Drip irrigation for smallholder farmers

Drip irrigation for smallholder farmers

Ouagadougou, Burkina FasoOuagadougou, Burkina Faso
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The SUMIT project is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) with a mission to establish a sustainable micro irrigation technologies market for the bottom of the pyramid farmers in Burkina Faso.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

90% of the Burkina Faso population is engaged in activities linked to the agriculture sector and are responsible for 33% of the country’s gross domestic product. Such low outputs by a large sector are related mainly to water scarcity caused by large variability of rainfall. Also traditional irrigation practices lead to over exploitation of the water resources (wells, dams, etc) which shortens the agriculture season to six months per year.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

The solution to this problem is to introduce low cost technologies that promote efficient water use, such as drip irrigation, into the marketplace. Low pressure drip irrigation technologies can help preserve the water resources as a targeted amount of water is delivered directly to the plant and evenly wets the soil from a strategically positioned emitter (tap) next to each plant. This avoids excessive over-application of scarce water that traditional flood methods of irrigation practice. At the present stage of the project, iDE Burkina Faso controls the entire business and supply chain operations, from importation to local market distribution. The ultimate objective is to establish a branded irrigation business called iDEal.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Scaling up sales of drip irrigation technologies in Burkina Faso will bring innovation to the way agriculture is practiced in the country. One particular example about the impact of the technology is the expansion of the agriculture season due to the efficient use of water resources for agriculture. Thus the farmers will be able to grow vegetables and other crops all year long. Additional advantages are the decrease in labor costs, fertilizer costs, pesticide use and costs, etc. Although the technology is not new to the country, there are not many organizations and businesses that focus their business on these products/services designed for the bottom of the pyramid farmers.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

iDE Burkina Faso is a pioneer in the linking of supply chain operations to after-sale services provided by the farmer business advisors. This business model that centers on client proximity and ensures customer satisfaction especially for the smallholder farmers is new in the country. Our focus is not just to supply a product to the market, rather a product that comes with advice services from trained agents in agriculture, marketing and technical aspects of the irrigation kits.
About You
Internatinal Development Enterprises
About You
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About Your Project
Organization Name

Internatinal Development Enterprises

Organization Country

, KAD, Ouagadougou

Country where this project is creating social impact

, KAD, Ouagadougou

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Your Solution
Founding Story: Share a story about the “Aha!” moment that led you to get started and/or to see the potential for this to succeed.

About a year ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a smallholder farmer called Yameogo, where I could buy fresh vegetables and fruits. The first time I visited his plot in November, it was full of various vegetables. A couple months later, I visited his farm again but this time I noticed that he was only growing vegetables on half of his plot and some of the crops were in bad shape. I asked him why and he explained that he lacked access to irrigation technology to irrigate the entire plot. I told him about how drip irrigation can help him save water and decrease his workload. He was keen to try it. I began to notice the wider demand for products and the change it would make to the Burkina Faso agriculture sector.

Select Sector(s): To which of Unilever's categories of sustainability does your solution apply?

Water, Sustainable Agriculture, Smallholder Farmers, Supply Chain Micro-entrepreneurs.

Measurable Impact
Audience: Who have you identified as your customers/recipients and why? How will you get your solution to them or engage them in your initiative?

The project is intended for Burkina Faso smallholder farmers. They need better water management systems to irrigate their farms, which are more sustainable compared to the usual irrigation methods, such as gravity and bucket irrigation. Technologies such as drip irrigation reduce water consumption, decrease fertilizer and pesticide use, and can improve the environmental quality. The drip irrigation kits are supplied to the local markets through a network of retailers and farmer business advisors.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date and expected impact in the future?

Through iDE Burkina Faso retailing network and partnership projects, 3125 drip irrigation systems have been sold from the start of the SUMIT initiative in 2011.
iDE Burkina Faso has also conducted many field tests on the drip irrigation kits and has proposed farmer business plans and agriculture calendars for crop production that enhance the return on the farmer’s investment. The farmers that we work with are able to recover their investments and start collecting the benefit in three production cycles per year. With an investment of 1,997,968 FCFA on a 500 square meter plot, the farmer can gain a net benefit of 312,023 FCFA at the end of the third cycle (one year). To facilitate the farmers’ access to the irrigation kits, iDE Burkina Faso works with microfinance institutions that provide loans to the farmers at attractive interest rates.

Growth, Finance & Leadership
Scaling the Solution: How do you intend to scale your activities over the next two years (e.g., reach new markets, diversify solutions, etc.)? What will make this possible?

Currently, our drip irrigation products are available in 10 provinces through iDE Burkina Faso retailers’ network and partnerships. The goal for the next two years is to expand the operations to other provinces. We have conducted market analysis in a number of provinces in the northern region of Burkina Faso, to evaluate the potential actors (retailers, organizations) to add to our present operations. A business and marketing strategy is in the development process, its execution will depend on the availability of funding as at the moment most of the activities and services are provided at a subsidized cost. We are also working on diversifying our products by testing new products such as seeds, affordable multi use water system (MUS).

Financial Sustainability: What is your business model to ensure financial sustainability?

To ensure that the business is sustainable financially, the irrigation products and services have to be offered at competitive prices on the market and make sure that the sales revenues remain on an upward trend. Currently a part of the supply chain is subsidized by donor funds, such as the salaries of the supply chain manager, however in the long term view the business should be financially self sufficient.

Experience: Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

I have always been interested in turning an investment into a profit, although I have never established a business of my own. However, the most experience I have is buying shares on the stock market and earning a few dollars and sometimes losing some. This experience taught me how to approach the business world especially conducting market research and gathering as much information on the targeted customers/consumers.