Over the past twenty-years ‘micro’ irrigation systems have reached 10.3 million people. In various arid areas, water scarcity is a major issue for farmers to sustain an agricultural livelihood. Drip Irrigation provides a system that allows users to efficiently and precisely manage usage water to the demands of the particular demands of the crop. If this is not a prime example of social innovation, then I don’t know what else is! An elaboration of how drip irrigation works can be found here.
National Geographic revealed that Dr. Daniel Hillel was named the 2012 World Food Prize Laureate. This simple innovation (although not new) allows farmers in arid areas to systematically and precisely monitor water usage. Most farmers or those who have been in the industry have an acute sense for weather patterns and climate trends. The option of monitor and regulate water flow to their crops will allow agricultural workers to sustain their small-meduim enterprises.
A Sound Social Investment.
This technology provides a long-term sustainable solution for farmers in arid conditions. Furthermore, large companies that invest in these technologies can create a new security asset class and capitalize on such social investments. The returns will undoubtedly be marginal as farmers may mostly be ‘just above’ the self-sustenance levels. Nonetheless, a sustainable return would be feasible.
A Win-Win Situation
On the one hand, investors can put their capital in the R&D in these social technologies (or the companies that sell them). On the other, farmers are able to better manage their water usage and maintain sustainable businesses. This means keeping input costs low and allowing for re-investment in capital. These systems can be sold cheaply to farmers for a marginal profit. As I said before, returns are not the best investment option, but it is always going to be a zero-sum game isn’t it? We just need to know where priorities lie!
Scalability is a given in this instance. Based on the minimal input factors to make this system available and accessible to agricultural farmers, it would be mainly a matter of monitoring and maintenance of these technologies!