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Innovation in progress

Innovation in Progress: the power of collaboration – SOSIA+

How can we revolutionise Ghanaian horticulture? SOSIA+ aims to do so by providing farmers with a new perspective on growing vegetables through game-changing technologies.

Amid the bustling atmosphere of Cafe de Huiskamer at The Hague central station, we sit down with SOSIA+ project members Lindsey Schwidder, Benny Ampong, Samuel Kwame Darbah, and Prince Baffour to discuss their collaborative efforts on this innovative pilot project.

Lindsey is the Project Manager at the Innovation & Impact Centre at Delft University of Technology and the project leader of the SOSIA+ project. As the Technical Manager at Holland Greentech, Benny serves as the SOSIA+ pilot irrigation expert in Ghana. Both Samuel and Prince are SOSIA+ training facilitators at the Kwadaso Agricultural College in Ghana, with Samuel also being the national coordinator of the ACHI Programme. This programme is part of the Dutch Combi Track approach, an initiative by the Dutch government where the government and businesses collaborate on projects in emerging markets. In Ghana, it supports better skills development for the younger generation of farmers.

The SOSIA+ project, funded by Partners for Water, is a collaborative effort conducted in Ghana by a consortium consisting of TU Delft, FutureWater, Holland Greentech and TAHMO. This pilot project aims to make the use of local weather data and climate-smart irrigation systems accessible for small-scale commercial farmers. By doing so, it seeks to improve water efficiency and crop yields, offering a renewed perspective on agriculture to the Ghanaian youth and farmers. Read our SOSIA+ introduction article to learn more about the project.

New technologies like SOSIA+’s irrigation systems are a game changer for the Ghanaian agricultural sector

Samuel Kwame Darbah

Transforming Ghanaian horticulture

“New technologies like SOSIA+’s irrigation systems are a game changer for the Ghanaian agricultural sector,” says Samuel. He explains: “Many farmers are unaware that they don’t need to carry buckets of water or use inefficient sprinklers to irrigate their crops. By teaching the application of SOSIA+’s technology at our college and introducing students to role models like young agronomists from Holland Greentech, young farmers are becoming aware that farming can be an economically viable practice; its popularity is increasing.” Prince adds: “This has huge implications for the current unemployment challenges Ghana is facing and for improving our self-sufficiency in food production.”


Promising harvest

“It’s almost time for the second harvest,” says Benny, “and most farmers are very hopeful because they already see more fruit on their plants compared to when they were not using the system.” Lindsey mentions: “During the first harvest, the farmers encountered a lot of unexpected rain, which resulted in not having to use the irrigation system as much as anticipated. This will be the first comparable harvest data.” “That season was still very useful, though,” adds Benny, “because the farmers got the chance to develop their skills in using the irrigation system.”


Farmers’ scepticism

“It took a while for the farmers to have faith in the drip irrigation system,” says Prince. “Generally speaking, Ghanaians can be quite sceptical when it comes to adopting new practices, and they like to see ‘proof’ first, instead of pioneering new technologies.” Samuel explains how they anticipated this: “Only farmers who already had a serious interest in improving their farming practices to become economically more viable were chosen for the pilot project. Additionally, both Holland Greentech and Kwadaso Agricultural College provide sufficient support to the participating farmers. We built a trustworthy relationship with them and truly take into account their worries, needs, and wishes.”


Understanding the farmers’ context

“To include the farmers’ needs, you need to have boots on the ground and be open to adapting according to their feedback,” says Benny. “One unexpected feedback outcome was the farmers’ liking of the water meter, which we initially added to collect water usage data. It turns out that the farmers also use it to monitor their farm managers’ practices remotely. Now, Holland Greentech provides the water meter as an additional irrigation tool.” Lindsey adds: “To make a project like this work, it is important to adjust to the local norms and needs. As a Dutch person, I’m unable to truly comprehend what exactly that means for the Ghanaian context. That is why it is not only valuable but also essential to work with local partners.”


Scaling up

A year and a half in, the SOSIA+ irrigation tool is becoming more widely known throughout Ghana. “People from all over the country apply to do the agriculture course at our college because we teach about this efficient technology and its practical application. There is more demand than we can meet at the moment,” says Samuel. Lindsey adds: “The collaboration with Kwadaso Agricultural College helps to widen the scope of the SOSIA+ project. Soon, we will expand to other colleges as well to teach new agriculturists to apply technologies that support farming to become a sustainable and economically viable business.”

Innovation in progress series

During the Partners for Water 2022 – 2027 programme, several projects that received the Partners for Water subsidy will be followed from start to finish. Over the next few years, they will take you with them on their transformative journey. You’ll be able to gain insights into their promising solutions, innovative processes and collaborations with local partners, as well as their struggles, challenges and valuable lessons learned. Stay tuned and follow their journey through the Partners for Water website and our LinkedIn page!

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