Delivering Cutting Edge Micro-Irrigation Technologies
I’m excited to share with you an inspiring private/ non-profit collaboration between Toro Irrigation, a US-based world leader in irrigation equipment design and manufacturing and International Development Enterprises, an international non-profit organisation with over 30 years of experience developing markets for agriculture products and services that benefit smallholder farmers.
Through the partnership, an innovative drip irrigation system has been designed based on existing technologies utilised by commercial farmers around the world. Building on proven designs, the Toro Small Farm Kit has been adapted to the needs of smallholder farmers in Zambia.
This is just the beginning- by leveraging both organisations’ expertise, an integrated supply chain network linking US-based manufacturers with smallholder farmers in developing countries is being established.
This exciting, innovative collaboration can offer insights into creating a successful partnership between NGOs and the business world to benefit some of the world’s poorest people.
So what in my opinion are the ingredients needed for an inspiring private/ non-profit collaboration?
Shared Values, Shared Skills, Shared Goals
Both Toro and iDE believe in the benefits of micro-irrigated agriculture.
Why micro-irrigated agriculture? Because one billion people in the world live on less than 75p per day, 800 million of whom are smallholder farmers relying on subsistence agriculture for their livelihood. Positioned as a non-profit, iDE has been working for over 30 years to increase the incomes and food securities of smallholder farmers, as well as contribute to a more efficient use of precious water resources by helping them move from rain-fed and bucket irrigation to the use of simple water lifting, application, and storage technologies. Toro Irrigation, a commercial company, also believes deeply in improving crop yields and decreasing water usage to protect this precious resource by engaging in new business opportunities in developing country markets.
So what have we been doing?
Both partners have worked together on a USAID-funded project in Zambia to develop a drip irrigation system that is appropriately designed and cost-effective for rural farmers. The aim is to increase income opportunities and food security for rural farmers and their families.
The key to designing this system was the old idiom – ‘talk to your customers’. iDE is using its Human Centred Design approach to understand the needs and desires of smallholder farming communities in Zambia, and find solutions to meet these needs and desires with financial sustainability in mind. iDE conducted a study of Zambian farms in order to adapt Toro’s proven irrigation products to local conditions.
The end result is a Drip Kit built around Toro’s Aqua-Traxx Turbulent Flow Drip Tape Technology - a proven technology that is the preferred drip tape used for over 30 years by commercial farmers around the world. Aqua-Traxx provides precise and uniform water distribution along with a high resistance to clogging, which allows farmers to maximise their crop potential. Through this partnership, smallholder farmers in Zambia now have access to the same technology and benefits that until now have only been available to large farming operations.
A great thing about this partnership is sharing skills and expertise. Making Aqua-Traxx available to smallholder farmers could not have been accomplished without the knowledge of Toro’s irrigation engineers and iDE’s in-country staff of agriculture experts. Toro brings cutting edge technology and US based manufacturing and engineering expertise to the table. iDE brings local knowledge and market access.
Both iDE and Toro have a shared goal of providing widespread access to this cutting edge, affordable drip kit technology and other appropriate micro-irrigation products through establishing a reliable commercial distribution network in developing countries. This will be achieved by integrating the Toro drip kit into iDE’s existing supply chain in its 14 country programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America. By creating the linkages throughout the entire supply chain down to the “last mile” of distribution, our goal is to ensure smallholder farmers have access to these technologies. In addition, the goal is to leverage Toro’s US-based world-leading irrigation manufacturing expertise to engage with new clients throughout the developing world, which will increase the number of farmers that can increase crop yields while preserving water resources.
Toro and iDE will continue to push the envelope to further develop this partnership. Long-term, the partnership will continue to leverage an innovative design process, to further refine drip systems and utilise iDE’s market-based experience to create an improved supply chain, which will provide a competitive edge in entering developing markets. This will ultimately provide farmers with easier access to these life-enhancing technologies in the future.
What do you think are the ingredients for an inspiring private/ non-profit collaboration?