“How will we grow an adequate quantity—and quality—of food to feed and nourish a rapidly growing, urbanizing world in the face of increasing water insecurity?” This was the primary problem considered by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs at the 2019 Global Food Security Symposium in Washington DC last week. This year’s symposium, ‘From Scarcity to Security: Managing Water for a Nutritious Food Future’ saw the release of a 149-page report by the Council and focus on three central topics: the nature of the threat to water security; strategies to enhance water, food, and nutrition security; and ensuring that water solutions reach smallholder farmers. Continue reading
Ahead of World Water Day, Mohamed Aheeyar, a researcher with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), reports on a new case study documenting a remarkable agricultural transformation made possible in Sri Lanka by the rapid spread of motor pumps for irrigation.
The whole region around Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka’s ancient capital, is dotted with village reservoirs managed by small-scale farmers. Referred to locally as “tanks,” the reservoirs form part of complex irrigation systems in use since time immemorial. Farm families like that of Priyantha Kumara, a disabled army veteran, rely on them to irrigate rice in the main monsoon season. But Priyantha and his neighbors aspire to more than the basic food security that this system provides. They want a bigger share of the prosperity that people elsewhere in the country are enjoying.
This week in the #SDG2countdown to the High Level Political Forum in New York, we’ll be exploring SDG2.3, which is all about doubling agricultural productivity and incomes for smallholder farmers. Is productivity just about yield, or actually producing more with greater efficiency? Emily Karol from iDE explains how farmers they work with are producing more using less water and boosting incomes at the same time.
With the help of micro-irrigation technology, small-scale farmers are growing more food with less water—and making a profit doing it. In Vietnam, small-scale farmers who bought micro-irrigation technology use 30% less water and can double the productivity of their farm, leading to a median increase in annual income of $350.
Large agriculture companies often overlook small-scale farmers because they don’t see the market potential in selling to them. iDE, a social innovation organization, works to bridge the last mile between manufacturers and rural farmers. We use a market-based approach to build supply and demand for micro-irrigation technology at the local level—making the technology affordable and accessible to farmers who make less than $2 a day.
iDE has spread this approach across 11 countries, designing each model to the context of the country—employing a Farm Business Advisor model in some countries and in others a social enterprise strategy. However, the goal remains consistent: improve farmer livelihoods.
In Vietnam retailers carry many of the components to build an affordable micro-irrigation system. Instead of promoting a branded irrigation product, we developed a market around the idea of a micro-irrigation system, which allowed for flexibility and ongoing innovation in the way farmers use irrigation in different settings. To establish the market, we engaged local retailers to stock the components and educate their customers; we trained technicians to install the systems; and we coached farmers on how to use the technology with a variety of crops throughout the year. Our primary implementing partner was the local Farmers’ Unions.
Hua Van San, a farmer who lives in the Ninh Thuan province, learned about micro-irrigation through his Farmers’ Union.
“The soil is so sandy here, if you want to irrigate the whole garden you have to water it all day,” said Mr. San’s wife. “My son had to spend half his day helping me irrigate the garden on top of other farm tasks. He was too exhausted to do his homework and had to quit school.”
In 2010, Mr. San put his family’s most valued possession, a motorbike, up as collateral for a loan to purchase an electric water pump and sprinkler system. Moving away from the traditional furrow and ditch irrigation method to the tube and sprinkler system, Mr. San was able to use the space on his land more efficiently—allowing him to plant more crops closer together and increasing his yields. His family also spent 50% less time irrigating the crops.
“It reduced the burden of irrigation for my wife,” said Mr. San. “But, best of all, my son is free from watering and now he is back in school. He has more time for studying and fun.”
In 2012, Mr. San began cultivating asparagus, a high-value crop that he sells in the markets of Ho Chi Minh City.
“Last year was a very successful year for us,” said Mr. San. “We made $6,700 more profit than before—an amount we never dreamed of.”
With his additional income, he expanded his micro-irrigation system to cover an even greater portion of his 3,000 square meter farm. In just three years, his family earned enough income to no longer be identified as poor according to the government’s classification. Today, Mr. San is sharing his knowledge by teaching neighbouring farmers to grow asparagus.
Take the NEW quiz on SDG2.3 at www.farmingfirst.org/SDGs
Background: Approximately 1.1 billion people in the world live on less than US$ 1 per day, 800 million of whom are small-holder farmers relying on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood.
Moving from reliance on rainfed and bucket irrigation to the use of simple water lifting, application, and storage technologies has a very positive impact on farmers’ lives and contributes to a more efficient use of scarce water resources.
Building a Global Supply Chain
iDEal’s Global Supply serves as the distribution enterprise for micro-irrigation technologies, providing sample products, bulk shipments, and technical support worldwide.
To provide widespread access to a variety of affordable, simple, and appropriate micro-irrigation products, iDEal has established a reliable network of international and local supply chain sources.
Identifying and Developing the Right Irrigation Technology for Farmers
iDE’s in-house Innovations Team along with in-country field staff have built the expertise to identify the most appropriate low pressure micro irrigation products to support farmers working under some of the most challenging conditions to grow crops.
The current product line includes:
- Micro-Tube Drip Kits
- Mini Sprinklers
- Water Storage
To accompany these products, iDEal has developed an extensive collection of technical design sheets, user’s manuals and marketing collateral to support the product line. These tools give users the training and installation knowledge to properly utilize iDE’s technologies.
Find out more about the products available here
Ensuring Sustainable Solutions reach Smallholder Farmers
In order to build financial sustainability for farmers, iDEal follows a market based approach and integrates a business model into its distribution, product development and support through to the end user. By focusing on people as consumers and producers and on solutions that can make markets more efficient, competitive, and inclusive – the initiative sets out to supply the expertise, which will build financial sustainability for clients and their communities.
Once product supply lines are established, iDEal looks at specific market conditions to identify the most efficient distribution path to get technologies into the hands of the famers, catering the supply method to every customer’s needs.
iDE has established programs in 11 countries throughout Asia, Africa and Central America. These programs are fully staffed with business professionals, irrigation engineers and field staff. By collaborating with various retailers and local agents country programs are able to establish extensive networks to distribute products to farmers throughout the agricultural regions of a country.
iDE also works with partners such as USAID, Winrock, Swiss Development Cooperation and private corporations and donors to ensure irrigation technologies can be distributes as far and wide as possible.
- IDEal’s Global Supply Initiative is now working in over 20 developing countries
- Farmers utilizing the irrigation technologies are able to grow more, higher-quality crops year-round whilst reducing water, labour and energy inputs
- iDE have provided farmers in developing countries with access to the most appropriate technologies for sustainable development
A new report by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) titled “What is the irrigation potential for Africa? A combined biophysical and socioeconomic approach” has been published.
The report argues that although irrigation in Africa has the potential to boost agricultural productivities by at least 50 per cent, food production is almost entirely sustained through rainwater, with only six per cent of the total cultivated area equipped for irrigation.
Over 70 per cent of Africa’s poor live in rural areas, and most of these people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Therefore, the report says, agriculture has a key role to play in tackling poverty on the continent.
To help increase agricultural production and decrease poverty, many development agencies have recently proposed to substantially increase investments in irrigation in Africa. But, as the report claims, the potential for irrigation investments in the region is highly dependent on geographic, hydrologic, agronomic and economic factors that must be taken into account when the viability of projects is assessed.
The report analyses irrigation investment potential in Africa, and concludes that there is “significant profitable irrigation potential for both small-scale and large-scale systems”.
Farming First think that water use efficiency is important as water is a precious resource. By 2050, the proportion of the population facing stressed water supplies is expected to increase by 500% and the number facing full water scarcity is expected to increase by 800%.
We believe that research, innovation, and access to improved technologies, seeds, and improved irrigation techniques are essential to increasing the efficiency of water use, and that agriculture needs to be part of watershed management.
Click here to go to our water page, where you can download our position paper and read about our six-point action plan.
Currently in Palestine, water demand greatly exceeds water supply and the high price of water severely limits the 20% of the Palestinian labour force who are employed in agriculture. Subsequently, farmers’ livelihoods are threatened, as is food availability for the Palestinian people.
In 2007, the Palestinian Farmers’ Union (PFU) set up a Water and Environment Program to promote the equitable access of water and to strengthen farmers’ associations to better manage water distribution and agricultural water demand. As part of the scheme, farmers are encouraged to adopt innovative approaches to optimize their use of water and fight water shortages.
Through the project, about 80 farmers in Jericho City – Jordan Valley – benefited from new on-farm irrigation equipments to irrigate more than 50 ha of agricultural land. The project also provided farmers with the appropriate training for such systems. An experimental pilot project to control fertilizer application was also produced.
Additionally, the PFU lobbied the authorities to place farmers and water users at the centre of the decision process, to win farmers the right to manage irrigation water resource by themselves. As the final beneficiaries, they are consequently the most aware of their own needs and can create the most effective solutions.
The two-year water optimization project led to significant results, including a 30% increase on water savings, 25% increase on inputs savings and 15% in yield increases.
- The reduction of inputs means an increase of 15 to 25% of farmers’ income.
- Farmers, who are at the bottom of the food security chain, are back in the decision process.
- Farmers can better manage water resources, collaborate and negotiate with other stakeholders.
To better manage an irrigation network, the PFU assists farmers in their efforts to organize themselves and create water user associations (WUAs) in which farmers are responsible for fully overseeing the operation of the agricultural water delivery facility. Building the capacities of both WUAs and farmers is the backbone of success for this transfer of knowledge.
This initiative was provided by the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP).