Burkina Faso Tech Center Celebrates First Anniversary
On June 12, iDE’s newest country program celebrated an important milestone. iDE’s Burkina Faso team was joined by esteemed delegates from the Burkina Faso Ministry of Agriculture at a ceremony to observe the first harvest at the Center of Technology at Yamtenga. Speakers included several key iDE Burkina Faso staff, as well as Abdoulaye Compari from the Ministry of Agriculture, and Paul Bayili, who spoke on behalf of SDC on the importance of the partnership to advancing drip irrigation in the country. The event was attended by representatives of key partners including SDC, AFD, CIDA, GIZ, JICA, UNICEF, Swedish Corporation, FAO, WFP and IFAD. Various NGOs including Self-Help Africa, ACDI/VOCA, SNV, PlanetFinance, and HKI helped us to mark the occasion.
iDE Burkina Country Director Laurent Stravato discussed the organization’s efforts to implement low-cost drip irrigation technologies in a region with severely limited water resources, setting forth three issues which iDE has been working on in Burkina Faso: scaling up drip irrigation in the region, developing innovations to make it more affordable to Burkinabé farmers, and iDE Burkina’s distribution model and the advisory role of twelve farm business advisors currently working in four provinces of the country: Boulkiemdé, Kadiogo, Sanguié, and Yatenga.
Ms. Aida Ganaba, head of iDE’s Technology Center, explained in detail the work being done with drip irrigation kits of varying sizes as well various innovative prototypes being tested at the Center, such as a 1000-liter, ferro-cement reservoir, a 150 liter clay jar constructed by local masons, and a wood support system housing a 1,000 liter tank, created by an iDE farm business advisor.
iDE Burkina’s Center of Technology was created to serve as a facility where affordable water technologies could be developed, tested, and demonstrated to local farmers. The team faced many challenges in getting the center underway, including poor soil quality, the 400 meter distance from the nearest water source, abundance of plant disease, and a need for system uniformity. Addressing these problems, which are shared by many of the farmers iDE serves, has helped validate the effectiveness of drip irrigation in the local context.
iDE Burkina Faso’s business model builds upon the successful Farm Business Advisor program, originally piloted by iDE Cambodia. iDE Burkina employs twelve farm business advisors who act as liaisons between iDE and the small producer. Located throughout each of the 4 current project areas, they provide demonstration sites for technologies, after-sales assistance, and a focal point for the smallholder farmer customers. They also direct potential customers to distributors and dealers who specialize in iDE drip irrigation kit sales.
The Center also functions as a base for development of rural marketing strategies, including publicity panels, t-shirts, and informational documents. Other activities, such as engaging local theater to promote the use of drip irrigation technologies, are planned and implemented here. “Why is it that products such as soft drinks and telephones are so well advertised in rural markets, while products used to better the lives of smallholder farmers, such as drip irrigation, are not as well advertised?” asked Program Officer Sean McKinlay.
Perhaps most importantly, the Center of Technology is a functioning farm. Mr. Désiré Yerbanga, Business Development Manager, presented economic results of the Technology Center’s inaugural harvest. In a single 3-month production cycle, 378 kilograms of okra were harvested from a 200 square meter plot, netting 36,000 F CFA with one month in the harvest still remaining. A similar return for the two remaining cycles in the year is expected, for a total return of 108,000 F CFA on an initial investment of 50,000 F CFA. That same 3-month production cycle also yielded a 90 kilogram peanut harvest netting another 36,000 F CFA. In addition, iDE has found that substantial farm income can be earned from the sale of peanut leaves, thus shedding light on the need to look more closely at potential markets for agricultural by-products.
As iDE’s first francophone country program, Burkina Faso has achieved important initial success in reducing market prices for technology, reducing producer labor, and achieving substantial gains in time and revenue for smallholder farmers in its first year.
iDE Burkina Faso has experienced challenges in creating partnerships with micro-credit institutions and finding local partners to assist with product transformation. iDE Burkina Faso continues to adapt and grow accordingly, and as such the June 12 ceremony represents an important opening for drip irrigation in the country. The presence of the government, donors, and all major media outlets there presented an especially strong case to the public.