“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all”

Nelson Mandela

Food and Water: the two most basic needs for human survival. The Maslow Hierarchy of Needs places tMaslow+Hierarchy.jpghem at its base. Food and water, along with warmth and rest, create the foundation for humanity to progress. Water is, of course, essential to drink as well as to grow food. According to data released by the United Nations, the global agriculture sector’s water usage accounts for the greatest percentage of freshwater consumption, a whopping 70 percent. This begs the question, how can we conserve and preserve the world’s water supply?

As the largest water consumer, agriculture is a great place to start. Agricultural practices and technologies can focus on reducing water waste. Developing technologies that evenly distribute water in fields; require minimal transportation of water; low pressure for use, and accurate soil moisture readings could dramatically improve conservation and farm efficiency. Smallholder farmers face high water costs and supply limitations, resulting in lower productivity and a reduced number of growing seasons.

Lower cost irrigation technologies are one possible solution. For example, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation’s grantee, Driptech inc.’s mission is to alleviate poverty by creating affordable, water-efficient irrigation solutions for small plot farmers. Their drip tape works with low water pressure, eliminating the need for excessive water pumping to deliver water to plants. Driptech farmers’ yields have increased by 50 percent while saving 80 percent in labor costs. Plus, market prices are increasing by up to 100 percent.

sunculture 1.jpgSimilarly, SunCulture, a Kenya-based startup, has commercialized the first holistic solar pump drip irrigation system. Comprised of solar panels, a stainless steel solar-powered submersible water pump, and a gravity fed drip irrigation system, the ArgoSolar Drip Irrigation Kit also addresses the need for low-pressure technologies. It capitalizes on solar energy while improving the efficiency of water distribution. A typical one acre client saves nearly $6,000 per year, with 52 percent energy and fertilizer savings (if using fertigation), and 48 percent labor savings. Both examples of drip irrigation technologies address water management by minimizing water leakage from transportation and demand of high water pressure for use.

Do you have a water technology that can improve efficiency and farmer productivity?

Partnering for Innovation is one great place to look for resources, partners, and possibly funding. In addition, USAID in partnership with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), launched the Securing Water for Food Challenge: A Grand Challenge for Development (GCD) in September of 2013. @SecuringWater will fund innovations that demonstrate promise in improving water efficiency, reusing wastewater, effectively capturing and storing water, and addressing the threat of salinity to water supply. Because we need both food and water, it is time to support the base of Maslow’s pyramid with sustainable water and farming practices. Irrigation technology can make a difference in our ever-increasing challenge of food security, and in economic development, so we can realize Nelson Mandela’s vision of “work, bread, water, and salt for all.”

Written by Arielle Kleinman, Program Assistant, Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation