Giving dugwells a new lease of life with solar powered pumps in the Soan Basin, Pakistan
15 May 2017

by Muhammad Kahlid Jamil, Ali Kamran, Muneeb Ahmad, Dr. Munir Ahmad and Dr. Bashir Ahmad

Novel interventions for climate change adaptation are a step forward in meeting grass-root needs. Such has been the case with HI-AWARE’s intervention in reviving the traditional dugwells in the Potohar region. (http://www.hi-aware.org/index.php?id=270). A simple yet innovative idea, to make the intervention a reality various challenges and constraints had to be overcome. A cost-effective and climate smart solution had to be developed which could be used by farmers with smaller landholdings that were also completely dependent on dugwells for irrigation. To date, farmers in the region have been using traditional irrigation methods which is time consuming, and many times not entirely feasible. The solution contains a solar powered pump attached to an efficient irrigation system that allows farmers to grow off-season crops.

Designing these agricultural climate smart solutions required the consideration of several parameters, one being the limited availability of water. Dugwells usually get recharged from ground water, but during dry spells recharge of these wells is affected. With changing rainfall patterns, irrigation to crops using traditional flooding methods has become nearly impossible. There is very little water available when crop water requirement are high and tradeoff is a challenge. Controlling the rate of discharge under these conditions was an important aspect in designing the solar powered dugwell pumps. After several trials, discharge rates of the pumps were determined so that farmers could water their crops throughout the year.

Design parameters of Solar Water Pumping System for dug-wells

Cost was another factor to be considered, because capital cost of pumping systems should be within the purchasing power of farmers. In other words it should be nearly equal to the cost required to operate animal powered Persian wheels. In this respect, the operational cost of solar water pumping systems is comparatively low compared to animal driven pumping systems. This is because animals needs fodder and shelter, which only further adds to operational costs.  

The installation of the solar water pumping system for dugwells was successfully carried out on Mr. Ayub’s farm in Chakri, and he was joined by curious onlookers and neighboring farmers who expressed great curiosity. It was a sunny day and the solar panels were placed on a tilt angle of 340, with a provision of changing it up to 450, facing towards the south in a shadow free zone near the dugwell. The pump was lowered in the dugwell with a steel rope, submerged in the water with a delivery pipe coming out from well.  After wiring and connections were completed, the pump was switched on. As the water started flowing, it brought a big shinning smile on the farmer’s face.

Installation of solar water pumping system at Ayub's farm- simple manual seasonal tracking system also provided for better efficiency in all seasons. PC: Salar Saeed Dogar

Following the installation of the efficient pumps, Ayub’s first success was in the form of a healthy garlic crop (high value as compared to traditional crops) whose yield was exceptionally good. This resulted in better earnings for the farmer which is a step forward in a bid to improve livelihoods.

Mr. Ayub, a small farmer in the Soan Basin, with his own Dugwell Solar Water Pumping system. The replacement of the animal driven Persian wheel system with user friendly solar water pumping system has made farming more attractive and profitable. PC: Ali Kamran

Based on these results, HI-AWARE believes that there is immense potential for livelihood improvement of these dugwell dependent farmers. This is part of a larger package of practices that encourages the use of high-efficiency irrigation systems, kitchen gardening, fruit orchard and off season crops through tunnel farming.

A farmer who now has a better production of high value cash crop due to the continuous avaialbility of cost freeater on his farm. PC: Sultan Ishaq

To identify the potential for out-scaling solar water systems for dugwells in the region, a comprehensive dugwell study entitled “Climate Change Impact on Dugwell based Livelihoods in Soan River Basin” led by PARC has been initiated, which will be helpful in locating willing farmers to adopt this technology package quickly and positively. We are very optimistic that HI-AWARE efforts will bring prosperity among the dugwell dependent poor farming communities of the Soan Basin.