Kathmandu / Majority of farmers in Nepal need reliable and affordable water pumping solutions so that they can grow crops, seasonal as well as off- season vegetables, supplying water need for livestock to increase their food security. The declining agricultural production has depressed rural economies and struggle to produce adequate supply of food to feed its population.
No wonder, most of the rural farmers are either using diesel gen-set or the grid infrastructure or are fully dependent on rain-fed water to fulfill needed supply of water resulting in lesser yield. The grid infrastructure fails to reach many rural areas or is inadequately equipped to handle an increasing pumping load. Where electricity supply is available, it is often unreliable supply and voltage fluctuations, farmers mostly rely on rain-fed or on different energy sources (e.g. diesel gen-set) to bring additional water in the land. Further the challenges they face are exacerbated by increasing climate variability that brings unpredictable, insufficient or too much rainfall.
Renewable energy technologies can address trade-offs between water, energy and food, bringing substantial benefits in all three key sectors. Deploying renewable solution like solar for irrigation can provide reliable and environmentally sustainable energy. Solar pumping for irrigation when deployed plays a pivotal role in increasing the productivity of the land and ensure food security. Furthermore, the benefits from such technologies results in improved income generation and increased social welfare of the communities.
Winrock International (Nepal), under USAID supported Accelerated Commercialization of Solar Photovoltaic Water Pumping (AC-PVWP) project, conducted demonstration and marketing of PVWP systems at Mainapokhar village of Bardiya District and Matiya village of Banke District. As soon as the assembling of the solar components were completed flocked of people gather in the demonstration venue. When the pump started operating, and the water started to discharge the farmers were astonished and surprised on varieties of available technologies. “We were born too early, vast technologies are emerging day by day that could help us to alleviate our hardship and solve our irrigation problems” accentuated an old farmer visiting the demonstration event.
“If you had asked me before if a solar pumping was the right solution to our challenge, then I may have been a little skeptical, however after seeing on-the-ground demonstration of this system it completely changed my perception. Now I am keen to installed this environmentally sustainable system and replaced it with the fossil based technology” said one of the farmer visiting the event. He mentioned that his farm productivity in the past were declined due the embargo faced by the nation. However, with this technology, he need not to worry a lot about buying the imported fuels.
Even the solar based irrigation solutions can be competitive on a life-cycle basis, they are a capital-intensive technology with front-loaded investments that payback over time. The key challenges still remain the high upfront cost of the system. In order make such system accessible to farmer suitable instruments are needed to improve the access to credit or bring down the capital cost of the system at affordable levels.
These two demonstration events again proved that they are crucial in attracting attention and creating awareness among people, particularly farmers, about the technology. Farmers shows renewed interest and welcomed that the technology can provide a cost-effective, promising and a reliable solution for sustainable agriculture to increase the productivity as well as farmers don’t have to resort diesel based system for irrigation. There exist still a great hope and farmers without any hesitation are willing to install the system if sound market based financial mechanism and business models are ensured. --- Bikash Uprety is a Technical Advisor at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH