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Ashoka Rainwater Farming Initative

Social entrepreneurs in the developing world tend to get excited when talking about water, because they see its potential in powerful solutions to numerous challenges in society, especially in rural transformation.

With this backdrop Ashoka staff, three Ashoka Fellows – Paul Cohen, executive director of Rucore Sustainability Foundation (SA), Nora Tager, executive director of the PEACE Foundation (SA) and Osmond Mugweni, executive director of Njeremoto Biodiversity Institute (Zimbabwe) – are collaborating on rainwater and biological farming projects in South African rural areas.

The idea is not only that millions of people can cultivate more clean water for their own use, but that doing so represents a tremendous opportunity for development and for enabling local communities to mitigate health, food and environmental risks posed by changing climate and rainfall patterns. This can be at the small scale of a rural household or the larger scale of a village or entire watershed.

This endeavor can perhaps best be described as ‘water farming’: individuals, households, and enterprises each doing smart things that stabilise and expand overall water supply. This is about managing water as an output that we can cultivate, not just as an input that we depend on.

Two practical examples from recent visits of Ashoka staff and Fellows to rural villages or “farmscapes” in southern Africa illustrate the water farming vision: