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Watering can vs. drip irrigation

Experimenting with resource-smart technology in Ghana


Alalee Francis is conducting an experiment. On his farm he has installed a drip irrigation kit that he purchased from iDE. Next to it is his “control field,” where he continues to water his onions the old-fashioned way, with a watering can. Every week he notes the differences between the two fields, how much time it takes to tend, and how well the onions are doing in each.

iDE Hero Ghana Watering Can

The onions on the left of Alalee Francis’ plot are lagging in size compared to the ones on the right. The difference comes from how he irrigated the crops: flooding the rows with a traditional watering can on the left versus using drip irrigation to grow the crops on the right. 

As part of iDE’s Innovation for Rural Prosperity (IRP) project, funded by Canadian donors and Global Affairs Canada, Alalee is working with an iDE market development officer, Iddrisu Andeni. He is learning new methods for farming, such as drip irrigation and mulching. Along with other farmers in the region, he can see which approaches of watering and planting are best by trying several methods next to each other. Farmers can learn these new techniques, observe how they work, and then practice the best methods on their own farms. This reduces the amount of water needed and increases yields for everyone.    

iDE works with small-scale farmers in the rural savanna of the Upper East and Upper West regions of Ghana, where poverty is abundant and water is scarce. With extended periods of little to no rain spanning up to nine months, access to water impacts households’ dietary and sanitary health as well as their wealth. Through the IRP project, iDE field agents provide agricultural extension advice, facilitate farmers’ access to finance to cover production costs, and identify market linkages for farmers to receive good value for their increased crop yields.

Market First

Alalee Francis (right) with Iddrisu Andeni, iDE staff member. Iddrisu worked with Alalee in a “Market First” approach to identify what the local market wanted and how best for Alalee to meet the demand. Alalee smiles when you ask him about the experiment. “Before iDE came, we needed a lot of water to water our crops. Now we use way less water and the crops are doing much better,” he says, pointing to his vegetable plots.

iDE PC Ghana Watering Can

iDE’s goal on the IRP project is to sustainably promote high-value vegetable production and marketing to increase incomes and improve health for farmers working on less than two acres of land in rural Ghana. IRP helps to increase farmers’ incomes, facilitating their investments in agricultural technologies, specifically irrigation technology, improved seeds, and the latest knowledge in agricultural production. iDE works with local entrepreneurs and international companies to create business environments that are good for farmers, standardizing the prices that farmers receive for their produce to reduce risk and uncertainty, and enabling farmers to optimize the use of their assets: land, water, and labor.

“I used to make about 200 cedis from a growing season, and now I make up to 400 – 500 cedis,” Alalee reports. Alalee spends his new income on school fees for his children, healthcare, and better food for his family of five. 

When asked what he likes best about working with iDE, Alalee says, “They take good care of us. They don’t just leave a product; they come time and time again, every week, to make sure things are working and if there are any questions. I am glad for them.”

Results to date

  • More than 5,600 farmers, 58 percent of whom are female
  • 117 communities across 14 districts
  • Facilitated farmer groups’ purchase of more than 600 irrigation kits
  • Over 5,000 loans to farmers, with a 97-percent repayment rate
  • Increased farmers’ yields by 200 percent through adoption of innovative farming practices and use of improved seeds
  • Identified motivations, barriers, pain points, influences, and triggers for vegetable growers in northern Ghana by conducting a human-centered design assessment

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