What three Ethiopian women can show us about the promises – and pitfalls – of adopting technology

Small-scale irrigation technologies are transforming the backyards of smallholder farmers. For this International Women’s Day, we see, through the eyes of three Ethiopian women, the potential of these technologies.  More importantly, we gain insight into the key to making technology adoption work for women.

Amidst the patch-worked landscape of the Amhara region of Ethiopia, three women survey their backyard gardens. Sewagegn, Mulu and Alemitu have kept pace with the fluctuating seasons of garlic, green pepper and onions and their gardens reflect their efforts. Yet these gardens look different from the other backyards in the community. Behind each home sits a three-feet long solar panel, mulch covers the garden crops and irrigation drips slowly into the ground.

A technological transformation has slowly taken place on farms like these in Danghesta, with bundled interventions bringing sustainable solutions to smallholder irrigators. And across Africa, too, new solar powered pumps and other technology allow farmers to grow more and better food.

But these transformations bring both promises and risks. Can garden technologies actually improve women and household livelihoods? And if not, what is making technology miss its mark?