Here’s a BIG fact: The majority of the 1.4 billion people living on under US$1.25 a day live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, while an estimated 2.5 billion people are involved smallholder agriculture in one way or another.
Together they manage approximately 500 million small farms and provide over 80 per cent of the food consumed in large parts of the developing world, thus contributing to food sustainability, security and poverty reduction.
Studies show that a one-per-cent increase in agricultural per-capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) reduces the poverty gap five times more than a one-per-cent increase in GDP in other sectors, especially amongst the poorest people. Another study demonstrated that for every ten-per-cent increase in farm yields, there was a seven-per-cent reduction in poverty in Africa, and a reduction of over five-per-cent in Asia.
However, increasing fragmentation of land, problematic water supplies, reduced investment support and the marginalization of small farms in economic and development policy have hampered the development of this vital contribution and left many smallholders vulnerable.
Small-holders using traditional irrigation methods on family plots are met with fundamental challenges in their effort to raise yields and improve crop quality and they are routinely confronted with uneven distribution of water and nutrients, wasted water due to runoff as well as evaporation and increased labour requirements. In short, limited or inaccessible water supply, varying water sources and quality, inadequate electricity supplies that hamper pump operation and insufficient funding pose almost insurmountable obstacles to the already resource and cash strapped grower.
A gravity-based drip irrigation system utilizing Netafim’s low volume drip-irrigation technology, Family Drip System, maximizes productivity through the use of current and existing resources, thus eliminating the need for additional investments in infrastructure.
This innovative system was also recently evaluated by NARC (Nepal Agriculture Research Council) and reported in their 2013 annual report, for use in tomato cultivation in plastic tunnels. The project, headed by Shreemat Shrestha, Chief and Senior Scientist in the Agricultural Engineering Division in Katmandu, was to check the effectiveness on yield and water consumption in comparison to traditional irrigation methods. The results were surprising, to say the least. The yield data showed the plots irrigated by the Family Drip System yielded 18.8% more than hand watered plots. From this experiment it can be concluded that drip irrigation using FDS can save almost a third of water usage and provide almost 20 percent more yield than hand watering. Apart from saving of water, there are significant savings in labor with drip irrigation as compared to hand watering.
These savings are critical to areas where financial as well as natural resources are scarce.
Poverty and environmental degradation need not be an inevitable outcome of modern development. At a time when there is renewed focus on agriculture in the context of sustainable development, there is a need and an opportunity to enhance the role that smallholders play in food production and natural resource stewardship.
So, what more can be done to encourage this vital contribution? Finance, knowledge sharing and cooperation are just a few of the areas where Netafim plays an important role, but we can’t do it all alone! Who will also be prepared to step up to the plate?

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