SUMMARY: iDE’s Clean Irrigation Solution (CIS) system increases smallholder farmers’ agricultural productivity in developing countries by offering an affordable, appropriately designed, and desirable clean energy alternative to fossil-fuel pumps. Irrigating during the dry season increases food security and allows farmers to escape the cycle of subsistence poverty by increasing their income.
PROBLEM SPACE: Of the 1.1 billion people in the world living on less than $1 per day, 800 million are subsistence farmers, many of whom lift and haul over four tons of water daily to irrigate their crops. The inability to increase their farm productivity, and consequently their income, locks these families into subsistence poverty.
Farmers can drastically decrease their manual labor and expand their irrigable area by employing motorized pumps. Unfortunately, the most accessible options are inefficient fossil fuel-powered pumps, which result in high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and high fuel costs. They are often oversized and poorly matched to farmer needs, resulting in overwatering and soil erosion. In India, there are more than 16 million of these pumps.
The FAO estimates that by 2050 we will have to produce 70% more food to support human life. Smallholder farmers play a critical role, producing 80% of the food consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. To fill the food gap, smallholders will need increasing access to energy sources for crop production. With the constraints and limitations of traditional energy sources, widespread use of the CIS system will help to fill the need for food while reducing the use of fossil fuels.
SOLUTION: The CIS system centers around an efficient, versatile, low-tech, and cost-effective piston pump. The CIS can utilize energy from multiple renewable sources and convert this energy into a power source to drive the pump. This innovative clean energy pumping technology is paired with iDE’s low-cost drip irrigation system and three decades of expertise in farmer training. The combination of these key elements leads to a sustainable increase in agricultural productivity.
Through promoting cost reductions in manufacturing, continuing to make performance improvements, developing a last-mile distribution network, marketing to other organizations, and building strong partnerships with micro-financing institutions, iDE is working to bring the impact of CIS system to scale.
Working with a private sector partner, iDE is centralizing manufacturing of the product in India, allowing for scaled production to minimize product costs. iDE is introducing the CIS in three of its country programs: Zambia, Nepal, and Honduras. Product sales in these countries will follow iDE’s market-based approach. While other non-profits give products away, iDE sells, trains, and promotes products to farmers at sustainable market prices. Thus a key design principle is performance and affordability — the CIS is designed to pay for itself in less than two years.
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