What is Solar Irrigation for Agricultural Resilience in South Asia (SoLAR-SA)

Climate change is the ongoing process of global warming and the resulting increases in average temperatures around the world. The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world, through extreme weather events, and declining agricultural productivity. In South Asia, which is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, groundwater irrigation has been an important factor in poverty alleviation and food security. However, the region depends on fossil fuel-based irrigation pumps, which contribute to carbon emissions. The SoLAR project is working to promote the use of solar irrigation pumps as a more sustainable and efficient alternative in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The project is also training farmers and rural solar technicians to use these pumps more efficiently and sustainably and is studying the impacts of solar irrigation on the livelihoods of men and women farmers.
Freedom from Diesel – The promise of SoLAR irrigation pumps in Bangladesh

Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL), is the main agency working on promoting solar pumps in Bangladesh. Most government funding and donor aid for promoting solar irrigation go through IDCOL. The IDCOL SIPs have the potential to decarbonize the Bangladesh Groundwater market, and its unique model enables marginal and poor farmers to be solarized in off-grid areas without full subsidization, making it an important model for solarizing irrigation through private entrepreneurs in regions where initial capital cost can be a hindrance. The SoLAR project is promoting the use of solar irrigation pumps as a sustainable and efficient alternative in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The project is also training farmers and rural solar technicians to use these pumps efficiently and sustainably and studying the impact of solar irrigation on the livelihoods of farmers.
Affordable irrigation sans subsidy to farmers: IDCOL’S Fee-For-Service SIPs in Bangladesh

This video discusses the challenges Bangladesh faces with its high reliance on diesel-powered irrigation pumps and the potential solution of transitioning to solar pumps. The Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) in Bangladesh has introduced a fee-for-service model of Solar Irrigation Pump (SIP) adoption, with the grant component only 50%, to finance private-sector companies/NGOs for setting up the SIPs. Results show a significant reduction in diesel usage and provide important adaptation co-benefits to farmers, such as cheaper irrigation, reduced labor hours on irrigation, and access to supplementary irrigation. However, the financial viability of the IDCOL SIPs is predominantly boro-reliant, and the video suggests actions to ensure the financial health of the SIPs and leverage their scaling-up potential, such as grid integration and net metering.

Urmul Seemant- Solar IF Grantee

This video showcases an innovative and sustainable project by Urmul Seemant (Grantee for IWMI-SoLAR Innovation Funds) Samiti in the western region of Rajasthan, India. The project focuses on promoting soil-less cultivation using hydroponics to improve livestock management and green fodder production in a desert environment. With the aim to create rural employment opportunities and improve dairy income by about 15% even during dry and drought conditions. The project will work closely with women involved in livestock, farmers, and camel and cow herders, while also constructing polyhouses using local materials, strengthening self-help groups, and building market networks.

Who gets subsidised SoLAR Irrigation pumps in Nepal?

Nepal has implemented policies to encourage the use of renewable energy, including subsidies for solar pumps. The Alternative Energy Promotion Centre is responsible for delivering these subsidies, and data from them shows that between 2016 and 2021, 9100 farmers applied for solar pumps, while only 21% got it. The applicant pool tended to be relatively larger farmers, and male applicants. To increase the diversity of the applicant pool, it is suggested that local government institutions become more involved in soliciting applications from marginalized groups and that social mobilizers be used to reach out to underrepresented groups. It is also recommended that after-sales services be improved, and solar pump prices be periodically revised to increase demand from a wider range of farmers.

Swiss Development Corporation – SoLAR IF Grant paves ways for innovative usage of SoLAR in Eastern India

The SoLAR Innovation Fund has been created to support innovations that aim to bridge the gaps that hinder the scaling out of solar irrigation pumps in South Asia. The innovations should be targeted at reducing barriers to the sustainable adoption and use of solar irrigation pumps by small-scale, marginal, and women farmers. They should also encourage the sustainable use of groundwater resources when using solar-based irrigation and enhance climate-resilient livelihood options for small-scale, marginal, and women farmers in the region. Find out more about our SoLAR Innovation Fund grantee in form of blogs

Solar irrigation in Nepal: Opportunities and challenges

Nepal is an agrarian economy where the agriculture sector contributes to one-third of the GDP. The agriculture sector is dependent on surface and groundwater for irrigation. Solar-powered irrigation pumps (SIPs) have emerged as a viable alternative to diesel pumps. But what are the opportunities and challenges of solar irrigation in Nepal?

The Promise of Dhundi Solar Pump Irrigators’ Cooperative

In early 2016, the world’s first Solar Pump Irrigators’ Cooperative Enterprise (SPICE) began operations in Dhundi village of Kheda district in Gujarat. Members of this cooperative are using solar power not only to run their irrigation pumps but also pooling the surplus energy to sell to the Madhya Gujarat Vij Company (MGVCL) under a 25-year power purchase agreement. Promoted by the IWMI-Tata Water Policy Program (ITP) and supported through a generous grant by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the cooperative was set up to demonstrate a novel model of promoting solar irrigation by incentivizing farmers to conserve energy and water; while at the same time, offering them an additional, stable source of climate-proof income. By December 2016, the 6-member, 56.4-kWp capacity cooperative had already earned more than Rs. 160,000 from the sale of surplus energy.

The Chakhaji Model in Bihar, India – Catalyzing ‘Buyer-Friendly’ Solar Irrigation Service Markets

In Chakhaji village of Samastipur district in Bihar, IWMI, CCAFS and AKRSP-I (Aga Khan Rural Support Program, India) have supported seven solar irrigation entrepreneurs to install 5 kWp solar pumps along with a network of buried water distribution pipes. A financial model under which the entrepreneurs have to pay a fixed lease amount each year to take full ownership of the asset over a period of 5 years exerts pressure on the entrepreneurs to maximize returns from the asset by operating it throughout the year to sell irrigation services to farmers in the village. As it is, a shift from expensive diesel to solar pumps significantly reduces the cost of irrigation. Further; as the solar irrigation service market matures, the entrepreneurs compete with each other for a lion’s share in the village irrigation economy by offering better irrigation service at the least possible cost. In Chakhaji’s solar irrigation experiment, the average cost of irrigation has declined from 1120 per bigha (1 bigha = 2,528 m2 or roughly 0.25 ha) to t45 per bigha. After a little over a year of full-scale operation, the village is experiencing significant changes in crops and cropping patterns with the area under summer cultivation – a rarity in the diesel regime – expanding rapidly and the agricultural GDP has more than doubled.

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