Helping African Smallholders Fight Water and Food Scarcity

By Danny Ariel, Project Manager Sugarcane & Small holders at Netafim

Water availability has always been a major challenge for African smallholders. So it should have come as no surprise that one of the seminars at Expo Milano 2015 focused on “Water & Agriculture in Africa: grow more with less.”

I had the privilege of speaking at the seminar, which was held last week, on the subject “Family Drip Systems: From subsistence to commercial farming.” Over 70 people from academia and the private and public sectors, including many from Africa and South America, attended the half-day seminar.

The seminar showed how innovative water management systems can enhance rural development and food production. NetaKit™, an all-inclusive solution for small-scale growers, and Family Drip System™ (FDS™), a gravity-based dedicated smallholder solution, are two Netafim products enabling subsistence farmers to grow more crops with less resources. With NetaKit and FDS, hundreds of millions of smallholders worldwide, especially in Africa where water availability and accessibility is particularly challenging, can boost their income and become commercial farmers.

Other speakers at the seminar included representatives of the Syngenta Foundation and two Italian companies, Versalis and Manni Energy, as well as academics from Tel Aviv University and the University of Milan.

The seminar is one of several agriculture-related seminars offered throughout Expo Milano 2015, which is based on the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” Seminar participants also visited the “Agriculture of Tomorrow” field at the Lombardy Demonstration Initiative (LoDI) near Milan in which Netafim is involved.


The LoDI project demonstrates drip irrigation of four basic food crops — rice, corn, sorghum and soybean — which was powered by a solar pump and controlled by Netafim controllers. Showing how drip is equally effective in both flat and sloped areas, as well as in growing orchards, vegetables and flowers, the demo also underscores how the technology is a perfect fit for “agriculture of the future.” Drip requires much less physical work than flooding, particularly when growing commodity crops, which makes it more attractive to next-generation farmers.

After participating in the seminar, which was enlightening to many of the attendees, one thing is very clear to me. In order to tackle the smallholder market successfully, all stakeholders — farmers, dealers, NGOs, governments and industry players — need to cooperate due to the sector’s unique challenges.


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