The Drip+ Alliance: Scaling up micro-irrigation for smallholders requires a coalition of interested parties

September 24, 2017
Three founding members of the Drip+ Alliance pictured from left to right: Dr. Dilip Kulkarni, Jain Irrigation Systems; Eduardo Mendias, The Toro Company; Naty Barak, Netafim. (Photo by Sarah Neurenberger/iDE)
Toward Global Scale

Drip irrigation can’t stand on its own. Neither should its supporters.

Micro-irrigation technology has the potential to increase smallholder incomes. For it to be successful, it can’t be implemented alone, but needs to be considered as an integrated package that looks at the farmer's complete situations: their access to water, what crops they plan to grow, how they plan to fertilize, pest management, harvest methods, post-harvest storage, and transport to market.

To scale micro-irrigation technology, therefore, it takes more than just being successful in selling a product, and it’s going to take more than just one organization to provide the support necessary.

That’s why iDE formed the Drip+ Alliance in 2016. The Alliance is a consortium of researchers, manufacturers, and stakeholders focusing on what changes have to occur in the marketplace to enable micro-irrigation technology to live up to its potential. The founding members of the Alliance include three major drip irrigation manufacturers: The Toro Company, Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd., and Netafim. iDE continues to direct the Alliance as the convener.

The Drip+ challenge

Working together, the Drip+ Alliance targets and addresses critical bottlenecks in the market for smallholder drip irrigation solutions. Some of the key barriers to markets and opportunities are:

  • Generate insights on user needs and preferences
  • Optimize product price and function
  • Improve customer proposition
  • Innovate business models to deliver a range of support services
  • Create distribution networks for products and support
  • Fill financing gaps
  • Access working capital for suppliers and intermediaries
  • Integrate with offtake markets
  • Counter negative perceptions (e.g. insufficient water delivery) with rigorous quantitative studies
  • Highlight the pressures on water resources in many markets
  • Define standards for smallholder-suitable drip technologies
  • Review subsidy/giveaway programs that focus on product without adequate support
  • Remove import duties that are driving up costs in some jurisdictions

For example, Jain Irrigation Systems has piloted a successful outgrower model in India that provides farmers seed-to-factory support. The Drip+ Alliance is researching if this successful prototype can be applied to high-value crops (e.g., cocoa, coffee, sugar) in other countries and connect irrigation manufacturers to food industry professionals.

Netafim has led the creation of international standards for smallholder drip irrigation. This has been submitted to the ISO governing body and is currently under consideration.


Next steps

The Drip+ Alliance has benefited greatly from the generosity and support of the Government of Switzerland through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The Drip+ Alliance also received initial funding from private sector partners, including Toro, and is in active discussions with additional partners from both the public and private sectors. Securing additional funding for the Drip+ Alliance is of primary importance to enable it to focus on eliminating barriers to entry in the sector, reducing constraints for smallholder farmers, and undertaking cross-cutting research to support the advancement of the alliance.

Once funding is secured, iDE will hire an Executive Director to lead the coordination and implementation of the Drip+ Alliance. iDE is also interested in exploring a formal partnership with a facilitation and fundraising partner to provide the necessary capital to drive the Drip+ Alliance forward.

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