Project overview

Groasis employs a patented technology using simple boxes to grow productive trees and surrounding plants with considerably less water, making farming entirely possible in otherwise dry and arid areas.

The problem

It is estimated that upwards of two billion hectares (roughly 15%) of the world’s land surface area suffers from soil degradation, with a further 12 million hectares of arable land (an area equivalent to half the United Kingdom) lost every year due to droughts, desertification and over-exploitation.

Unfortunately, the problem of land degradation is very likely to get worse over time, as climate change and demographic pressures increase the need for food, water and sanitation. This imbalance of ecosystems is greatly endangering the ability of food systems to deliver nutritious food in a sustainable manner.

The solution

Groasis's patented Ecological Water Saving (Growboxx) technology utilizes simple boxes to grow a productive trees and surrounding plants with considerably less water, making farming possible in dry areas. Water savings through the use of Groasis are estimated to be over 90% compared to traditional irrigation and with a survival rate of plants of over 90%.

Growing rapidly in Colombia and Algeria

In February 2018, Groasis and WFP kicked off a pilot in the southwest Colombia's Almaguer region. Funded by the WFP Innovation Accelerator, Groasis demonstrated how its patented technology could help grow food in degraded soils and ensure the restoration of land.

With a participation of 200 women, many fruit trees - including mango, papaya and passionfruit -  were grown using less than 10% of the water that would have been used if the fields were drip-irrigated. Over just 10 land hectares, farmers in the pilot have planted 1951 trees and harvested fruits that were consumed by their families while selling surpluses worth 3.2 million Colombian pesos (approximately US$ 1,000) to the local market. Families served by the pilot in Colombia are able to maintain healthy diets of fruits and vegetables, in addition to gaining extra income from selling their surplus, since most of the plants they have grown are perennial. 

Thanks to these encouraging results, the WFP Algeria Country Office decided to include a Groasis pilot in late 2019 through the support of the WFP Innovation Accelerator.

In our area, we suffer a lot from the lack of water and have been used to growing only coffee and cane. Together with my female groupmates, we have been able to grow healthy and delicious passion fruits by using Groasis boxes. Our harvest has been very good so that we had enough fruits for our families and could sell a portion to the market hence enjoying a healthy diet at home while making little extra money.
Aurelia Lopez, passionfruit farmer in Colombia
Groasis Waterboxxes distributed to homes in Algeria
Less water used compared to drip irrigation
Sahrawi refugee families have started to harvest produce
Where we go from here and what we still need

Under the facilitation of the Innovation Accelerator, Groasis and the WFP Colombia Country Office are exploring ways the pilot can be extended to a larger area in Colombia. Groasis is also engaging with Inquiring Systems Foundation, an environmental advocacy organization based in California, for a potential funding of the discussed expansion plan in Colombia. Furthermore, the WFP Chad Country Office is also in the process of launching a pilot with Groasis along with its reforestation project in Chad.

Given the nature of the social status of people served by Groasis, funding assistance will always be needed for the implementation and success of Groasis. As a social enterprise that strives to help vulnerable families in environmentally degraded areas to grow food, Groasis needs financial support from either local governments or humanitarian organizations such as the WFP. This support is even more needed when it comes to scaling up Groasis interventions in new countries since such a move requires a lot of investment.

Meet the team

Pieter Hoff
Wout Hoff
Michael Klaasse
Digital Communication Manager
Anna Terranova Aranda
Field Manager, Colombia
Armand Ndimurukundo
WFP Deputy Country Director, Algeria
Emmanuel Safari
WFP Project Lead, Algeria
Alemu Gebre
WFP Project Coordinator, Chad
Nicolas Umuhizi
WFP Innovation Accelerator
Last updated: 18/10/2021