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Innovation in progress

Introducing: SOSIA+’s climate smart irrigation technology

For large-scale farmers, using local weather data and a smart irrigation system is a well-known method to enhance water efficiency.

For many smallholders, however, this method is still unknown and difficult to access. The pilot project SOSIA+, funded by Partners for Water, aims to change this. Its innovative and accessible climate-smart irrigation service is currently boosting small-scale farmers in Ghana.

It is early in the morning when Lindsey Schwidder, Celestina Danso Arhin and Patrick Tannor sit down at the breakfast bar of a hotel in The Hague. The latter two, director and business developer respectively of Holland Greentech Ghana, came all the way from Africa. They are part of a Ghana Netherlands Business Council delegation and they are in the Netherlands to meet with Lindsey, Project Manager Water at Delft University of Technology. The two organisations are partners in the consortium behind SOSIA+.

Patrick, Celestina and Lindsey

Shared expertise

Lindsey is SOSIA+’s project leader. With a Masters in society, science and technology, she looks at the applicability of new technologies through a sociological lens. “In my work”, she explains, “I always try to figure out how complex technologies could work in practice”. Lindsey coordinates various international collaboration projects at TU Delft, of which SOSIA+ is one. “I am the nexus for these projects, responsible for ensuring that everyone can bring in their relevant expertise”.

Supporting farmers

“Using water efficiently and seeing farming as a serious business is still uncommon in Ghanaian horticulture”, says Patrick. “Smallholders use their farms to sustain their families and don’t always see it as a way to make money. We make useful technology and knowledge accessible to them, such as the SOSIA+’s smart irrigation system”. Lindsey adds: “This system will support farmers by providing irrigation advice regarding the necessary water volumes and duration of irrigation for the cultivated crop types. The use of real-time local weather data is unique in this regard.”

Ghanaian farmers working with the smart irrigation system

Accessible service

The project builds on years of collaboration between TU Delft, Holland Greentech and Ghanaian farmers. “A few years ago, together with TU Delft, we designed the ‘Farming as a Business’ course”, says Celestina. “While teaching the course, the idea arose to make an accessible smart irrigation service available to these farmers”. The innovative tool was designed in collaboration with Future Water, a Dutch consultancy and research company and TAHMO a social enterprise initiative, with hundreds of weather stations across Africa.

Local collaboration

“Farmers are not just users but also local partners in promoting and disseminating our service”, Patrick says. “Thanks to previous successful, long-term collaborations, there is strong support among the farmers for implementing a pilot project like this. The farmers we work with have realised first-hand that they can save a lot of money with our technologies, knowledge and services. This often makes them very enthusiastic about participating. They are truly our ambassadors and share their acquired knowledge and experiences with as many as 100 to 200 other farmers in the region.”

Ghanaian farmers working with the smart irrigation system

Experiencing impact

“We consider water conservation very important”, says Lindsey. “But Ghanaian farmers often have other priorities. That’s why we also focus on what matters to them. For example, we link our technology’s impact in the field to the reduced operational hours of the pump – in other words, to lower fuel costs.” Celestina adds: “The most important thing is that we really work with the farmers in the field and receive feedback from them. They are ultimately the ones who have to work with the system and feel its impact.”

Tool development

Lindsey explains that the pilot project aims to cover two growing seasons. “This will not only involve showcasing the service and monitoring water and cost savings, it will also make the SOSIA+ tool more accurate and smarter through corroboration by the farmers. In the coming period, we will train 15 farmers to irrigate a portion of their land using the smart irrigation system and to monitor the outcomes. And then, the pilot project will get started!”

TU Delft project members visiting Holland Greentech Ghana and the Ghanaian farmers

Innovation in progress series

The Partners for Water programme follows several projects that received the Partners for Water funding from start to finish. Over the next few years, these projects will take you on their journey of testing the feasibility or application of innovative solutions to enhance water security abroad. You’ll be able to gain insights into their processes, collaborations with local partners and their potential solutions; as well as their struggles, challenges and their lessons learned.

Visit the projectpage for project updates

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