Especially in the agricultural sector, quite a number of countries have developed innovative technologies to counter the challenges they face in increasing food production and mitigating the effects of climate change on their environment. Whilst these solutions reflect particular development constraints; in many instances, they can be scaled up or down and replicated, with minor modifications, in other countries and contexts to be more accessible, practical, and cost-effective for rural farmers.
Facilitating the sharing of such innovations and development solutions through the South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) modality is an important component of the engagement of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) with its partner countries. IFAD, with its extensive record of successful interventions gathered over many years of investing in rural communities, is very well positioned to facilitate the sharing of these successes to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Starlit provided solar irrigation equipment to Farmers of the Kayonza district in Rwanda ©CORDAID/IFAD
This article focuses on two concrete examples of how IFAD has supported two communities for agricultural water management through technology transfer.
Building community resilience to climate change in Rwanda
Since 2021, IFAD has been partnering with CORDAID to strengthen the resilience of farmers in the Kayonza district in Eastern Rwanda, whose food production, mostly rain-fed, has been severely affected by prolonged spells of dry weather. Working with a local company and a Chinese company, the STARLIT project has introduced, to two Farmers’ Organizations, solar-powered irrigation systems which have proven to be cost-effective and water-efficient in other countries. The technology has been scaled down to accommodate the plot sizes of the district’s smallholder farmers, and has already demonstrated significant savings for the farmers, reducing the purchase of fuel that would have powered the conventional pumps; thus contributing directly to lower carbon emissions.
According to Patrick Birasa, CORDAID’s country manager for Rwanda, the relationship that has been established between farmers and companies on irrigation pumps and solar equipment will not be short-lived, it will be long-lasting and sustainable even after the project has ended, and the experience of the farmers in Kayonza district will be a pilot for several districts in Rwanda.
Farmers using their new solar irrigation equipment provided by Starlit ©CORDAID/IFAD
Promoting Sustainable Water Management between Kenya and Ethiopia
One of the critical problems faced by farmers in PASIDIP II, IFAD’s Participatory Small-scale Irrigation Development Programme II in Ethiopia was how to develop and manage water conservation techniques and improve the efficiency of irrigation systems. This was a challenge that had been effectively addressed by the Natural Resources Management Project that the Fund implemented between 2012 and 2022 in the Upper Tana river catchment, in Kenya. A grant from the China-IFAD SSTC Facility brought these teams together, and farmers in the PASIDIP II project were supplied with gravity-fed sprinklers and drip irrigation systems and trained on how to use them by the Upper Tana project team. The new systems have reduced water waste and increased the productivity of the local farmers.
According to Mr. Dubena Kari, one of the project beneficiaries, he used to face issues related to water scarcity and was not able to properly irrigate his farm land. Since the project implementation, he has seen an increase in the volume of his harvest, and has even gone on to diversify his production with sugar beet, pepper, haricot beans and tomatoes, confident that all his new crops will be properly irrigated.
Empowering local communities for long-term impact
The interventions in Rwanda and Ethiopia have included training components aimed at building the management and maintenance capacities in the local community, especially among the youth. This is an essential consideration for post-project sustainability and long-term impact; both of which can be significantly reduced due to the absence of adequate organizational and technical skills. For the STARLIT project, a youth network trained to deliver fee-based maintenance services is ensuring the continued optimum functioning of the solar panels. In Ethiopia, PASIDIP II has established Irrigation Water User Associations, whose members have been supported with technical assistance from Kenyan experts on sustainable management of irrigation infrastructure.
Training the youth for agricultural equipment maintenance ©CORDAID/IFAD
Strengthening partnerships for agricultural development
As demonstrated by the examples above, South-South and Triangular Cooperation provides a unique framework of collaboration for developing countries to share proven and successful innovations that address a wide range of challenges such as natural resource management. However, as noted by Ms. Wei Wang, IFAD’s Special Adviser to the President and Chief Partnership Officer for SSTC, these exchanges require additional resources, partnerships with multiple stakeholders, and proper policy frameworks in order to maximize their impact. IFAD’s strength, she states, in bringing together development partners and creating business connections positions it as an ideal organization to establish South-South collaborations to build global solidarity for agricultural development.