march 2011

sustainable agriculture

Sustaining 600 Million Farmers With a Drip

By Robert Purg

Drip irrigation is not new technology, but up until now it has been out of reach for the nearly 600 million small-plot farmers in the developing world. It's adoption in the coming years by small-plot farmers particularly in India, Africa and China where water scarcity issues continue to grow more acute will play an outsize role in sustaining agriculture and food security. To drive this adoption, Driptech. a for-profit Silicon Valley, CA-based social enterprise startup, has developed a high quality, yet low-cost drip irrigation system.

The company's irrigation solution traces its origin to a course offered at Stanford University called “Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability” that the company's founder, Peter Frykman, enrolled in while studying there. As part of the class, Frykman traveled to Ethiopia specifically to work on looking at irrigation solutions for small-plot farmers. "The product and the manufacturing technology that he developed out of this course and out of his experience in Ethiopia really started with looking at the needs of the smallholder farmer," said Jean Shia, Director of Business Operations at Driptech. The product was also developed to help alleviate poverty and increase food security by providing small-plot farmers with technology to enable them to conserve water, extend the growing season and increase yields.

The irrigation system that Frykman developed requires none of the expensive emitters necessary for larger scale irrigation operations, which enables the company to price its product at two to five times less than a typical commercial system. Driptech also says that on average farmers realize 30% to 70% in water savings and recoup their initial investment in less than six months.

Over the next two years Driptech projects exponential growth in the scale of its operations, which it believes will come from both an increase in partnerships within India and China and from expanding product distribution to a third country in 2012. The company believes that it will achieve profitability within the next five years. "We want to be reaching millions of farmers within the decade," said Shia.

With Driptech poised to increase the reach and distribution of its irrigation system, small-plot farmers around the world facing water scarcity issues may finally have a solution to help them farm more sustainably, improve their livelihoods and advance global food security.

Read the complete story at


Female Leaders Cultivate New Initiatives to Bolster Role in Agriculture

By Stephanie Schiefelbein

Women are a growing force in today's food movement and gaining strength every day. From 2002 to 2007, the number of women farmers increased by 30 percent. To support and bolster this growing crop of women farmers and activists working to transform the nation's food system, from federal agriculture policy to plate The White House Project (WHP), Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN) and Rural Women's Project of the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) have collaborated on a project called Plate to Politics. In collaboration, these groups recently held a summit, Cultivate 2012, for purposes of networking and initiating discussions regarding challenges and solutions for women involved in the sustainable food and farming movement.


Liz Johnson, National Director of WHP's Rural Women's Leadership program, recommends that women follow and engage with the work of the collaborative by visiting the Plate to Politics website for updates on initiatives and opportunities to effect change.

"There are many direct opportunities, such as Go Run training for women interested in running for political offices, and the partnership In her Boots: Sustainable Agriculture for Women, by Women, which is a Midwest-based project to help champion new women farmers," said Johnson.  "We also encourage women to fill out our Cultivate 2012 survey, attend a training session, run for office, refer a friend for these opportunities, apply to be an intern, send a postcard to an elected official, and more."

Leigh Adcock, Executive Director of WFAN and one of the organizers of Cultivate 2012, suggests that women visit the WFAN website to find local and regional opportunities such as events and training programs.

From the farmhouse to the White House, women are making an impact on the food movement. WHP, WFAN and MOSES encourage you whether you're a farmer, a student, a mother, or an activist, to become involved today, to arm yourselves with stories and passion, and to be a force of change for women and agriculture in your community.

The women of Cultivate 2021


About The White House Project:
The White House Project is a non-profit organization that aims to advance women's leadership in all communities and sectors-up to the U.S. presidency-by filling the leadership pipeline with a richly diverse, critical mass of women.

About Women's Food and Agriculture Network:
The Women's Food and Agriculture Network mission is to link and empower women to build food systems and communities that are healthy, just, sustainable, and that promote environmental integrity.

About Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service:
The Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) serves farmers striving to produce high-quality, healthful food using organic and sustainable techniques. These farmers produce more than just food; they support thriving ecosystems and vibrant rural communities.

Stephanie Schiefelbein's complete report on the Cultivate 2012 summit, its outcomes and initiatives, is posted at

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