Really glad I could be off help. Am really excited you are making progress, however I have a few submissions to make:
1. I believe setting up the solar powered garden is a good project to increase the average income of the community however like Dr. Heston pointed out, it would require monitoring and supervision.
2. Due to the proximity of the lake to the village, community members who are interested in harnessing the lake for irrigation usually do so along the shores of the lake (when the lake recedes as it does annually). These are likely to be your early adopters of the solar powered gardens.
3. Speaking to some of these members of the community they kept asking what extra incentive, rented plots will give them besides an all year access to water of which they believe they already have access to.
4. I don’t think $30 is too much however $50 may be a bit high (on a monthly basis). Most of the farmers may only be able to pay for the plots only after selling their harvest.
5. It would be good to have a demonstration plot to show the community how feasible the plots are.
6. I think support in the form of agronomy, education and to some extent the provision of inputs would help the success of the project.
To explain my last point further; most of the community members only grow crops to feed themselves and their household and sell the surplus, the idea of agriculture as a business (among the majority of the community) is unfortunately non-existent especially in these rural communities. It will be necessary to educate the community on such things as “record keeping” which will help them succeed.
Access to inputs such as seeds, insecticides and fertilizers are a challenge in these remote communities, having these delivered to the farmers at the farm gate (and having them pay for them) would help the project.
David Mawulorm Dyer
Response from Nathan Heston:
Excellent comments David!
Madison, one of the greatest challenges in any type of development work is adoption of change. Even if that change is actually a good idea. David’s comment about how the villagers use receding(dry season) and rising(wet season) lake levels is important. When the lake recedes, thousands of previously underwater acres become available and people use these acres because of soil moisture and because they are already cleared and free of weeds. They even dig irrigation ditches and often grow peppers, but also cassava. One benefit of using an irrigated plot would be to gradually improve the soil. Soil health is very important and it takes time to develop good soil. How important, we don’t know. Is it worth $30/month?
David makes a great point that a demonstration plot would be necessary to convince people of the value of the using an irrigated garden. Part of the point of a community garden is to encourage sharing of resources because efficiency comes with scale. Sharing resources is not a common practice in Ghana.
To address the question of what are people’s incentives to farm a plot that costs money when free open land exists nearby let’s make a list:
1. Access to Irrigation Water given 365 growing days.
2. Fencing to keep goats and cows out.
3. The ability to continuously improve their soil with fertilizer.
4. The ability to add fertilizer through a water system and greatly reduce the amount needed.
5. Access to David and assistance from experts on how to farm high value crops.
6. Could we offer help keeping book-keeping?
7. Access to electricity?
Is this enough? What is the downside? Cost. A typical worker in the village makes less than $100 per month. Cost is huge. Free plots for a certain amount of time? A demonstration farm that David plants and runs himself?
In my opinion the demonstration is key. We need to put in a farm that shows that these methods work and would be profitable for them. The article I sent previously showed that a 2.5 acre organic farm in texas could bring in $45,000/year in texas, over $15,000 per acre each year in profits. Certainly market prices are different, but we are asking if a 1 acre farm can recoup $10,000 of capital investment in 3 years in Ghana. We don’t know the answer. We don’t know if it would work at all. That’s what we are exploring.