The challenges with agriculture in India

By: Gaurav Kumar, Business Development Manager, Xylem Inc.

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.

The Saajhi Stepping Pump irrigates pomegranate farms in eastern India.

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.

An Introduction to Gaurav Kumar

By: Keith Teichmann, Director of Innovative Networks and Marketing, Xylem Inc.

As our work with Essence of Life continues to expand, so does the content we bring you with each post on The Ripple Effect. Today, I want to introduce you to our newest blog contributor: Gaurav Kumar. Gaurav has an extensive background in rural marketing and water management. He is passionate about finding solutions that help solve the irrigation problems of small and marginal farmers in rural communities. As our Business Development Manager in India, he is instrumental in positioning and communicating our strategy to Government Officials, both at the national and regional levels.

Recently, Gaurav hosted a major demonstration in Sodepur District, Odisha, at the District Level Fair of Agriculture. At the event, Mr. Pradeep Maharathi, Minister of Agriculture, Odisha, visited the Xylem demonstration and tested the Saajhi Stepping Pump. Maharathi loved the product, sharing positive remarks about the technology and design of the pump. He also commended our initiative for creating products that support small-scale farming operations in emerging markets. Thanks to Gaurav’s leadership, the demonstration was a success for Xylem and our partners in India.

Mr. Maharathi (center) tests out the Saajhi Stepping Pump

Given his background in rural community development and familiarity with Essence of Life’s presence in India, Gaurav will begin sharing blog posts about his interactions with the Indian people and government, as well as emerging trends he sees in rural water management strategies. Visit soon for his contributions.

In the meantime, check out the latest blog post from our other contributor, Dyson Magombo, on his field work in Malawi and Saajhi setup techniques.

Kuyenda mu njira: Rural techniques for Saajhi irrigation hose installation and placement

DysonBy: Dyson Magombo, Field Intern at Xylem Inc.

Greetings rural farming community! My name is Dyson Magombo and I am very excited to be a part of the Essence of Life team and contribute to The Ripple Effect! As a field intern for Xylem, I have been working in Malawi, Africa, instructing rural farmers on efficient rural-based irrigation techniques. Recently, I have been working with Xylem to optimize the placement and operation of their Saajhi Stepping Pumps. Within this ongoing blog, I will share lessons and insights learned from those pioneering new techniques in the field, the rural farmers of Malawi. I’ll also provide a quick reference with every posting, allowing others to learn from the innovations we are driving in the fields of Malawi.

My education and extensive rural field work have helped me gain an intimate understanding of the unique needs of rural farmers. This past February, I supported the first Malawi Children’s Village Malawi Farmer Festival where I shared irrigation techniques and smallholder farmer success stories with more than 200 farmers.

Through conversations with these farmers and subsequent rural product placements, I learned that they have minimal prior training on how to properly select a hose for the Saajhi Stepping Pump. Logistically, these farmers also don’t have access to a variety of options or the financial means to purchase many kinds in hopes of getting it right.

To help farmers combat these challenges, I’ve pulled together and shared some important installation tips, and I would like to do the same with you. First, let’s focus on how to properly select and install an inlet hose for use on the Saajhi Stepping Pump.

Farmers should use a non-collapsible hose that is 1.5 inches in diameter and about 15 feet or smaller (based upon the water depth) for installation on the Saajhi’s suction side. Through my work in the field, I learned that some farmers heat the end of the hose before installation, but know that not all non-collapsible hoses require heating. For these types of tight-fitting hoses, tie-off’s are typically not required. However, loose fitting hoses will require some type of binding to ensure the hose does not pull-away from the pump.

This setup is very simple and ensures water flow into the stepping pump. Once a farmer is finished using the Saajhi, it is easy to remove the inlet hose and it can be reinstalled again for future use.

After sharing irrigation techniques with the farmers, I received some great feedback. One farmer mentioned that the Saajhi’s flow helped him reduce his irrigation time by 40 percent and another said he increased his output three times relative to prior harvests.

I am very proud that my research and irrigation training is helping farmers become self-sustaining and making an impact in my country.

In my next blog post, I will share additional insights on the best techniques for installing an outlet hose to move water from the water source out to the farmers’ crops.

Be sure to stay tuned to The Ripple Effect in the coming months as Dyson shares his insights from the field in this new series, Kuyenda mu njira or Chichewa for walking the path.