Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa are set to benefit from a new partnership between World Vision’s microfinance arm, VisionFund International (VisionFund) and non-profit social enterprise, KickStart International (KickStart). The partners have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to provide an integrated solution to enable farmers to access, purchase and implement irrigation systems. With ambitious targets, the partnership anticipates 100,000 farmers (and 400,000 children) will benefit from greater access to water for their crops over the next five years.
Following a successful pilot in Zambia last year, where close to 3,000 irrigation pumps were financed, the two organisations are working together to provide small-holder farmers with financing for pump ownership in the countries where they work together in sub-Saharan Africa. Significantly, it is the first time VisionFund has financed irrigation systems as part of its holistic approach to poverty alleviation.
Farmers can only harvest and sell crops once or twice per year, during rain-fed harvests. When the rains fail, due to the unpredictable weather linked to climate change, they lose even these crops. While water is available to millions of small scale farmers in shallow wells, rivers and ponds on their farms, they often lack the means and know-how to extract the water and correctly distribute it to their crops. Currently less than four percent of the farmland in sub-Saharan Africa is irrigated, compared to over 40 percent across Asia.
With irrigation, farmers can harvest crops throughout the year, including during the long, dry ‘hungry’ seasons. They can feed their families and obtain higher prices for produce. Research by KickStart and others shows that farmers who irrigate increase their yields per acre by an average of 2.5 times and their net annual income per acre by on average three to five times. Additional income is spread across the year and enables farmers to better care for their families and take a major step out of poverty. Multiple studies of farmers using KickStart’s MoneyMaker pumps have found that the increased yields and incomes from irrigating have significant impacts on a family’s food security, health, household gender dynamics, ability to send children to school, purchase new assets and diversify incomes.