GRO Greenhouse Project

Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for most African countries. In Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Zambia over 70 percent of the work force is engaged in small scale agriculture or agricultural trading, which is responsible for almost half of each county’s GDP. Yet farming families in these countries have the highest levels of poverty. In fact, the majority of these small holder farmers are women serving as breadwinners for their families and living on US $2/day or less. Lack of investment, poor access to credit, weak infrastructure and non-existent agricultural support services are the major constraints to agricultural development in Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Zambia.

The Solution

To address this economic and agricultural crisis, World Hope International and Penn State’s Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship Program (PSU-HESE) are working with local partners in each country to produce and distribute “Affordable Greenhouses.” Greenhouses are usable year-round, provide a more controlled environment for agriculture, reduce water consumption and ensure crop production despite seasonal fluctuations in weather. The ability to cultivate crops the whole year guarantees greater food security, as crops are not susceptible to rain/dry season. Furthermore, the ability to grow all year allows farmers to sell crops for the market when prices for produce are higher. Greenhouses also allow farmers to grow more produce with far less water.

The GRO project’s Affordable Greenhouses are portable, expandable and, at approximately $800, they are priced so that farmers can recover their cost after just one crop cycle. They can be constructed in just two days by two experienced people with no or little education and last over five years – a stark difference from conventional small-scale greenhouses that are expensive, high-maintenance and difficult to construct. By developing an independent for-profit greenhouse business in each country, we will:

  • Reduce agricultural water consumption
  • Increase volume of produce sold
  • Increase number hectares of land with affordable greenhouses
  • Enhance farmer adoption of the greenhouses

In 2014, the GRO project was named an Innovation Awardee in the Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development, which aims to identify and accelerate innovative technologies and market-driven approaches that improve water sustainability ultimately helping to boost food security and alleviate poverty. The Securing Water for Food program founders - the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands – announced award nominees at World Water Week on September 1, 2014 in Stockholm, Sweden.

In 2015, WHI built and sold 32 greenhouses on a cost-recovery basis, exceeding the first year goal of 30 and benefitting 359 vegetable growers, not including household members who also benefitted from increased family income and access to nutritious foods. 

To support the development of greenhouses in Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Zambia please

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