How Linking Agriculture and Rural Electrification could Unlock US$4 Billion for Ethiopia

RMI’s latest report highlights the importance of rural electrification as Ethiopia experiences threats to its economy and food security from locust infestations and cases of COVID-19

April, 2020, Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) today launched a new report that shows how electricity can unlock billions of dollars in new value across six agricultural processing or small business opportunities in some of Ethiopia’s most important crops, while saving money for farmers who switch to electricity from expensive alternatives such as diesel.

In collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); the Ethiopian Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy (MoWIE); and Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), RMI’s Capturing the Productive Use Dividend: Valuing the Synergies between Rural Electrification and Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia Report the synergies between rural electrification and agricultural productivity, processing and businesses, and the value that can flow from closely linking the two. By mapping key value chains and opportunities, this report demonstrates the economic case for a national program to promote the productive uses of electricity. (Full report of RMI below ⏬


“There is a huge opportunity for Ethiopia to capture an economic dividend and accelerate progress toward national development goals, capturing the benefits of electrification for rural smallholders,” said Francis Elisha, principal at Rocky Mountain Institute.

In the midst of current widespread global economic disruptions caused by COVID-19, compounded by the mounting threat of desert locust infestations, Ethiopia faces numerous threats to national food security including disrupted trade and import channels, food price spikes, water supply risks, and delayed or compromised harvest yields. Ongoing efforts to transform the agriculture sector in Ethiopia therefore continue to be critical.

RMI’s research explores the opportunity for mutually assured success among agricultural transformation and rural electrification efforts. These solutions can be deployed in rural areas on and off grid, thereby creating millions of dollars in new revenue for the utility, helping defray the costs of rural electrification and reducing the subsidy needs for minigrids.

The report outlines value streams for different actors in the productive use space:

  • Rural smallholders can use electricity to unlock or accelerate revenue streams from agricultural productivity and processing worth $4 billion by 2025.
  • Making the switch to electricity saves communities another $120 million in fuel costs, while unlocking an annual revenue stream of $22 million for the utility.
  • Providing the appliances for this market is a $380 million business opportunity for local manufacturers, importers and distributors.

“In agriculture, electricity can unleash higher farm income and productivity by enabling irrigation, cold storage and post-harvest processing and handling. Thus, it is time for Ethiopia to invest in electrifying farms, in addition to lighting residences, through electric motor pumps and storage facilities with innovative financing mechanisms such as pay-as-you-use and pay-as-you-store options,” said Dawit Mekonnen, research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Working alongside electrification efforts, a national productive use program could offer huge benefits and position Ethiopia as a leader in the sector, setting a model that other countries will no doubt follow.

About Rocky Mountain Institute
Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI)—an independent nonprofit founded in 1982—transforms global energy use to create a clean, prosperous, and secure low-carbon future. It engages businesses, communities, institutions, and entrepreneurs to accelerate the adoption of market-based solutions that cost-effectively shift from fossil fuels to efficiency and renewables. RMI has offices in Basalt and Boulder, Colorado; New York City; the San Francisco Bay Area; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing. More information on RMI can be found at or follow us on Twitter @RockyMtnInst.

About The International Food Policy Research Institute
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. Visit: or follow @IFPRI on Twitter.



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