Claiming that poverty can be ended with water control and market access is a bold statement and can be perceived either as naïve or as arrogant. Poverty is a deeprooted phenomenon and cannot be overcome just by simply earning one dollar a day more, and we fully recognise the importance of having control over assets and reducing risks and vulnerability. However, nobody doubts that one dollar a day more makes an enormous difference to a poor family. To tackle income poverty does not solve all problems, agreed, but it is essential for poor people to be able to help themselves. In this sense, it is not meant as a naïve statement.
It is also not meant to be arrogant : the approach taken by organisations such as International Development Enterprises ( IDE ), Winrock International and others has demonstrated that it can enable people to get out of poverty. The example of the over 2 million treadle pumps sold in South Asia has shown that poor people can ‘ pedal out of poverty ‘. Similar successes are possible with lowcost drip irrigation and a range of other low-cost water control technologies. The net income of poor farming families can be increased very substantially, provided that essentially three elements are in place at the same time :
- Smallholders have control over water through affordable irrigation, pumping and water storage technologies, not only to irrigate but to be able to schedule the harvest of their crops in accordance with market demand.
- Affordable water control technologies and other inputs and services (know-how, seeds, soil fertility, plat protection, credit) are widely available in local markets, delivered through vibrant, economically viable, sustainable private sector supply chains.
- Smallholders have access to the ever more demanding markets for high-value products : with the fast-progressing ‘ supermarketisation ‘, taking place also in many countries of the South, smallholders may be driven out of business if they fail to access these new marketing channels.
This approach is not ‘ free of cost ‘ and thinking that market forces will solve the problems on their own would be a severe misunderstanding. It requires substantial public investments to create and organise markets. However, as the private sector and the farmers invest the bulk of resources, it is not only effective but also efficient: some US $ 200 of public investment are required to assist a poor family in such a transition.
This publication describes each of the three elements or pillars of the approach based on practical experiences and case examples from various countries, particularly in South Asia. First, it explains the principles of affordability and provides an overview of affordable water control technologies. Second, it presents the market creation approach to developing viable supply chains for such technologies. This includes a range of elements of marketing theory ( such as the product cycle curve, the process of innovation adoption, the four Ps of marketing, and promotion strategies ) and their application for market creation including fostering demand and encouraging supply. Third, it discusses opportunities and challenges for promoting smallholder farmers ‘ access to higher value markets. Finally, it explains how development agencies can facilitate the implementation of the approach. It lists basic requirements for such interventions, establishes a set of dos and don ‘ ts, and reports on recent experiences in different countries.
While many development agencies do work on smallholder access to high-value production and profitable marketing, and thus good practices are relatively widely known, there are only a few organisations involved in market creation for affordable technologies that target poor people. The understanding of how to do this is limited to rather few organisations. Thus, although the publication describes all three elements of the approach, the market creation element is at the centre of attention.
A massive scaling-up of the approach is needed in order to reduce poverty significantly, and a coordinated multistakeholder programme is required to implement the approach. A proposal on how this could be done through the ‘ Smallholder Irrigation Market Initiative ‘ ( SIMI ), can be found at the end of the publication.
The publication is based on a broad range of practical experiences in all three elements of the approach, and a training course on ‘ Smallholder irrigation and value chains ‘ held in India which was designed to enable the participants to apply the approach in their own organisations. In addition to this publication, two CDs on the topic are available, one for policy makers ‘ Ending poverty with water control and market access ‘ and one with the learning materials from the above training and additional resources on the approach.