India, East Africa
R. C. Crawford
With severe droughts in the recent century plaguing the least agriculturally developed regions of the world, it's increasingly concerning that fewer than 10% of smallholder farmers have reliable access to irrigation. These farmers, along with thousands more in the surrounding regions, can no longer depend on nature to drive their livelihood. Giving them alternate access to water can change that.
Historically, using groundwater for irrigation has been prohibitively expensive for these farmers. At $1USD per foot, ITT’s shallow groundwater drill costs 80% less than alternatives in the market.
Our solution: Reverse circulation technology for groundwater drilling
A central component of the drill uses a patented application from R.C. Crawford, who developed a standard reverse-airflow mechanism powered by a small air compressor. The drill can dig up to 10 feet, every sixty to eighty minutes (depending on the soil type and underlying rock formations). It is ideal for wells up to a hundred feet in depth in most agricultural soils common in the region.
It was designed with the farmers in mind: affordable, efficient and portable.
The upfront cost of the drill is approximately US$250. However, when split across the number of wells roughly 50 feet wide, this translates to a total cost of US$1 per foot to the farmer; that's 80% lower than any other drill on the market. Unlike most other drills, it can be operated by only two people so farmers do not need to hire additional help which keeps operating costs down. Finally, the full system can be transported by hiring an auto rickshaw or pick-up truck —making it affordable to small entrepreneurs, as well as a highly feasible solution for rural areas with a weak infrastructure.
In partnership with IDE-India and R.C. Crawford, ITT has developed different prototypes of the drill and successfully demonstrated the models in several geographies. Close to 100 wells have been drilled, in different soil types, in the U.S. (Texas), Mexico, India (Kerala and Odisha states) and Zimbabwe. These demonstrations received an enthusiastic response from farmers, drillers and local entrepreneurs. ITT is currently exploring partnerships with the One Acre Fund in Kenya and the Agricultural Transformation Agency in Ethiopia to launch the product at scale.
Irrigation offers several critical benefits for smallholder farmers including increased crop yields, multiple crop cycles per year, and the opportunity to grow high-value and high-nutrition crops. Importantly, groundwater irrigation eliminates the farmers’ dependence on rainfall, thus increasing regularity and continuity of harvests, and decreased risk of food insecurity. In Ethiopia alone, providing access to groundwater would enable 50 million people, including 30 million children, to have 40 percent more food, and farmers to have 40 percent more income each year.