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Innovation from Niger: irrigating crops with a mobile phone

Published on: 09-May-2017

Businessman and IT-enthusiast Abdou Maman developed the first prototype of his system in 2011, after the idea had been fermenting for a while. “From a very young age I realized that the way farmers irrigated their land was rudimentary and relied on physical energy,” Mr Maman was quoted saying when speaking with WIPO magazine. “This is still the case today, despite the availability of advanced technologies. As an ICT enthusiast, I decided to draw on the region’s natural and technological strengths to solve the recurring difficulties surrounding irrigation.”


Tele-irrigation combines a series of technologies. First you need water, like in any other traditional irrigation system. The irrigation pump can be powered by the electricity grid, if available, but preferably by renewable energy such as solar or wind power. The innovative part comes from the way the irrigation system is operated; instead of doing it manually, the farmer can make a telephone call to his or her system, activating it. The system also collects real-time and remote meteorological and hydrological data, including temperature, soil moisture, wind and rainfall. This information can be shared as well.


In March, NABC organized the first-ever Dutch trade mission to Niger. A pitch competition was part of the one-week mission, and saw Abdou Maman emerge as a winner. “Abdou Maman is tackling one of the largest problems that his country is facing: scarcity of water,” said Marina Diboma, who led the NABC trade mission to Niger. “With his innovative idea he can play a role in boosting local production, which is extremely important for the country and the wider region,” Ms. Diboma said. 


Regional expansion plans


Abdou Maman sees a great future for Tele-Irrigation. Het patented it at the African Intellectual Property Organization (OAPI), therefore the design is protected in all 17 member countries. “Most Sahel and Saharan countries have similar climatic and ecological characteristics and they experience the same difficulties in relation to water management as Niger. There is high demand for our system from countries like Burkina Faso, Mali, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Togo and Senegal,” stated Mr. Maman, as quoted by WIPO.


Mr. Maman has received various awards for his invention, like the Social Entrepreneur in Africa competition, as well as the Grand Prix Hassan II at the prestigious World Water Forum 2015 in South Korea, which gave a financial boost to the company. 

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