Nepal Clean Irrigation Initiative

By Caitlin Spencer 18 November, 2019

Not only are they cutting carbon emissions, they are improving farmers' livelihoods. Solerico's Spencer expands on their project

Solerico is committed to helping communities finance & integrate renewable energy; their Nepal Clean Irrigation Initiative Project aims to replace diesel water pumps with solar-powered ones
Before, farmers could only afford to lease diesel water pumps for 1 or 2 months per year; for other months, they rely on the monsoon which has become unpredictable due to climate change
With solar-power water pumps provided via Solerico & Gham Power's microfinance scheme, farmers have raised incomes by 30-100%, cut CO2 emissions & become more entrepreneurial

Too often those least responsible for climate change are the ones most impacted. We founded Solerico in order to accelerate the global movement towards a sustainable planet.

What is Solerico?

Solerico is a Hong Kong based charity co-founded in 2017 by three friends who grew up in Hong Kong and experienced first-hand the effects of air pollution on quality of life, but also took in the beauty of Hong Kong’s parks, wildlife, and beaches. We are dedicated to accelerating the world’s transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy, and to help disadvantaged communities across the world access clean electricity.

Our vision begins in Hong Kong and Asia, where many communities are still reliant on fossil fuels and where many more have limited or no access to electricity. However, given the global nature of climate change, we are committed to helping communities around the world to finance and integrate renewable energy into their lives.

We develop and manage projects that protect the environment while also improving the livelihoods of the people we help. In this article, we will share with you our Nepal Clean Irrigation Initiative Project, a project that replaces diesel water pumps with solar powered water pumps and irrigation systems for farmers in Nepal, through the use of a microfinance scheme.

Solerico is committed to helping communities finance & integrate renewable energy into their lives…


…the Nepal Clean Irrigation Initiative Project replaces diesel water pumps with solar powered irrigation systems for farmers

The Current Situation: Diesel Pumps

Farmers across Nepal and much of South Asia rely on diesel motors to power their water pumps.

Farmers in Nepal burn ~7L of diesel per day to power their water pumps…

…releasing >0.5 tonne of CO2 per month

These motors, which power pumps that bring water from underground sources up into fields, are crucial for the farmer to irrigate their crops throughout the year. The farmers we are working with in Nepal burn around 7 litres of diesel per day to operate these motors. This releases over half a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per month.

Additionally, there are not enough of these diesel pumps to go around. In the Far West of Nepal where we have set up our initial projects, a farmer is only able to lease a diesel pump for one or two months a year before it needs to move on to another farm. The cost of renting the pump is USD 1.50/hour. The farm then has to pay for maintenance and fuel. Once all costs have been considered, the farmer can spend up to USD 210/month to rent the pump.

Additionally, there are not enough diesel pumps to go around…

…& due to climate change, the timing of the monsoon season has become unpredictable

When they do not have access to the diesel pump, they have to rely on the monsoon season to irrigate their crops. However, due to climate change, the timing of the monsoon season has become unpredictable, and when it does arrive it is increasingly powerful and destructive.

June is the historic monsoon for Nepal, however when we went to visit our pilot projects in June 2017 the land was bone-dry. The farmers we spoke to did not understand why the monsoons were not arriving when they are supposed to, and were unable to farm properly as they are unable to predict the rainy season.

The Solution: Solar-Powered Pumps

We have partnered with Nepalese solar power company, Gham Power, to launch a programme that replaces these dirty and inefficient diesel pumps with solar-powered pumps.

These pumps not only cut out the carbon dioxide released when farmers burn diesel, they also provide farmers with year-round access to a water supply. Additionally, our program also produces huge cost savings and boosts revenue for the farmer, allowing them to re-invest and expand their operations.

1. Financials

In order to establish a sense of ownership for the farmers and ensure the long-term viability of the project, we are funding these solar pumps through a microfinance scheme.

After careful due diligence on the farmer, our microfinance partners provide 70% of the cost of the pump as a soft loan to the farmer. Solerico, in turn, provides 30% of the cost of the pump as a grant which acts as the necessary down-payment for the loan.

The farmers so far have paid on average USD 100/month – a major cost-saving

The loan is repaid over 2-3 years, after which the farmers own the pump outright. The interest rates for the loan repayment are set based on Nepalese Central Bank guidelines. The farmers we have helped so far have paid, on average, USD 100/month. This is a major cost-savings compared to operating a diesel pump.

Due to our thorough due diligence we are able to work with farmers with strong financial track records, and we have had no defaults on any microfinance loans to date.

2. Maintenance & Monitoring

When the solar pumps are being installed the farmers are trained on how to do basic maintenance and upkeep. During the loan repayment period, if the farmer encounters an issue he is unable to fix, maintenance is provided for free by a local Gham Power technician. After the loan repayment period the farmers can opt to pay USD 80/year as insurance, or they can choose to pay for maintenance on an ad hoc basis.  

Gham Power has developed a special online platform to monitor & assess farmers prior to funding

For monitoring, Gham Power has developed a special online platform to monitor the project and assess farmers prior to funding. Through this platform we are able to monitor real-time electricity and water output and we can see how far along the farmers are in their loan repayments.  

3. Impact

Beyond cutting fossil fuels, this project enables farmers to access major cost-savings and significantly boost their revenue through year-round regular water supply. Based on data collected from our initial pilot project, income can increase between 30-100%.

Income for farmers can increase between 30-100% & they are becoming more entrepreneurial

In addition, the farmers we have already helped have become more entrepreneurial, are re-investing their savings into expanding their farms, hiring workers from the community, and diversifying their crop base for greater financial security. 

The farmers we helped have already started spreading the word in their communities about this opportunity to obtain solar power water pumps and improve their livelihoods. We have hundreds of farmers that are interested in receiving this technology. If you would like to learn more about this project please visit click here. Alternatively you can contact the Co-Founder and CEO here. 

The time to act on climate change is now. We are empowering communities to empower themselves.

Further Reading

  • HK Submerged? Is This Map For Real? – Rising sea level is a catastrophe waiting to happen but we have to avoid alarmism & choose the right map to visualise the risks. Getting the right scenarios also matter. Find out more in our review
  • Why Hong Kong Needs A Meat Tax – Want to help stop Amazon deforestation? How about better health? With Asia’s climate action looking bleak, Greenqueen’s Ho sees a meat tax as HK’s chance to become a regional leader
  • Race For Water – Fighting Plastic Pollution In Our Oceans – What does the world’s largest solar-powered catamaran have to do with ocean plastic pollution? The Race for Water Foundations’ Lee explores this sustainable solution for ocean conservation with us
  • Shrinking Plastics – Implications Of Tighter Regulations On The World Industry – Plastics are on the way out as governments put stricter laws in place. How should investors respond? WWF HK’s Rawle, Champagne & Hilton share from their latest report
  • Climate Action 100+ First Progress Report – Having brought 370+ global investors together, what has Climate Action 100+ achieved? From setting emissions reduction targets to disclosing climate scenario analyses, check out key results from their director Wright
  • Climate Change, Groundwater & Agriculture In India – The hidden risks of groundwater are clear in India as it is key for the country’s food security and already is largely over extracted. What can India do? Dr Aditi Mukherji from the ICIMOD, shares ways forward
  • Environmental Watering In The Murray-Darling Basin – Megan McLeod from the Alliance for Water Stewardship explores how the Renmark Irrigation Trust benefits the Murray-Darling Basin by providing environmental watering, enhancing biodiversity and promoting tourism
  • Can Nepali Coffee Survive The Impacts Of Climate Change? – Coffee growers in Nepal’s hills are facing a double whammy; climate change and pests, which are also interlinked. Abhyaya Raj Joshi expands on the impacts so far & challenges to continue to produce
Caitlin Spencer
Author: Caitlin Spencer
Caitlin was raised in Hong Kong from a young age and as an avid sportsperson and nature lover she experienced first hand the effect of air pollution on quality of life. After years of voicing frustration at the lack of initiative taken by governments and large corporations to transition towards a sustainable future she and 2 friends co-founded Solerico, a Hong Kong based renewable energy charity. Solerico's vision is to accelerate the world's transition away from fossil fuels to renewables, and to help disadvantaged communities across the world access clean electricity which will also benefit them socioeconomically. Caitlin is not only one of the co-founders but is also currently the CEO of Solerico. She daylights as a personal trainer and nutritional advisor and spends her free hours and evenings empowering disadvantaged communities to empower themselves.
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