Celebrating Solar-Powered Irrigation in Saptari


Solar-powered irrigation pumps (SPIPs) have watered fields in Saptari district, Nepal, since 2017. These pumps were formally launched during an event organized by the International Centre for Integrated Development (ICIMOD) and its partners on 6 April 2018 at Phattepur village. The formal launch celebrated easy access to pumped irrigation water as a reliable alternative to rain water and the early successes of this intervention. It was attended by over 100 farmers and partner organization representatives.

The Australian Ambassador to Nepal, Peter Budd, inaugurated the event. NMB Bank Nepal and ICIMOD also distributed seeds to farmers who had suffered losses in the August 2017 floods.

Ambassador of Australia to Nepal, His Excellency Peter Budd, during the launch event in Phattepur, Saptari

ICIMOD installed 23 SPIPs with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) project and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in February 2017. SunFarmer Nepal and Sabal Nepal partnered with ICIMOD to implement the project in Saptari. ICIMOD received advisory support from the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) and the Department of Irrigation of the Government of Nepal during the implementation of the project. 

The SPIPs were installed to promote clean, reliable, and affordable technology for year-round irrigation.  The Terai, known as Nepal’s food basket, accounts for 71% of paddy production, 64% of wheat production, and 58% of total vegetable production in Nepal. Solar pumps were offered through three tested financial models (grant, grant-cum-loan, and rental) with special discounts for women farmers who owned the land on which the SPIP was installed. 

Irrigated maize field in Saptari

Based on the Nepal Government’s subsidy policy, ICIMOD extended a subsidy of 60% of the SPIP’s cost to applicants and 70% for women applicants. Of the 23 farmers who availed the grants, 77% were women – most of them had had land ownership transferred to them so that their families could benefit from the additional subsidy available to women. 

During the event, Murali Karki, one of the 23 farmers who benefited from the SPIP, shared his experience of using a solar pump over the past year: “I was able to earn a profit of 45,000 rupees from selling produce grown on a plot which previously lay barren. I can pump a litre of water a second even during gloomy conditions. Under good weather conditions, I can pump more than two litres a second.” Other farmers shared their experiences as well – some are growing new vegetables while others are farming fish. 

With the success of its first phase, ICMOD’s SPIP work will continue and extend to three other districts. The installation of 30 new pumps was completed in May 2018. ICIMOD and its partners will continue to interact with farmers for the next two to three years to document and assess the impact of SPIPs on their lives.