Solving Extreme Poverty at the Base of the Pyramid
Solving Extreme Poverty at the BOP: Drip Irrigation for Small Farmers
The core problem of extreme poverty and hunger:
The overwhelming majority of hungry people live in rural areas of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. They are among the 1.3 billion people who survive on less than US $1 a day.
Why is water irrigation for small farmers so important?
By raising small-farm productivity, access to irrigation water is also key to improving rural livelihoods and revitalizing rural economies. It creates jobs for people both with and without land, since more people are needed to harvest, process, and market the crops and supply farm inputs. The additional farm income ripples through the local economy, generating employment and higher incomes for off-farm workers as well. Access to irrigation water broadens farmers’ crop choices and enables them to grow higher-value vegetables and fruits for the marketplace. By creating more secure and stable rural communities, access to productivity-enhancing irrigation water can also help stem the tide of migration to already overcrowded cities and slums (van Hofwegen and Svendsen, 2000).
Experience across diverse geographies prove the success of this model:
In countries as diverse as India, Israel, Jordan, Spain, and the United States, studies have consistently shown drip irrigation to reduce water use by 30 to 70 percent and to raise crop yields by 20 to 90 percent (Suryawanshi, 1995; World Bank, 1993).
In addition water productivity increased at the rate of “46% for potatoes to 255% for cotton.”
Drip irrigation systems need to meet 4 criteria to effectively meet the needs of small farmers at the bottom of the pyramid:
• Rapid payback
• Divisibility and expandability
• Water efficiency
Types of drip irrigation systems available for small farmers in the BOP:
• Bucket kits
• Drum kits
• Shiftable drip systems
• Stationary Micro-tube systems
Scaling innovation & poverty solutions at the base of the pyramid:
Because the drip systems typically pay for themselves in one growing season, it would be possible to establish six-month payback terms….
Strategic options to meet the hunger, income, and health needs of those in the BOP, who live on less than $2 a day:
Experience to date in India, Nepal, and China suggests substantial ummet demand for affordable drip irrigation.
For more on the the context & systems involved, please read “Drip Irrigation for Small Farmers: A New Initiative to Alleviate Hunger and Poverty.” (Postel, Polak, Gonzalez, and Keller)