One To Watch invites their readers on a tour to the Western part of Nepal, in the remote village of Kanchanpur to meet Roshan Lal Chowdhury. The interview with Roshan is a part of the story series which aims to discover the impact of a solar irrigation pump on his family. We have interviewed Roshan as a beneficiary and an end-user of a Solar irrigation pump developed by Gham Power. One To Watch is the fund manager for Off-Grid Renewable Energy (ORE) Fund and an investor in Gham Power. The Off-Grid Renewable Energy Fund works with developers such as Gham Power in closing the financial gap for solar electrification and enables climate action in the Himalayas while developing remote communities through access to affordable renewable energy.
A 47-year-old Male, Roshan has been a farmer for generations. With a family of 8 to feed, Roshan tells us about the struggles he had faced with irrigation to ensure a good harvest every time. In our interview with Roshan, we wanted to know about his stories of setting up the AP unit and how things have changed for him.
“We used to run diesel engine backed generators which was expensive and required physical force to start the engines, so women could not start them, and it always required a male. The water was also insufficient because the soil required a lot of water, and we had to rely on additional rainwater. So, the produce was not up to the potential as rainwater was not sufficient to meet the irrigation needs.”
The total land on Roshan’s farm is roughly equivalent to the size of 3 football fields. The land requires a substantial amount of irrigation and with increasing diesel prices and lack of sufficient rainfall, he had to look for an alternative. Roshan tells us about the first time he heard about the solar-powered water irrigation pumps from a fellow farmer who got them from Gham Power project and used it already for 2-3 years. “I got motivated to use the product when I got to know that my fellow farmer was enjoying very good harvests since he installed the system.” The process after the decision was relatively simple for Roshan as he reached out to Gham Power, and a system was successfully installed within 15-20 days after a field visit that included a technical survey.
The deal for the system installation was quite affordable for the farmer and as Roshan informs us, “I was happy with the good results for the fellow farmers and easy collaboration with MFIs (Micro Financial Institutions) to give EMIs (Equated Monthly Installments), made the entire process affordable and lucrative.” With help from such MFIs, farmers like Roshan are easily able to obtain loans for installing solar irrigation pumps and pay back the loan over a period of time with easy and flexible payment schedules. After installing the pump, Roshan has been a happy customer. He tells us that now with a touch of the button, anyone can start the pump and even the water is now sufficient. He adds that this boosts the confidence of a farmer to start new cash crops like sugarcane which requires a large amount of water. We asked Roshan if there were any other benefits of using the solar pumps that he has experienced.
“Well, the production has increased because of surplus water and the motor used by Gham Power is of better quality, and of great quality, uses earthing, better than competitors and has a good reputation. Also, sufficient water has given rise to other employment opportunities such as fish farming, plantation of other cash crops, adding new and improved techniques for manure, etc. I am now exploring fish farming which wouldn’t have been possible before but now can easily be done because of the Solar water-powered systems.”
One to Watch has recently launched a campaign focused on bringing real-life impact stories from the ground. Through our new series of impact stories, we want to portray the overall impact created through our Off-Grid Renewable Energy Fund. Over the next weeks, we will publish real-life stories focusing on the end-users and developers of the ORE fund. These accounts of different struggles, difficulties, dreams, and the positive changes of the beneficiaries and developers of the ORE fund are published in a story format which was collected in an interview format by One to Watch.
Roshan also informed us about the training provided by Gham Power time and again, and also provided him smart meters to monitor the soil using analytics and technology. To know more on the impact from the AP product, we asked Roshan about its contribution to his economic condition and living standard. He says that his monthly income now averages around 70-80K Nepali Rupee or around 500-550 Euros. “I can now have more savings and thus I managed to start two tunnel vegetable farms, providing pocket money to my family members. Now, women in the family can do the irrigation themselves and we also encourage them to carry out marketing of the crops as well. Additionally, an abundance of water now gives rise to fish farming opportunities using the modern technology ‘Biofloc’ for which he is contemplating to add 8 tanks.”
Roshan is happy with the installed system as he also adds that the expected annual yield is 15 lakhs Nepali Rupee (10.5K Euros) this year which is around 66% more than the previous years. We wanted to know from Roshan if the Covid pandemic made situations difficult for him but to our surprise, he told us that he had no problems paying the monthly EMI payments. “I could easily manage the money with the crop sales, even in this lockdown and I have completed my payment for 13 months already. I am confident that I can pay back the monthly installments for the remaining 23 months.”
As we reached the end of our interview, we asked him if his final opinion about the AP product and if he would recommend it to his peers. To this, he replied, “Yes, definitely; especially to those who have an entrepreneurial spirit as the Solar Water Powered System gives rise to additional entrepreneurial opportunities.”