HIPPO in brief

Goal
HIPPO’s goal is to help turn low-lift pump irrigation into an affordable, sustainable solution for family farms along Sahelian Rivers in West and Central Africa. The HIPPO Foundation was established in 1997. HIPPO stands for High-efficiency Irrigation Pumps, Procurement & Organization.

Vision & mission
Our vision is one of vibrant, non-aid dependent smallholder irrigation sectors that take advantage of the available technico-commercial opportunities.
Our modest mission is to advise and assist any organization or enterprise that shares our vision. You may contact us here.

Vicious cycle of aid dependency
What goes wrong? Basically: (a) development organizations are all too willing to give away or heavily subsidize expensive pumping equipment: irrigation aid in arid Africa is sexy; and (b) poor farm families manage to pay for the running costs but fail to set aside funds for end-of-life pump replacement : the equipment is prohibitively expensive.

A technico-commercial solution
The solution is self-evident: equipment costs have to come down. Affordable, off-the-shelve technology with manageable reliability is available in most Asian countries. It is simply a question of selecting the right technology and inciting the private sector in West Africa to start importing it. But this is easier said than done.

Steps by the HIPPO Foundation
The HIPPO Foundation has: (a) made a thorough study of all available equipment and of the pumping conditions along the Niger and Senegal rivers; (b) developed a method for pump selection; (c) trained civil servants and private-sector engineers in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger; (d) conducted successful field tests near Timbuktu, Mali, using pump sets from India and China; (e) discussed technical and commercial details with a major importer of Chinese equipment in West Africa; and (f) communicated its insights and results to the irrigation community in West and Central Africa and beyond. See documentation in Mendeley.

What remains to be done
Some very important steps remain to be taken. An effective business model needs to be developed and local (social) enterprises in the different parts of the Sahel must be identified to implement it. It is unlikely that this is going to happen without major donor and NGO involvement. Ideally, an interested donor should take the lead. Probably some advocacy work needs to be done to convince government departments of the importance of the approach. At the same time, certain donors must be discouraged to continue distorting the market by (virtually) giving away pumping equipment.

What’s in it for the donor
As mentioned earlier: irrigation development in arid Africa is sexy. The issue at hand is a truly grateful challenge. This project is about unleashing the power of creative technology, entrepreneurship, and South-South logistics for international development purposes. Water management and land governance are among the most serious problems of the new millennium. Potentially, tens of thousands of hectares of irrigated land can be developed for family farming along rivers in Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and elsewhere. We must make sure that local populations benefit before land grab (or worse, water grab) gets in the way.

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About Sjon van ’t Hof

Development professional who worked in rural development, tropical agriculture, and irrigation development in Chad, Zambia, Mali, Ghana, Mauritania, Israel, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the Netherlands in capacities ranging from project design and management to information management. Conducted missions to India, China, Kenya, and Bangladesh. Experience in the development and delivery of trainings in irrigation equipment selection, information literacy, Internet searching and database searching. Explores systems thinking in relation to international development, education, and management, with an ever stronger focus on the systems approach of C. West Churchman. Knowledgeable in tropical agriculture, project design and development economics, agricultural mechanization, irrigation, plant pathology, environmental degradation and protection, rural development. Co-authored "Wicked Solutions: a systems approach to complex problems", a book written by Bob Williams and Sjon van 't Hof. It was published in June 2014 and provides a practical way of dealing with wicked problems. Wicked problems are complex, ill-structured, human problem situations. This book will help you design an inquiry and intervention in such messy, wicked situations. It does so by guiding you through the steps and stages of a systemic process that addresses your own wicked problem. For more information, see http://csl4d.wordpress.com/ or http://www.bobwilliams.co.nz/Systems_Resources.html
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