Kickstarting Livelihoods with Improved Water Management

By Alex Tung

In the hot, dry regions of West Africa, small-scale farmers may spend as many as five hours a day hauling water in calabashes (hollowed, dried out squashes) or plastic buckets to irrigate their crops. But now farmers can make more money without breaking their backs, thanks to “Affordable Micro-Irrigation for Vegetable Production in West Africa,” an initiative of the AVRDC-World Vegetable Centre with support from the Taiwan Government Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Photo credit: AVRDC, Appropriate Technologies Magazine

Known in Mali as “nafasoro,” the MoneyMaker pump, developed by KickStart, is one of the more widely adopted tools in the region. The pumps are available in two models: a pedal pump, the Super MoneyMaker, which costs 49,500 cfa (US$103), and a manual pump, the MoneyMaker Hip Pump, which costs 22,000 cfa.

“[Kickstart’s pump] has very good prospects for riverbank vegetable gardening and irrigating vegetables even about 75-80 meters from river sources,” said Dr. Madhu Bhattarai, an agricultural economist at AVRDC.

To encourage farmers from Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Ghana to adopt better crop management practices, AVRDC started holding training workshops for farmers and communities in December 2009.  These workshops focus on explaining irrigation systems, such as the KickStart pump, and better water management.

In Mali, where AVRDC worked with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) to demonstrate technologies, more than 6,000 pumps were sold and 5,000 enterprises were created. Farmers have become actively involved in testing and adapting equipment for their vegetable gardens. Currently, more than 150 women farmers are growing vegetables using affordable micro-irrigation methods, including drip irrigation kits, pedal pumps, and microsprinklers.

Investing in micro-irrigation technologies may seem daunting for small-scale farmers, but the venture has proved to bring a reliable return on investment. Mahmoud Guindo, a farmer in Mali, doubled his annual income selling fruits and vegetables after purchasing the MoneyMaker irrigation pump. In addition to being able to irrigate crops more easily, farmers like Mahmoud can now expand their planting area of high-value crops such as fruits and vegetables and cultivate several crops year-round, yielding a steadier, higher income.

To learn more about ways that irrigation technologies are helping small-scale farmers improve their incomes and livelihoods, see Innovation of the Week: Slow and Steady Irrigation Wins the Race, Getting Water to Crops, and Access to Water Improves Quality of Life for Women and Children.

Alex Tung is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

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