Making the desert bloom: Cheap solar panels boost the Afghan poppy crop

They allow groundwater to be pumped up to irrigate otherwise useless land
The Economist (UK)
Thursday, May 16, 2019

afghanistan opium harvestSolar panels are transforming the landscape of southern Afghanistan. Only 12% of the country is suitable for growing permanent crops, mostly in the valleys of the Arghandab and Helmand rivers. Even there, most farming is dependent on irrigation systems that date back to the 1950s, when dams were built with American aid, if not earlier. The ability to drill wells and, more recently, to extract water from them cheaply with solar power has changed all that. Not only are farmers getting more out of their existing farms, according to a study by David Mansfield of the London School of Economics, they are also creating new ones. Between 2002 and 2018 some 3,600 square kilometres in south-western Afghanistan was reclaimed for cultivation from the desert.