Hamzah M.

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2002


This profile was prepared when Hamzah M. was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
Hamzah recognizes the need to put viable technologies into the able hands of people who have a stake in their success. He is raising agricultural productivity in Indonesia's driest lands through the combination of sustainable technologies, farmer cooperatives, and the development of new farm products and markets. A drip irrigation specialist and avid inventor, Hamzah is driven by a simple insight into the nature of the problems that face the rural people with whom he works: accessing maximum benefit from the resources already available is a more practical, more sustainable approach than pinning hopes on a large "project" like a dam. His life's work is a continual effort to strengthen agriculture through people's ownership and management of appropriate technology.
Hamzah's first success was his invention of a simple drip irrigation gadget and, subsequently, its transformation into a powerful development tool. He discovered that local materials, including clay and rice husks, could be processed into crude ceramic knobs that allow water to drip at a regulated pace. Called "emitters" in irrigation parlance, these instruments, when attached to discarded water bottles, can be fashioned into an effective drip irrigation system. The result is a locally produced irrigation system that can be manufactured and sold at one-tenth of the cost of comparable systems.
But Hamzah understood that simply producing and selling a technology–no matter how "appropriate" or inexpensive it might be–would not have the lasting impact, or the geographical reach, required to help people work their way out of poverty. He needed–simultaneously–to develop this product, a primary market of its users, and a secondary market for new farm produce. Crucial to his idea is increasing the scale of social benefit so that dry-land farmers, in addition to earning more cash in the present, can over the long term recover the productive capacity of their land.
Having spent a number of years developing the drip irrigation system, Hamzah is now marketing it, spreading its impact, and using its success to establish a movement to support other technical and social programs for dry areas. With the proven success of the emitter, Hamzah has also begun to develop other technologies for dry-land communities. He plans to create a center to test and perfect these ideas and train citizens to help in the production and distribution of this system. Hamzah's idea is replicable in arid communities throughout Indonesia and beyond.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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