At Futurepump we learn from our customers every single day. We learn their stories: how they farm their land, what crops work well for them, which farm inputs are most essential to their work… we could go on!
This knowledge is essential to our team as we learn how best to serve our customers. When are they needing irrigation the most? How can reduced fuel costs from irrigation pumps impact farm profits? How does reduced labour for irrigation make time for other essential farm tasks? And how can we make our solar irrigation pumps better and better and more suited to smallholder farmers’ needs?
As these insights are so important to us we have a dedicated monitoring and evaluations (M&E) team working every day to speak to our customers, collate all the information and report directly back to our factory and research and development partners.
But it’s not just our M&E team who learn from this contact with our customers; it is part of the Futurepump culture that all members of the team spend time in the field speaking with customers and discovering more about how a solar irrigation pump impacts their lives. This particular blog shares stories from just one of these trips – when Futurepump General Manager (Kenya), Charles Ahenda-Bengo went along on a visit to some customers.
Irrigating all year round in Siaya
First stop; Omwasi Okelloh’s farm in Ng’iya, Siaya county, Kenya.
Ng’iya is unique in that it is a religious community of 165 people, all of whom are active in farming. We learnt that Omwasi saw the Futurepump SF1 solar pump at the agricultural show in Kisumu. He decided to purchase as it would be economical on his farm. Back then he was using a petrol pump to irrigate his 2-acre farm and they found they were spending as much as 5,600 KES ($56) a month on fuel. One of his main crops is tomatoes which they grow in a greenhouse, with irrigation all year round. Doing this irrigation with a petrol pump meant that they also needed money for fuel all year round – with harvests at different times this is not always possible.
The main thing Omwasi wanted was to always be able to provide enough water to his farm – whenever he needed it. It was fantastic to see that the solar pump has enabled him to do just that. He uses the pump to irrigate the tomatoes in the greenhouse every day.
And the best part? “You set it up and can continue to do other jobs, while it does the job for you.” – Omwasi
Saving time and increasing productivity at a tree nursery
Next, we visited Hakima Muhammed in Maseno, Kisumu county, Kenya.
Hakima runs a 0.25-acre tree nursery supplying the local community with indigenous, exotic, ornamental and fruit trees. She heard about the solar pump through her daughter and thought it could make her work a lot easier. You see, before she had the solar pump, to keep up with demand and always have a supply of tree seedlings in various stages, watering had to be done every day from 6 am to 9 am and again from 4 pm to 6 pm. Without a water pump, this was an arduous task. Water had to be carried with buckets from a pond 40 m away and given to each of the saplings.
Now, with the help of the solar pump, the watering has been made efficient, it takes much less time and they can combine it with other tasks. The impact on the nursery has been huge, they used to only be able to irrigate half of the area in one day, now they can irrigate it all. This has allowed them to increase from 1,500 seedlings to 2,000 seedlings.
Hear more from Hakima in this video from Ashden International earlier this year.
We’ve got many sustainable irrigation stories to share
With a growing number of people turning to solar irrigation, stories like this of solar irrigation changing smallholder farms for the better are common occurrences in the Futurepump world!
And it is always a pleasure to share updates with you all. For more pictures from the field make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.