DIFFUL SOALR PUMP--Solar Irrigation Pumps: A New Way of Agriculture in Bangladesh
Summary: On a recent field trip to northern Bangladesh, the smiles of Habibur, a young man working in a rice field under the scotching sun caught my attention. Habibur, 28, looked content amidst the wide green vista of fields.
Solar Irrigation Pumps: A New Way of Agriculture in Bangladesh
On a recent field trip to northern Bangladesh, the smiles of Habibur, a young man working in a rice field under the scotching sun caught my attention. Habibur, 28, looked content amidst the wide green vista of fields. I learned that his life had not been easy. His father died when Habibur was around four years old, and the family had no land. His young widowed mother started working as a day laborer to raise her only child. Habibur began working too in his mid-teens. Mother and son struggled, but they managed to save some money. They first bought a cow, and later Habibur leased land for rice cultivation. This is a common practice in rural Bangladesh, where the yield is divided between the farmer and the owner of the land.
Still, life was hard. For rice cultivation, timely irrigation is vital – even missing one day can severely affect crop quality and yield. Habibur and other farmers in his village depended on expensive diesel generators for irrigation. Accessing these was a challenge. Sometimes, Habibur had to spend days in the local bazaar to get the pumps. On top of the rent, he had to pay for the transportation and the diesel fuel. Often the diesel price hiked in the local market, and he had to pay more than the government approved rate. He had to transport the generator to the field and submerge himself in mud to make the diesel pump operational. The farmers had to stay at the field day and night to guard the pump, and to ensure the irrigation.
In October 2015, solar-powered irrigation reached Habibur’s locality. The solar pump near his land now covers around 12 hectares of land and provides 500,000 liters of water daily. Habibur and 28 other farmers share the cost of a single irrigation pump that waters their fields. Their irrigation cost has dropped almost by half. But, the real benefit goes much deeper. They now have more spare time for other productive purposes. For irrigation, Habibur just notifies the lineman of the solar pumps, and water flows to his entire field. Gone are the days of uncertainty and hard labor to ensure the water supply. Now, he just checks the field twice a day to ensure irrigation, when he visits to collect grass for his cows. With the savings, he has bought more cows, and he has time to care for his cattle. He also has more time to be with his eight-month-old daughter. Meanwhile, the private sponsor of the solar pump in Habibur’s village has identified other bottlenecks to a good crop. The sponsor provides a complete solution, also renting power tillers, as plowing the field is a prerequisite for irrigation.