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Solar powered lift and drip irrigation in Gumla

Solar powered lift and drip irrigation in Gumla

Jochari hamlet of Konkel village, Kondra Gram Panchayat, Gumla district is on the banks of the river Sankh. It is habitated almost completely by tribal people. The Catholic Church in the village along with their associated institutions like the school and medical centre offers a prominent sight to the visitor. The villagers have organized themselves into self-help groups of women as well as a Village Development Council. 

The problem

The villagers have traditionally been engaging in paddy cultivation in low lands and broadcast a variety of local paddy and madua (finger millets) in the uplands. Life was indeed tough for them. The status of their crop depended entirely on rains. When crops failed, one or more members of the family had to migrate out to work; often to a very arduous life in brick kilns. The bounteous water of Sankh flowed down the course and their lands on its sides would remain uncultivated in Rabi season as the tribal households had neither the technology nor the means to use that water. Limited farmers, whose lands were close to the riverbank , used small capacity pumps to take a crop of some vegetables on small plots, but the bulk of the lands close to the river were left fallow after harvesting their broadcast paddy or finger millet.

Solution

During 2018, the villagers were approached by PRADAN officers with a design for a solar powered pump and irrigation systems. They formed a Committee that would oversee the tasks connected with the systems and manage it later. The system comprised of 15 panels of 1.9 metres size solar panels mounted on iron angle structures. The panels were sloping Westward to capture maximum sunlight. They offered a very good conversion rate of 17% solar energy into electricity to power their motor. The motor was a 5 HP AC motor. They constructed a pump house for it and it was securely placed and fastened inside it. The pump house also provided space for the expensive battery to store solar energy, if thought as relevant in future.

Initially, water was lifted by means of their pump directly from a channel of the river. The villagers insisted on having a take up well. They dug it as their contribution to the scheme. Stones for pitching the walls came from the scheme. Underground pipes were laid in the command area of 30 Hectares in lands up to about 500 metres to form the river bank. Villagers themselves dug the earth to lay the pipes, part of which labour, was also a contribution from them. Desirous farmers also invested in purchasing micro tubes with inlaid drippers for drip irrigation. About half the area was drip irrigated while balance was under traditional system. Eight picturesque orange coloured cylinders for pressure equalization as well as for enabling fertigation etc. could be seen in the panoramic sight of the command area. A non-return valve protected the motor and the pump from water hammer. The total head in the scheme was 20 metres.

The scheme became operational during November 2018. Most farmers had taken up cultivation of capsicum in that season, planting 500 plants each. They derived good income, some exceeding Rs. 5000 in the first season itself. During June 2019, one could see lands prepared and newly planted saplings of papaya on many farms. The plan was to convert the entire command area into a plantation of mixed fruit crops: mango, guava, papaya etc. Till the trees had a limited canopy, farmers would grow vegetable crops as intercrops. Women talked about having booked 2000-3000 plants of tomato, for which a nursery was being run by the Cooperative of their fellow village women in Raidih block. Theodore, the agri-entrepreneur trained by experts would be always there to help them in ensuring that their agronomic practices were sound and helped them in procuring necessary inputs and in marketing their produce.

Although the scheme was barely one year old and was in a sense unfinished (the take up well had to be completed yet), it had started yielding very good returns. The cumulative gross income increase had already touched Rs. 1 lakh from this investment of Rs. 9 lakhs. The beauty was that the scheme offered no cause for concern on account of expensive diesel or dependence on an unreliable power supply from the grid. The Sun-God would always be there and they could look forward to harness it for a golden harvest year after year. No wonder, there was a sunny smile on the faces of these villagers now.

The plan formulated under the Special Central Assistance Scheme for the Aspirational District Gumla was now to scale up this scheme and install 9 such solar powered, drip irrigation based systems which would establish plantations of fruit crops. 

From being completely dependent on rains to engaging in agriculture for the entire year and earning better returns on their produce, the solar powered lift and drip irrigation initiatives have had a positive impact on the communities’ welfare. Jokari village is greatly benefiting from this initiative which is modelled around mobilising and working with the community. The villagers long term vision is to bring about sustainable development and “vikas” in Jokari, a vision that is ambitious and humble. 

Source : Public System Strengthening in Aspirational Districts



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