package and transport products to market.

Team members will also conduct a market analysis of productive use equipment by identifying institutions and private actors who comprise this market ecosystem. They will analyze available technologies and business models for distribution, remote monitoring and payment and related services among existing suppliers, as well as intermediaries such as the firms that provide mobile money facilities that enable pay-as-you-go financing. Policy assessment will be conducted to provide recommendations on the right combination of technologies and incentive structures to maximize the benefits of productive use investments in the Ethiopian agriculture sector.

The team will consider potential unintended consequences of electrification investments in agriculture, including possibilities of environmental degradation through additional water consumption or land clearing. The resulting approach will be a comprehensive value chain analysis of coupled energy and agriculture investments that considers barriers and opportunities across the productive use value chain.

Anticipated Outputs

Business models and investment cases; white papers and policy recommendations; expert panel on the business and policy landscape for reliable electricity access and agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa; poster and final presentation; policy podcast


Summer 2020 – Spring 2021

  • Summer 2020 (optional): Conduct fieldwork in Ethiopia, including visiting communities and meeting entrepreneurs, policymakers and others involved in providing energy access
  • Fall 2020: Begin skill and research development in market analysis, market failures, institutional voids, policy analysis and power regulation; develop subgroup research questions and project plans
  • Spring 2021: Execute subgroup projects; create team posters and share results in public presentation; participate in Sanford Policy 360 podcast

This Team in the News

How the Pandemic Has Changed Duke's International Partnerships

Image: Year-round Water in Gurbadley, by USAID Ethiopia, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


Team Leaders

  • Justin Baker, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • T. Robert Fetter, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
  • Marc Jeuland, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Jonathan Phillips, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

/graduate Team Members

  • Indraneel Dharwadkar, Masters of Public Policy, Business Administration-MBA
  • Kalkidan Kebede, MIDP 2 Year Masters
  • Yiyan Ma, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
  • Marie McNamara, Master of Environmental Management, Environmental Economics/Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Autumn Burton, Environmental Sci/Policy (AB)
  • Sarah Macia, Mechanical Engineering (BSE)
  • Sagar Shah, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Jennie Ya-Ren Wang, Economics (BS)

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Mark Borsuk, Pratt School of Engineering-Civil & Environmental Engineering
  • Luana Lima, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy
  • Robyn Meeks, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Subhrendu Pattanayak, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Rajah Saparapa, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Edward Borgstein, Sustainable Energy for Economic Development, Rocky Mountain Institute
  • RTI International
  • Rocky Mountain Institute