Empowerment and tech adoption: Introducing the treadle pump triggers farmers' innovation in eastern Ethiopia

Shimelis Beyene, Teshome H. Regassa, Belaineh Legesse, Martha Mamo, Tsegaye Tadesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In 2013, thirty-eight treadle pumps (TPs) were installed as low-cost technology introduction for small-scale irrigation in eastern Ethiopia. This pilot project also trained six farmers on tube well excavation, as well as the installation and maintenance of pumps. In June 2015, researchers visited nine of the thirty-eight TP villages and found only two TPs functioning as originally installed. The rest were replaced with a new technology developed by the trained farmers. Farmers, empowered by training, gained more control in developing technology options tailored to local needs and conditions of their communities. Adopters of the new technology stated that the limited water output and high labor demand of the conventional TP did not optimally fulfil their irrigation water requirements. The new technology had spread quickly to more than one hundred households due to three key factors. First, farmers' innovative modifications of the initial excavation technique addressed the discharge limitations of the conventional TP by excavating boreholes with wider diameter. Second, local ownership of the new technology, including skills used in well drilling and manufacturing excavation implements, made the modified irrigation technology affordable and accessible to the majority of households. Third, this innovation spread organically without any external support, confirming its sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3268
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 13 2018


  • Diffusion
  • Farmers' innovation
  • Irrigation
  • Technology adoption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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