Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Question and Answer Series: Securing Water for Food in Ethiopia

This entry was wirtten in collaboration with Securing Water for Food, and is the first in a series of entries featuring innovators who have competed to secure funding for their innovations.

Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge in Development is a program created in partnership with USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Government of South Africa, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to promote innovative solutions designed to produce more food with less water. Over the next six weeks, Agrilinks will be featuring a diverse set of innovators who have utilized a water use reduction function to address farming challenges within their respective local and regional levels. To kick off the series, Agrilinks is featuring The Aybar Engineering team from Ethiopia, the inventor of the Broad Bed Furrow Maker (BBM), a tool which reduces planting time and drains excess water away from crops, using lighter-weight materials appropriate for Ethiopian farmers. Founder and General Manager of Aybar Engineering Melesse Temesgen provides insight into the origins of BBM.

1)  First tell us a bit about why you decided to create the product that you are now manufacturing/marketing/building.

In Ethiopia, there are 7.6 million hectares of land, but only 1.9 million can be cultivated due to water management issues, such as waterlogging or drought. However, much of this land could be better utilized with improved farming techniques. Many international and domestic research institutes and universities have tried to construct the right tools, but all have either been too heavy or required power Ethiopian farmers could not access. I developed the Aybar BBM (Broad Bed Maker) to suit the unique needs of Ethiopian farmers.

The Aybar BBM is a farming tool light enough to be pulled by a pair of oxen, something none of the other tools on the market could offer. It simultaneously creates broad beds for gardening, while digging furrows to drain excess water. So far, we have sold more than 81,000 units both in wet and dry areas. The tool costs $16.48 and can improve yields by up to 500 percent or as high as $800 per hectare per year, making 4 million hectares of previously unused land available for farming.

2)  How does the innovation contribute to water savings? 

In highland vertisols, temporary waterlogging means water is underutilized, whereas in dry areas, erratic rainfall is lost to surface runoff. The Aybar BBM shapes the land with broad beds and furrows so that excess water is drained in wet areas and conserved in dry areas by constructing ridges that slow runoff and increase soil moisture. Farmers can also use broad bed furrows to redirect drained water into a pond that protects the water from evaporation and makes it possible to use for irrigation at a later time.

 The Broad Bed Furrow Maker (BBM) pictured above reduces planting time and drains excess water away from crops, using lighter-weight materials appropriate for Ethiopian farmers, Melwood Global.

3)  Tell us what your next steps are.

Our next step is to increase the manufacturing capacity of our company to meet the demand, including introducing the technology to other sub-Saharan African countries, beginning with Kenya. We invite investors and donors to be part of our effort. 

Securing Water for Food is soon to announce its fourth global call for innovations. You can find out more and sign up for updates at www.securingwaterforfood.org/4thcall