Market creation for gravity-fed drip irrigation in Kyrgyzstan

It isn’t just a drop in the ocean. In Kyrgyzstan, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation has been broadening people’s knowledge about agriculture and helping farmers to introduce water-saving irrigation techniques, increasing productivity and farmers’ income at the same time.
Drip irrigation technology is known as one of the most advanced and efficient irrigation practices. In Kyrgyzstan first attempts to adopt the technology were already conducted 40 years ago, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kolkhoz-managed drip irrigation schemes dilapidated and commercially supplied drip systems were viewed as a too sophisticated way of irrigation that is neither suitable nor affordable for smallholder farmers. Consequently prior to this project there was no drip technology commercially available in the Kyrgyz market. Conventional drip manufacturers were not selling into these markets nor were any distribution networks being developed.

The drip systems introduced by this project are innovative and differentiated from conventional high-cost drip especially in their affordable design for use in low-resource settings. Gravity-fed drip can be up to ten times cheaper than conventional drip depending on plot and plant spacing and thus allows small and medium-scale fruit and vegetable farmers to take it up with less cost and risk. It works without artificial pressure and is easily expandable for plots larger than 20 m². Gravity-fed drip has the same advantages as conventional drip. Collectively, these advantages allow having high impact on producing more food with less water and to greatly enhance agricultural and water productivity.

The project worked through local (business) partners that supply and assemble drip systems and are responsible for marketing and technical support; these partners consequently made possible the constitution of local and financially viable supply chains that enable sales to grow also after the end of the current interventions. Particularly, the project applied market development principles such as impartiality, transparency and no distortion of the market’s core functions by subsidizing transaction or product costs. Any financial support to partners for technical capacity building and social marketing gradually declines based on business plans and sales turnover projections. In consequence any activities that are financially supported by the project are co-financed by the project’s business partners.

Initially, the objective of the project was to assess the profitability of drip irrigation technologies at all levels of the supply chain as well as the evaluation of the efficiency of drip irrigation technology at farm level. However, in light of the positive reaction and uptake of the technology by farmers already within a short period of two years, the project quickly evolved from a market testing into a market creation project. Eventually, the project allowed the introduction of affordable gravity-fed drip irrigation in Kyrgyzstan through financially viable business models, thus enabling the production of more food with less water (“crop per drop”) in a sustainable manner.

This is a project mandate implemented on behalf of SDC. It is financially supported by International Development Enterprises (IDE), in the frame of the SDC Global Water Initiative.
Baltabai Eraliev
image description “Ever since we have been able to distribute the water more fairly using the Thomson weirs, there have been fewer conflicts in our area,” image description Baltabai Eraliev, manager of Helvetas’s local partner organisation, which advises about 2'200 farming families.

project impact

162 people were advised and trained in agriculture and irrigation in 2016. 

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HELVETAS Kyrgyzstan

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