Women have the power to turn fallow lands into productive farms

Solar pumps are changing the way women in Nepal farm. Now, they have a way to obtain water, and they are learning to be farm business owners.

In the Shambhunath Community in eastern Nepal, agriculture and manual labor are the primary occupation among the 400 households. Because many of the men have left to search for more profitable work outside of Nepal, farming is now the responsibility of women. Up to 80 percent of the land is often left fallow due to dry, hot weather and a lack of irrigation options. With no surface water sources nearby, farmers in this region are left to count on irregular rain to water their crops. While some farmers use electric pumps to pull water from the ground, the electrical grid in this part of Nepal is unreliable with rolling blackouts a common occurrence.

iDE, a social innovation organization, is organizing female farm groups to turn fallow land into profitable farm businesses. With the assistance of iDE and its partner Futurepump, the Shambhunath farm group installed a Futurepump SF1 solar pump to lift groundwater to micro-irrigation tubes that efficiently irrigate rows of vegetables. The farmers also receive training in composting, pest management, and nursery cultivation—stewarding healthier soil composition.  

Sanu, a farmer that belongs to a female farm group in the nearby Phulbari Community, said “In the past it was difficult to grow vegetables. Now, with the solar pump, growing vegetables is easy, and I can sell them.”

The Futurepump SF1 solar pump is changing the way women in Nepal farm. “Before, we suffered from carrying water for hours and hours. The crops were stressed not getting enough water,” said a female farmer in the Shambhunath Community. “Now, we have a solar pump that can lift any time on a clear day. We also store water in a tank so we can irrigate in the evening.”

Unlike the electric or diesel pumps that had been the purview of men, women have taken ownership over the solar pump—opening up possibilities they once thought were impossible.

“We had never seen and thought that solar power would pump water,” said a female farmer in the Shambhunath Community. “We only thought that we didn’t have enough water. Our place is very dry and needs to be irrigated frequently.”

The Futurepump SF1 solar pump is yielding real results. The female farm groups have turned fallow farmland into profitable farm businesses—cultivating high value crops such as tomatoes, eggplant, onion, chilis, and cucumber during the winter and dry season. The yields provide enough food for the farmers and their families as well as a healthy amount left over to sell at markets.

iDE and Futurepump see plenty of opportunity for other regions in the world to benefit from applying solar technology to agricultural challenges, like those in eastern Nepal.

By Emily Karol, iDE Digital Media Manager