Solar pumps offer climate neutral fix to water scarcity

Source(s): Hindu Business Line, the - The Hindu Group of Publications

By David Thomas

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With the continent on the front line of climate change, rain is expected to become ever more sporadic. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this will further impact production of African wheat, rice and maize. There is an urgent need for climate neutral solutions to help farmers draw every last drop of water from their land.

One company is stepping up to the plate. FuturePump, founded in 2011 and spread between the UK, Netherlands, Kenya, and India, sells solar powered irrigation pumps to smallholder farmers – those with little more than an acre of production. The pump, developed with the Dutch nonprofit Practica Foundation with the support of nonprofit iDE and manufactured in India, helps farmers avoid hours of labour and saves money that would have been used to buy expensive, dirty fuel for traditional pumps. Perhaps most significantly, the technology frees farmers from a dependence on seasonal rains by granting the opportunity to grow produce out of season.  

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FuturePump says that some farmers have been able to double or triple their income by eliminating fuel costs and cultivating crops out of season, and they generally recover their investment in less than two years. And yet despite the technology being relatively cheap – solar pumps sell for around USD 650 each – many of the firm’s would-be customers simply do not have that kind of money upfront.  

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The firm expects to sell some 4,000 pumps this year, and hopes to continue doubling sales every year in line with its performance over the last three to four years. Yet [Toby Hammond, the managing director and founder of FuturePump] is under no illusion that sustainable technologies offer an immediate route to riches.

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