IT is interesting to see farmers living in a village that has no access to electricity come up with an innovative solution to their irrigation woes. With the aid of a local NGO, they formed a cooperative to pay for setting up two solar pumps in Hardevpur village under Kaliganj upazila. The two solar units consist of 80 solar panels generating sufficient electricity to power the pumps, which in turn churn out 1.4million litres of water to irrigate 50 bighas of land every day. The Tk7.5million project is benefitting 100 farmers.
Now it may be argued by some that the solar units installed are a hefty investment and major components will require replacement after a few years of operation. The counter-argument to that scenario is that the average farmer had to foot Tk. 8,000 per bigha of land for irrigation by shallow tubewells using diesel for fuel. Now during the IRRI season, a farmer pays Tk. 1,000 to the local NGO financing the scheme in advance; the next instalment of Tk. 1,000 before harvesting and the rest Tk. 3,000 after the harvest. That still constitutes Tk. 3,000 worth of saving per bigha of land irrigated and the money is paid in instalments.
In off-grid areas where there is no electricity available, solar pumps do make a difference in reducing the cost of paddy produced. With financing institutions like Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) tying up with local NGOs and growers, this switch-over can be replicated in other parts of the country. Whilst this will help farmers desist from using up precious ground water it will also ensure food security.