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Empowering youth and women: Optimised irrigation designs for climate-resilient agriculture




Kathmandu, Nepal

Date & Time

20 April 2023 to 21 April 2023


Avishek Malla & Barsha Rani Gurung

Organisers: ICIMOD, Gridville, Kathmandu University, and Nepal Engineering Association


Empowering youth and women


About the training

With support from the Alumni Innovation Grant (AIG) 2023, Australia, and in collaboration with Gridville, Kathmandu University, and Nepal Engineering Association (NEA), Nepal, ICIMOD is organising a training session for 100 young engineers on the practical design of a lift irrigation system (lifting water with pumps or other mechanical means) which is optimised with solar photovoltaic (PV) energy and is Gender Equality, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI)-inclusive.



The primary objective of this training is to provide the young engineers with better understanding of:

  • The system design of solar PV lift irrigation. This will be delivered by practitioners to better consider real-world factors in the system design for the effective implementation of solar energy systems to achieve food security
  • Solutions focused on reducing the cost of electromechanical system of lift irrigation systems in the mid-hills powered by solar energy
  • GEDSI-inclusive project designs
  • Government priorities on irrigation
  • Nepal engineering associations and networks



In Nepal, agriculture is the largest contributor to GDP (21%) and to the employment sector (66%). However, an estimated 8% of Nepal’s population is undernourished and 4.6 million people are food insecure. Further, agricultural product import costs have more than doubled in the last 5 years.

Despite agriculture being a priority sector with long-term committed investment from the government, the sector growth rate has not been able to meet the Agriculture Perspective Plan targets. The Agriculture Development Strategy (2015–2035) and Irrigation Master Plan 2019 highlight irrigation as one of the primary challenges prohibiting this growth rate. Access to irrigation can also improve food and nutrition security, alleviate rural poverty, and generate employment. Currently, only 39% of the cultivable land has access to irrigation, while access is significantly lower in the mid-hills (13%). Particularly for the mid-hills, water must be lifted from the source at lower levels to higher levels for irrigation. The decentralised system allows for faster irrigation at higher altitudes, reduces water loss, requires less labour force, and enhances economic viability and environmental sustainability. Given this, the government has recognised the importance of lift irrigation.

The problem lies in the shortage of skilled human resources for the development and deployment of the renewable energy (RE) technology – solar PV lift irrigation system – which is a significant obstacle, considering the rapid socio-economic changes occurring in the mountainous regions requiring faster contextualised solutions to mitigate climate change. Urgent action is needed to address this issue, and as national and global targets are established, there will be a greater demand for human skills to facilitate the transition to a sustainable future.

To bridge this gap, it is crucial for academic knowledge to be supplemented with a better understanding of the local context and build on the priorities and experiences of those working in this field. Practical courses, such as this training, can be designed and led by experts to incorporate the local context, experiences of researchers, outcomes of government priorities, and the knowledge of practitioners. These courses can also help raise awareness and build the necessary skills, especially that of the youth and women.