This is a guest post by Akhila Vijayaraghavan, a finalist in the TckTckTck Rio Blogger Prize competition. If you would like to see this entrant as the official TckTckTck blogger at Rio+20 this June, please help spread the word by sharing this post on your social networks.
One of the biggest deterrents to achieving a sustainable future is poverty. Therefore, alleviating poverty is the best way to reach balanced economic growth and social development without environmental degradation.
Farmers in India need help to get out of poverty
In India, poverty is one of the largest reasons for social problems. As a largely agrarian economy, the country is as vulnerable to climate change like any island nation. A study by Purdue University concluded that changes in the weather patterns have direct implications on the monsoons.
Farmers depend on the monsoon rains from June to September to irrigate their crops, and bad rains means a failed crop which has economic implications. India’s farmers have the highest rates of suicides, especially following a bad monsoon.
During the fallow seasons, farmers often migrate into cities looking for work. Since the entire family moves, children’s education is frequently interrupted, keeping them in a loop of poverty.
Amitabha Sadangi works towards helping farmers
Amitabha Sadangi the chief executive of International Development Enterprises (IDE) came from such a situation. IDE International was founded in 1981 by Dr. Paul Polak. Amitabha Sadangi joined IDE when the India office was launched in 1991.
He was the key player in launching the treadle pump program, and it is because of this that he plays such an important role in poverty alleviation in rural India. In 2000, he set out to develop the organization into an independent organization. Since then, it has launched two basic micro-irrigation techniques. For eastern India, where the water table is shallow, they have developed the treadle pump, which is human-operated by a stepping motion to draw water out of a well.
In the western states, where the water table runs deep, they offer affordable drip irrigation technology intervention (ADITI). Both of these are low-cost, low-maintenance technologies that help farmers get a better yield through better irrigation for their crops. Sadangi’s marketing plan involves a unique mix of featuring the pump in Bollywood movies and visiting villages for live-demonstrations of the pump.
By 2010, IDE’s equipment had helped more than 1.1 million farmers out of poverty by enabling each of them to earn a net additional income of about $400 a year. Through the pumps, farmers are able to grow crops 2-3 times a year and sell the excess to make a better living. This means that their children have access to education as well as improved nutritional intake.
How the Pumps are Supplied
The technology is delivered through village market supply chains to farmers who earn less than one dollar a day.The pump costs between $20 and $32. A tube well costs an additional $11 including installation. A tube well is a water well that is bored into an underground aquifer – the lower end is fitted with a strainer and the top has a pump for irrigation. Farmers pay this entire amount upfront or work out an installment scheme with the local supplier.
Irrigation and the Environment
Although the irrigation solutions are primarily a tool for poverty alleviation, they also have wider implications for sustainable development. Since the treadle pump is human-powered, there is no pollution associated with it. Without this technology, land owners used diesel pumps which are not only costly but also emit carbon and other air pollutants.
According to various studies, crops irrigated by treadle pump require less fertilizer as it is less likely to wash away top soil than alternative irrigation solutions. Similarly, it also reduces the need for pesticides as smart irrigation reduces water pools on the surface, which become breeding grounds for pests. The system has made existing land more productive, without the need to bring in more land into cultivation.
TUV Nord has verified the direct and indirect greenhouse gas savings associated with the use of treadle pumps at 0.477 tonnes/year CO2 per pump. The verified savings over the past four years amount to 177,000 tonnes CO2, of which 52,000 tonnes have been validated. IDE estimates that the total greenhouse gas saving to date is about 1.45 million tonnes of CO2.
The technology has also led to saving water worth 3 billion cu mts, electricity saving of 417 kWh and diesel saving worth 533 million litres.
Indian farmers are not only able to increase their volume of production as well as the variety of crops they can grow, which in itself increases soil fertility.
The system also improves the lives of the suppliers and distributors who earn commission through IDEI for the pumps that they sell. Many families are now able to afford school books for their children or a bicycle to help them get to school easily.
Through the very simple innovation of an irrigation system, Amitabha Sadangi is giving Indian farmers a new lease on life as demonstrated by what one farmer from Orissa had to say: “It is marvellous to be able to draw water out from the well with such simplicity and without the constant black smoke. The farm is now my own patch of green paradise.”
About the AuthorTckTckTck is the online hub for the Global Call for Climate Action. The GCCA represents an unprecedented alliance of more than 400 nonprofit organizations from around the world. Our shared mission is to mobilize civil society and galvanize public support to ensure a safe climate future for people and nature, to promote the low-carbon transition of our economies, and to accelerate the adaptation efforts in communities already affected by climate change.
View Author Profile