Tell us about the social impact of your innovation. Please include both numbers and stories as evidence of this impact
Women participating in the SMG pilot have reported they spend up to 50% less time working on their current plots than they had hand-watering their previous plots (10-30 times smaller). Additionally, they spend the time in the gardens engaged in more income generating activities – including seed replication for sale to other farmers – than simply hauling water as before.
Stanford published their findings February 2, 2010 (http://www.pnas.org/content/107/5/1848.full.pdf+html?sid=1c8991ce-c977-4...). In summary, researchers concluded the SMG “significantly augments both household income and nutritional intake:”
• Each SMG supplied an average of 1.9 tons of produce/month.
• Other agricultural production was not displaced.
• 18% of the produce grown was kept for home consumption; the balance was sold at market and generated income.
• Vegetable intake across all villages increased during the rainy season by approximately one serving per day (150 grams per person); by comparison, project beneficiaries gained the equivalent of 3-5 servings per day (500-750 grams per person), mostly during the dry season.
• Project beneficiaries’ daily standard of living increased by $0.69 relative to non-beneficiaries.
• Use of income earned “significantly” increased the purchase of staples, pulses, and protein during the dry season and oil during the rainy season.
After the first week of selling their produce in the Kalale market, Yarou Ganni made Jennifer Burney, a project manager, stay late into the afternoon so she could prepare her food. Ganni said, "For so many months, you have been coming here, and I never had money to buy you any pounded yam to thank you. Now, after what we have sold, I can finally buy you pounded yams. So sit down. You're not going anywhere!"
The training services alone have helped bolster the women’s skills, opportunities and confidence. 100 women in three collectives have received training on soil preparation, nursery formation, irrigation, pest control, seed replication, organization management, and marketing. Furthermore, technicians were trained to install and maintain the solar panels.
Another key result has been the enthusiasm of the women for the project and their thinking about solar power for microenterprises and the like. They are thinking, optimistically, about their future.
Problem: Describe the primary problem(s) that your innovation is addressing
The vast majority of poor, rural women derive their livelihood from subsistence farming. Unfortunately, this group mostly coincides with the 1.7 billion people who live “off the grid” with no access to electricity. Their poverty is defined in large measure by poor nutrition and related health problems, because productive agriculture requires water delivered reliably to the fields – a serious challenge in areas with lengthy dry seasons, such as the Sahel. Hauled water is entirely inadequate, though often it is the only means available. Furthermore, the role of carrying water traditionally falls upon the women, depriving them of time for other valuable activities, including income generation.
Irrigation solutions need both the energy to pump water and the means to conserve water. Rural women farmers, however are rarely connected to the power grid, and traditional irrigation systems use far more water than actually reaches the crop plants. Diesel generators cannot alleviate this form of energy poverty; they are expensive to operate, polluting, and break down frequently enough to cause crops to whither and fail. An alternative energy source is needed, which solar power provides, while drip irrigation provides the water conservation.
Lack of access to capital, however, impedes the ability of women farmers to experiment with and implement successful new technologies. This project seeded the process and proved the Solar Market Garden to be a viable, economical, sustainable and replicable solution.
Actions: Describe the steps that you are taking to make your innovation a success. What might prevent that success?
The women’s farming collectives have taken ownership of this project from the beginning. Maintenance and supervision are entirely local, with support from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and SELF technicians. SELF focused efforts on local capacity-building: administration, bookkeeping, and communication have improved and all parties are comfortable with project expansion. Our local project team is now prepared to train the additional staff needed to expand to more villages.
SELF has partnered with Stanford University’s Program on Food Security and the Environment (http://foodsecurity.stanford.edu/) to monitor and evaluate the impacts of this project. Two primary measures for assessment are: 1) increases in vegetable consumption and evidence of the health benefits that result, and 2) increases in income as a result of food sales. These enable SELF to: (a) assess the impact of the pilot phase, (b) establish decision criteria and recommendations for scaling the project to other villages, and (c) refine the research design for the complete scale-up phase of the project. Stanford’s effort has included initial household surveys in the two pilot villages and two "comparison" villages in November 2007, the collection of garden data (yields, sales, inputs), local market monitoring, and follow-up surveys in November 2008.
Natural disaster, political instability or inter-village rivalry could prevent the successful expansion of this project. SELF cannot control the first two, but we have made a public commitment to bring this technology to all 44 villages in the district; so far, the others are patiently waiting.
Results: Describe the expected results of these actions over the next three years. Please address each year separately, if possible
The next phases of the project will bring SMGs to six additional villages in 2010, and provide solar electricity for other critical resources—such as drinking water wells—in the first two pilot villages. We expect to install SMGs in 12 villages in 2011, and in another 18 villages in 2012, subject to funding. We hope to be well on our way to completing the SMGs in all 44 villages in Kalalé by three years from now. Ultimately, all 44 villages will have Solar Market Gardens and solar-powered electricity. Critical to all phases of the project are local training and on-going support.
The long-term goal for the program, particularly its SMG component, is to provide a development model for much of West Africa, where conditions are similar to northern Benin. Additionally, the model can be adapted for use throughout the developing world.
If your innovation seeks to impact public policy, how?
Upon the SMG model’s validation, which we expect to occur in this next phase of the project, the government of Benin and larger international and multi-national development funding agencies will be urged to adopt solar irrigation as a primary tool in their development agriculture, equitable opportunities, technology incentives and capital access policies. We hope that the SMG will be adopted throughout sub-Saharan Africa and across rural, non-electrified regions of the developing world.