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Solar & Low-tech Solutions

Access to a reliable, clean and cheap source of energy is one of the major challenges for the rural population in the region, to enable them to increase productivity in agriculture and allied activities and to ensure that clean drinking water and irrigation systems operate regularly for the health of the community. With the looming energy crisis in India and in this region, the key is finding a sustainable alternative source of energy which fulfils the huge demand.

Even though connections to electricity have increased in villages, not all households in hilly locations have access to electricity. Amongst those villages with access to a power supply, it is not reliable, with frequent power cuts and low power output.

As a result, some people still rely on diesel pumps to pump water to supply their farms and community tanks, but these are very expensive. Fuel for irrigation constitutes one of the biggest elements of agricultural expenditure. This is one reason why farmers struggle to make a viable profit from agriculture and improve their families’ wellbeing.

Seva Mandir uses a package of tried and tested technological solutions to meet the energy demands of the rural population for agriculture and clean drinking water.

We help farmers form a water user group and then install a lift-pumping system to irrigate their farms or supply water to a community drinking water tank which acts as a distribution chamber. In places with a perennial stream and sloping landscape, a diversion barrier is built with channel lines to supply water to the farms. Solar pumping technology is used to pump water from an open well to multiple chambers located in different parts of the area under irrigation to supply water to the farms. The cost of irrigating a hectare of farmland in one season is zero as the solar panels provide energy for the pumping.

Although our focus has moved towards solar technology to power pumping systems, electric pumps are still used wherever there is a regular supply of electricity. Whether the source of power is electricity or solar energy, water distribution design is the same and the cost of irrigating a hectare of farmland is minimal at INR 200-300 (USD 3-4) a season.

Community institutions in the villages ensure that user groups implement a management plan for the equitable distribution and use of water. The user group regularly collects a fee to create a management fund to be used for repair and maintenance of the system.


Impact

Through our interventions, 3,880 families now have access to a reliable, clean and cheap source of energy for irrigation and clean drinking water. We have recently installed 15 solar pumping systems, and have to date created 34 gravity-irrigation flow systems alongside the installation of 146 electric pumping systems. Overall, 548 hectares have been irrigated.

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