Solar water pumps up incomes for farmers

- Reuters, SHIKHARPUR (Nepal)

Feb 22, 2018-

In the village of Shikharpur in Nepal’s remote Himalayan foothills, the faint sound of water can be heard trickling through a large metal pump.

Standing in golden mustard fields, a huge solar panel powers the pump that provides some 40,000 litres of water daily to families still recovering from Nepal’s devastating 2015 earthquake.

“Before (the pump) we used to walk two or three hours a day to collect water,” said Daley Sarki, a vegetable farmer whose mud home still bears the cracked scars of the disaster.

A massive earthquake struck impoverished Nepal - home to famed Mount Everest - in April 2015, killing nearly 9,000 people and disrupting the lives of more than 8 million. Helping families recover has proved harder than expected, for reasons ranging from aid funding delays to a fuel blockade.

In Shikharpur, located about 50 km (31 miles) from the capital, the 7.8-magnitude earthquake left most households without access to drinking water, said Ram Prasad Bolakhe, a community leader.

“There were many problems,” he said, listing destroyed homes, contaminated water and frequent power outages.

To improve access to clean water, a project led by British charity Renewable World set up a solar-powered pump that collects underground water and transfers it up 72 metres (236 ft) to the Himalayan village, where it is stored in tanks. The system serves about 120 households and a school, said Bolakhe, with each family paying for 

their own use based on water meter readings.

The climate-smart technology has significantly improved people’s health, Bolakhe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that better sanitation and access to drinking water have limited the spread of water-borne diseases. Residents say it has boosted incomes, too.

Sarki, a 54-year-old widow, said the time she has saved by no longer having to walk far to fetch water has allowed her and other women farmers to take up second jobs—in her case as a labourer on a dairy farm.

The additional water also means she can grow more produce not just to feed herself, but to sell at the market.

Published: 22-02-2018 09:50

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