Nepal, apples and beans in abundance thanks to solar powered irrigation systems

Life in the village of Dhaulapani has changed since last year, with the installation of water pumps powered by solar panels. The project is by the British NGO Practical Action, co-financed by the European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid. The water is extracted from the Tila river and channeled towards the fields.


Kathmandu (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Where there were few fruit trees before, now whole apple and bean crops are flourishing in Nepal, in the district of Jumla.  The mountainous area  isin the northwestern part of the country. Here the life of the population of the village of Dhaulapani has changed radically since last year, when a British NGO, the Practical Action, has set up a new irrigation system.

Instead of the water collected with buckets even several kilometers away, now the inhabitants have water pumps powered by solar panels, which supply water to water the fields and electricity to light up the houses.

The NGO project is co-financed by the European Union and by the development agency Jersey Overseas Aid. In economic terms, it is worth 1.3 million Nepalese rupees (10,300 euros); in human terms, much more, because for the first time it has allowed the local population not to have to leave the village in search of work. On the contrary, now the land is so rich in fruit that the agricultural surplus is even sold, as well as meeting the needs of the inhabitants.

Bhadri Sarki, a young woman who lives in the village, about 350 km from Kathmandu, tells Reuters that she had to walk at least an hour before reaching a well to collect water and water her only apple tree. Now, in a few hours, she manages to irrigate an entire orchard. "We have enough water - she says -, the only thing we have left to do is to grow plants".

The district of Jumla is famous for the production of apples, nuts and a rare variety of rice. It is located in the province of Karnali, the poorest in all of Nepal, with less than a quarter of irrigated land. Although it lies on the slopes of the Himalayan range, snow does not fall on a regular basis. In 2007 it was declared "first biological district" of Nepal, but farmers have never been able to exploit the full potential of the land because I did not have an adequate water system.

At the moment, 14 solar panels produce energy to extract 20 thousand liters a day from the Tila river, which are stored in large tanks and then distributed in the fields. The pumps raise the water up to 90 meters, and in doing so provide illumination to 70 homes in the village of Dhaulapani, which is not served by the electricity grid.

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