Pumps and Pineapples: Young Entrepreneurs-in-Training Solve an Old Problem with Innovative Motorbike Irrigation
Small and medium-scale farmers in Guinea face a common problem that threatens food security, constrains agricultural production and limits incomes. And young entrepreneurs-in-training are helping solve it with motorbikes.
“Here in Lower Guinea, we have an irrigation problem,” says Mamadou Sidibe. He is one of many young people gaining hands-on experience in agricultural extension, entrepreneurship and rural innovation through the Feed the Future Guinea SMARTE program.
Though Guinea has a long rainy season, it is followed by a dry season that can damage or destroy crops like pineapples. “Pineapple farmers without irrigation face problems,” Sidibe says. Supplemental irrigation during the dry season makes the difference between success and failure for farmers.
Past irrigation schemes have proven too expensive to be sustainable, but an innovative new irrigation solution has the potential to increase year-round productivity, boost incomes and allow farmers to cultivate larger parcels of land. Through the Feed the Future Guinea SMARTE program, Winrock identified a new irrigation technology called a mobipompe, an accessory that temporarily converts motorbikes into mobile water pumps.
In partnership with the supplier, Guinea SMARTE imported approximately 75 of the kits into Guinea and taught young people, including Sidibe, to install and operate the mobipompes as part of their apprenticeships. The project also provided training in business management, marketing and analytical skills to identify and reach new customers. Now, these young entrepreneurs demonstrate and sell the kits for $100 on consignment, a particularly appealing business model since it does not require land or startup capital. Over 50 kits have been sold on consignment and a youth-owned small business has been created based on this business model in partnership with the supplier.
Powered by a small-engine motorcycle, a ubiquitous form of transportation in Guinea, a mobipompe is ideal for small and medium-scale farms. The $100 mobipompe kit includes intake and output tubes, as well as a mechanism to attach the pump to the motorcycle without requiring any changes to the motor. It can be connected in about 15 minutes and delivers the power of a 5-horsepower pump.
“These mobipompes have a high importance for pineapple farmers and even the vegetable farmers,” Sidibe says. “This will help a lot of the farmers, especially the small farmers who cannot afford to buy large-scale irrigation.”
While Sidibe is focused on helping farmers, this program focuses on equipping entrepreneurial youth like him with the skills to pursue a career in agriculture, Guinea’s largest sector. Around 75 percent of Guineans are employed in agriculture, but without land or startup capital, it’s a challenge for youth to find opportunities.
Through Feed the Future Guinea SMARTE, Winrock is researching and scaling new technologies, like the mobipompe, that not only improve food security and increase farmer incomes, but also provide opportunities for Guinea’s most valuable resource: its young people. With the right skills and tools, young entrepreneurs like Sidibe will create the economic growth of tomorrow.