The following is a guest post by Samuel Adewole, an African visionary passionate about creating prosperity in Africa through social entrepreneurship. He is the co-founder of Volta Irrigation, an agritech start-up improving the lives of smallholder farmers in Rwanda. He is a hardware entrepreneur from the GE Lagos Garage, and a fellow of the Access Bank Fintech Foundry 2017. Samuel is also a fellow of The Bridge Program, an entrepreneurial Leadership Bootcamp in Lagos, Nigeria. In addition, he is currently a Watson Scholar in Boulder, Colorado, and an Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance Fellow. Adewole is a speaker at the 2019 Water for Food Global Conference.
There are high concerns about the disinterest and low-participation by youths in the agriculture sector in Africa. It is usually seen as a job for the peasants, and youth would rather pursue a career in the white-collar world than participate in this low income generating activity. A group of young ag change-makers, popularly referred to as the “educated farmers,”and I have decided to change this narrative through Volta Irrigation — a revenue-generating and environmentally restorative social enterprise that aims to increase the profitability of smallholder farms through a focus on water usage. We seek to bring an incredible efficiency to the industry through this unique strategy.
My name is Samuel Adewole, a petroleum engineer now turned social entrepreneur. After my exploit in the engineering world, I moved to Rwanda to study entrepreneurship at the African Leadership University where I developed my passion for the agriculture sector and started working on my venture, Volta Irrigation. We want to increase the access to irrigation for smallholder farmers across Africa, providing them with a highly efficient, affordable and accessible irrigation service, and matching this with the provision of quality seeds, fertilizers, compost, and other farming inputs that will ensure an increase in their productivity at the end of each season.
The World Bank states that irrigation alone can increase the agricultural output of Africa by a massive 50%. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of irrigation technologies, an outstanding 85% of Africa’s irrigable land remains unirrigated. Using mostly locally produced materials, Volta Irrigation has designed a low-cost, efficient and eco-friendly pumping system called “Alma Volta.” The system integrates an inverter, a battery, a pump and a stationary bicycle to produce energy for irrigation.
Feedback from our farmers has been overwhelming! We currently serve 109 farmers in Rwanda and Uganda with over 100 paying customers making us profitable and sustainable in barely two years of operations. The results have also been remarkable, we have seen farmers achieve a 200% increase on their farm harvest each season now that they have access to irrigation and the farm inputs they need to become productive and profitable farmers. To date, we have created jobs for two local manufacturers with nine artisans, and 12 plumbers in the farming communities we work in, who currently build and set up our products.
We are scaling our model and have a demand to sign-up 1,200 farmers by the end of 2019. Volta Irrigation is a truly Pan-African team, who have lived and worked in more than 20 countries across the world and have been drawn together by a common vision to formalize the small scale agriculture industry across Africa. We have a talented team; with more than five years experience in the agriculture industry we know the competitive landscape, we know how to build scalable systems, and we know how to grow a profitable business. We are backed by more than 25 international advisors in the fields of rural planning, irrigation, software developers, business, finance, legal, and cloud technology who are lending their expertise, networks, and resources to launch Volta Irrigation into having a large-scale impact.