In my work for Xylem in rural India, I frequently engage with small plot farmers who are struggling because of their inability to proficiently water their crops and to benefit from sustainable rural enterprise. Without access to the proper irrigation tools, they rely heavily on historical methods, in many cases using dated irrigation practices pioneered 100’s of years ago. As reported by sources like the World Bank, efficient access to water is a growing need in India.
More than 60 percent of the country’s population of 1.2 billion consists of farmers who depend on agriculture as their primary source of income. This industry is critically important to India, generating 14 percent of the nation’s GDP. India relies heavily on water for agricultural production and, ultimately, its economic development.
Water-intensive crops, like sugar cane, wheat and rice, are among the most commonly grown food products in India. Because of this, the market for water access is highly competitive in rural communities. Farmers are increasingly obligated to pump water in order to sustain their agricultural operations. Smallholder farmers, in particular, frequently draw water using cheap diesel pumps. India currently has 8 million of these devices in use for agricultural purposes. However, these pumps quickly deplete groundwater resources, and are costly to operate. Diesel pumps also contribute to local air pollution with adverse health effects on farmers and their families.
In contrast to diesel pumps, the human-powered Saajhi Stepping Pump is an efficient, affordable irrigation solution with a low environmental and groundwater impact. Using this product, smallholder farmers are able to improve their production, reducing labor by more than 25 percent over traditional irrigation practices, and tripling crop yield compared to rain-fed fields. In turn, these farmers are able to generate more revenue at a lower labor cost, thereby increasing the money they are able to spend within their local communities. Ultimately, the introduction of the Saajhi pumping technology provides a cost efficient pathway to sustainable rural enterprise, grounded firmly in agricultural practices.
I enjoy being a lead member of the team that brings this product to rural India. Witnessing the positive impact the Saajhi Stepping Pump has on farmers is inspiring, and drives my continued passion for this project. As the newest contributor to The Ripple Effect, I look forward to sharing my stories and introducing you to Essence of Life’s important work throughout India.