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PowerPoint “Optimizing low-lift irrigation in the Sahel” - a

proposal by the HIPPO Foundation for a pump project

Slideshow with spoken text (Dutch) at:

1 Optimizing low-lift irrigation in the Sahel
In the picture above you see an irrigation pump next to a river. The pump is driven by a 15 hp
diesel engine for lifting water 1 or 2 meters. It delivers 50 litres/second and irrigates 15 ha of
rice. Hi, this was your introduction to low-lift irrigation in the Sahel. My name is Sjon van ‘t
Hof. Some years back I worked for a large village irrigation project in Timbuktu, Mali. I
noticed that fuel consumption didn’t vary with the seasonal rise and fall of the river. This
meant there was scope to improve overall cost- and energy efficiency. In 1997, the HIPPO
Foundation was established with the goal to halve the pumping costs for poor farmers.

2 Why village irrigation development?
Droughts of the 1970s and 1980s: failure of traditional agriculture
How did village irrigation development come about. In the past, people cultivated traditional
crops. In good years, production exceeded consumption. Since the droughts of the 1970s,
these farming systems no longer work. There is not enough rain and the river no longer floods
the fields.

Irresistable to development organizations
Development organizations helped to develop village irrigation. Village irrigation is simple
and produces a lot of rice. Village irrigation development is much cheaper on a hectare basis
than large-scale irrigation schemes.

Farmers received it with enthusiasm
Farmers were very happy with it. They, too, put in a lot of effort.

Great success, widespread application
Village irrigation along the rivers of the Sahel was a great success. There are now thousands
of village irrigation schemes from Senegal to Chad.

Still, shortages of rice at all levels
Still, the area is not yet self-sufficient in grain, but many villages are.

3 How widespread is village irrigation?
Over 3000 village irrigation schemes in the Sahel
There may be 3000 village irrigation schemes in Senegal, Mali, Niger, and Chad alone. The
average size is 20 ha. So that makes 60,000 hectares of village-managed irrigation schemes..
1500 village irrigation systems along the Senegal
The development of village irrigation started in Senegal in the early 1970s. This country now
has about 1500 schemes.

First reports of failure
Senegal is also the first country from which failure was reported. This was mostly related to
high pumping costs. Rotation funds were poorly managed, so pumpsets could not be repaired
or replaced.

1000 along the Niger
Next in line were Mali and Niger. Most of the about 1000 schemes were made in the 1980s.

500 along the Logone and Chari
Chad was the last in line. Most of the 500 schemes date from the 1990s.

4 What’s so special about village irrigation?
Arid environment
Much of it is located on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert.

Extreme low-lift conditions
Not much energy is required for low lift irrigation. That is why lift irrigation works well for
food crops with which you cannot make a lot of money.

No alternative to diesel
Animal, solar or wind energy is not a good alternative to diesel power.

High yields
Yields are generally from 3 to 8 tons of rice/hectare.

Very little external supervision is required. The pump set is the only weak element. Financial
management is very difficult for poor Sahelian villagers.

5 The main problems of the pumpset
High pumping costs
The current pumpsets are imported from Europe. The pumping costs are 300 euros/ha. This
could be reduced by 50%. What should be done?

High purchasing price
1. Buy Asian equipment. Nobody will deny that Asian lift irrigation would never have
developed, if expensive European pumps had been used.

Poor efficiency
2. Optimize efficiency for low-lift conditions.
High depreciation cost
3. Reduce the size of the rotation fund. Otherwise 90% of the villages simply cannot manage

Ineffective development strategies
Finally, high subsidies disguised as aid blur the distinction between success and failure.
This creates a situation of stagnation, which in turn hinders further progress. This must come
to an end.

6 Asian alternatives investigated so far
So far the HIPPO Foundation has investigated 2 alternatives from Asia:

A 5 inch pumpset from India
A 5 inch pumpset from India, which cost 1000 $.

A 4 inch pumpset from China
A 4 inch pumpset from China which cost less than 400 $.

Practical test
The pumpsets have been running in Timbuktu for 9 and 6 years, respectively. They continue
to be used as we speak.

Lower pumping costs
Pumping costs have been dramatically reduced by about 50%. This was calculated by looking
at all costs: depreciation, interest, maintenance, and fuel.

7 The HIPPO Foundation has also
Paved the way for Chinese imports
The HIPPO foundation has also discussed importation of pumps with Chinese companies.
One company had 4 outlets in West Africa.

Established trust-worthiness of Chinese pumps
It has also found that Wuxi mixed-flow irrigation pumps are very reliable. In fact, they
dominate the Australian market.

Proposed a pump testing programme
The HIPPO Foundation has also proposed a pump testing programme in Mauritania for a
World Bank project. This could have yielded a lot of information. Unfortunately, it was never

Trained stakeholders in West Africa
In addition, the Foundation has trained people in pump selection and design. The trainees
were civil servants, consultants, and pump importers from Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
Given conference presentations
Finally, the HIPPO Foundation has given presentations at international fora. These
conferences dealt specifically with irrigation development in Africa. They were held in
Burkina Faso, Ghana, Italy, and Switzerland.

8 Business model needed
HIPPO Foundation has not yet succeeded
Most of the efforts of the HIPPO Foundation have been aimed at solving the technological
and procurement problems. The foundation also advocated the establishment of pump rental
schemes to help solve the problem of financial management. This mix so far didn’t convince
any development agencies to actually start pump rental organizations.

Unique Selling Point Analysis
The good points of the HIPPO approach were simply not good enough. We now think that
affordability and efficiency take second place in the decision-making of development
organizatins, whereas reliability and ready availability probably take first place. Even if this
destroys the long-term viability of the irrigation projects.

A new basic business model
So, in the new approach equipment will be readily available in the project areas, with local
maintenance capabilities. The basic business model will be that of any small pump
manufacturer and supplier.
1. the sale of pumps, pump parts, transmissions, and irrigation accessories;
2. service and design of pumping equipment;
3. manufacture of pump sets or components depending on client request.

The new concept
The concept will be to market fully equipped Chinese pumpsets, but without the engine.
Pumps will range in size from 4 to 8 inch. The direct customers will be local diesel engine
importers, irrespective of the make. These, in turn, will target the clients: farmer organizations
and development organizations. The clients will be given the choice of engine. Many makes
of engine are already available in the Sahel. This will ensure the reliability desired by
development planners. So we actually propose a kind of hybrid pump project: most of the
pump set, including hoses and other accessories, will be from the East. Only the engine,
which is the most vulnerable part of the pumpset and of village irrigation, will come from the

Product diversification
Product diversification will be pursued to increase turnover of the pump enterprises as well as
the farmers. It could involve the marketing of Chinese “outboards” and crop processing
equipment. In addition, attempts will be made to sell Chinese pumpsets fitted with Chinese
engines and make every effort to achieve the necessary reliability.

9 Franchisor development model
The programme should be rolled out as a franchisor-franchisee model. The franchisor will be
the project itself or it will be determined by the project. Existing businesses or new ones will
be identified in different Sahelian countries to become the franchisees. They could be
NGO’s, private enterprises, or farmer organizations. Suitable countries to start a pilot are Mali
or Senegal.

Role of the franchisor
The franchisor will ensure
1. technology development.
2. networking and international advertizing
3. training of the franchisees (quality control), and

Procurement will be devolved as much as possible to the franchisees or the franchisee group,
but there will be a co-ordinating role for the franchisor during the early years.

The franchisor will only play a limited role as credit intermediary.

10 A WOWproject!
Now, finally: Is this project a WOWproject? Only a very capable organization can execute the
programme. Enviu has demonstrated it has the capacity to do so. A good example is the Tuk-
Tuk project.

Goal: optimizing pump irrigation for poverty alleviation
The project has a worthy social goal. It is also a question of practical economics to turn pump
irrigation into an affordable solution.

Scalability: rivers in the Sahel
As to scalability: We are talking of thousands of pumpsets.

The challenge: complex but manageable
The challenge is complex but not more so than the Tuk-Tuk project.

Potential for raising awareness & enthusiasm
The project has considerable scope for raising awareness and enthusiasm. It would be very
interesting to establish collaboration of Dutch with West-African universities. African
students should be given the opportunity to play their role in the development of their

Please comment!
This project needs the management and advocacy skills of enviu. It looks like a potential
WOWproject to us. We would like your comment and discuss the project with you! Thank