Inside Irritech’s effort to allow irrigation in Nigeria

Kenneth Okonkwo, a younger Nigerian CEO of Irritech Nigeria restricted, is making a distinction; he’s shaping Nigeria’s agriculture via life-changing applied sciences for smallholder farmers. He gives inexpensive and extremely environment friendly solar-powered Irrigation kits and micro-irrigation techniques.

Mr Okonkwo’s journey began at college, the place he studied agriculture. Throughout his NYSC, he began his farm. He additionally labored with smallholder farmers; whereas doing this, he found that the majority farmers lacked entry to fixed water to maintain up with manufacturing. He noticed that the majority of those farmers develop into poorer through the dry season as a consequence of low manufacturing, but they nonetheless don’t make a lot revenue through the wet season. They solely resort to farming through the wet season as a result of that’s the usual follow.

Impressed by this, he began to innovate one thing to alleviate the challenges of the farmers such that they’ve fixed entry to water all 12 months spherical with out relying on rainfall or electrical energy. He spoke with mates who had been huge in renewable vitality and water and irrigation administration since he was simply an “agric man”; they got here collectively and designed a plan. They began searching for companions to fund the thought, and fortuitously for them, they acquired right into a program referred to as ‘orange corners’. It was an incubation program by the Netherland authorities; Irritech was supplied with its first funding, mentorship and coaching to start out the enterprise.

On this interview, Kenneth Okonkwo shared how his journey started within the Agritech house and the way he developed Irritech.

Why is irrigation essential?

The necessity for irrigation has elevated as local weather change has affected rainfall patterns; vegetation can not rely on rain-fed agriculture alone as it’s not sustainable as a result of rising demand for meals.

Irrigation is the agricultural means of making use of a managed quantity of water to land to help within the manufacturing of crops. Irrigation has been a central function of agriculture for over 5000 years. It has developed to satisfy the inhabitants’s demand as farms have develop into extra distinguished, and farmers want environment friendly and extra accessible utilization strategies. Nonetheless, many smallholder farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture. In keeping with FAO, solely 1% of 30 million hectares of farmland is irrigated in Africa regardless of irrigation historical past. This determine has to enhance to satisfy the altering climatic situation of the African continent.

What’s your attain to this point?

Irritech began in 2020. It offered solar-powered irrigation and water pumping techniques for farmers in Nigeria. To date, it has reached 2146 farmers throughout 16 states 70% of their set up is within the South Western a part of the nation. Being within the development course of, they’ve gotten funding from overseas and native organisations in order that smallholder farmers can entry this expertise.

Regardless that Irritech has been made extra inexpensive when in comparison with the standard techniques, farmers nonetheless cannot buy these merchandise out rightly. It has led Mr Okonkwo and his staff to supply for worldwide monetary organisations that may present funds for the farmers to have entry to utilizing Irritech merchandise.

Companions like GIZ Germany have funded 1200 farmers throughout Ogun and Oyo states. World Financial institution and the Lagos State Authorities have additionally offered funds for farmers in Lagos state. The worldwide fertiliser improvement centre (IFDC) has offered funds for farmers in 6 states throughout the nation (Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun). They’re presently securing a partnership with Kickstarter based mostly within the USA to serve 500 farmers within the Niger Delta States of Nigeria.

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Why solar-powered irrigation techniques and never the standard sort?

Typical irrigation techniques are time-wasting and energy-consuming, and these stop farmers from different financial actions that may make them cash for his or her households.

Most of those communities do not need electrical energy, and even once they do, the electrical energy tariff is simply too excessive. Utilizing petrol or diesel-powered pumps can also be very costly; they contribute to environmental air pollution contributing to local weather change. In keeping with McKinsey & Firm, the Agricultural sector accounts for a big, rising and impactful share of worldwide greenhouse fuel emissions. The agricultural business tries to resolve this drawback that has resulted in local weather change by innovating. Irritech’s system of powering its irrigation via photo voltaic gives an answer that’s an eco-friendly surroundings.

Photo voltaic-powered irrigation is extra inexpensive and sustainable to be used. By simply pushing a button, farmers can management the system. They’ve additionally developed an answer the place farmers can management and monitor the system with a smartphone. They will now produce all 12 months spherical with elevated yield, decreased operational value and an general enhance in revenue.

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What are the challenges you encountered?

He shares the challenges he faces by way of funding and mobility. A lot of the merchandise used are from outdoors the nation. Manufacturing inside the nation is pricey, and getting the supplies from the port is a large drawback as clearing the merchandise just isn’t straightforward.

Logistics and transportation are additionally an enormous problem. Regardless that they’ve tried to deal with this situation by having a logistics division, it has not been absolutely solved. Sourcing the supplies regionally can also be very powerful, and it’s costly too. A lot of the farmers cannot afford irrigation.

What’s your recommendation for individuals who need to undertake agricultural expertise?

He advises younger individuals with a ardour for creating expertise in agriculture to search for methods to innovate within the space of meals manufacturing in Africa. There are such a lot of options yielding concepts on the market, however guarantee it could actually work with the native farmers and it’s a expertise that fits our clime. Folks could make knowledgeable choices by partaking farmers. Irritech’s first trial was unsuccessful as a result of they tried a prototype of one other area fully totally different from ours. They began to look inside once they learnt their classes, and right this moment farmers profit. Due to this fact, extra individuals ought to look into impactful and related technological options.

One does not should be an skilled to see how expertise has modified the idea of farming, making it extra worthwhile, environment friendly, safer and easy. Due to this fact, extra improvements that match the African farmer’s financial system, like Irritech Nigeria Restricted, needs to be adopted to make sure the continent’s meals safety.

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