How can poor farmers grow their crops using less water and fertilizer?
Drip irrigation (also: trickle irrigation or micro-irrigation) saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either onto the soil surface or directly onto the root zone, through a network of values pipes, tubing and emitters.
I first read about drip irrigation in the book "The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World". It described drip irrigation systems in Israel and India when long, skinny pipes are connected to a water source and then extend down the length of a field, each one along a row where seeds will be planted. Microtubes or tiny straws extend from the pipes and drip water by the stalk of the plants.
In this book, Amitabha Sadangi's (IDE India) goal was to make drip irrigation affordable to the poorest farmers in India. (He says there are 260 million smallholder farmers in India; millions live on less than $1 a day.) The solution involved three core principles:
- Affordable. The drip irrigation system would be so affordable that farmers could cover the entire cost from the sales of their harvest in less than a year.
- Fairly easy to use.
- Infinitely expandable. Poor farmers could start by irrigating 1/8 of an acre, then expand the system as their income increased.