4 Amazing Stories on the Magic of Solar Energy to Change Lives in Nepal

Published Jan. 6, 2018

At UNCDF CleanStart

About Powering Agriculture

Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development supports the development and deployment of clean energy innovations that increase agriculture productivity and stimulate low carbon economic growth in the agriculture sector of developing countries to help end extreme poverty and extreme hunger.

Clean energy provides new opportunities for green growth and is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables businesses to grow, generates jobs and creates new markets. Children can study after dark, families have access to more efficient sources of power, and countries can grow more resilient with competitive economies.

UNCDF CleanStart co-invests in early stage business ideas that can have a positive ripple effect in the way rural customers buy and use modern energy.

Since 2014, UNCDF’s CleanStart Programme in Nepal has taken clean energy promotion to new levels and outreach through government and private sector partnerships. CleanStart aims to support the global Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative and the Government of Nepal’s plan to ensure clean cooking and lighting solutions to all by 2022, when Nepal aims to graduate from Least Developed Country to Developing Nation. This is done with innovative finance and seed capital, advocacy and partnerships with stakeholders, technical assistance to pilot new business models, and sharing lessons learned on best practices to reach last-mile energy consumers.

UNCDF CleanStart support in Nepal

Through UNCDF CleanStart support, over 125,000 households have access to reliable and clean energy including solar home systems, improved cooking solutions, and improved water mills. The following four stories highlight the real impact of accessing reliable energy.

Solar Pumps for a Better Future

Santa Kumari Mukhiya 61, is a resident of Shivasatakshi Municipality in Jhapa. The dry season has always been major problem for her crops. That all changed the day she heard of solar water pumps.

She owns 22 Katha of land (0.74 ha) and farms five Katha (0.17 ha) to feed her family of nine with rice, maize, mustard and millet as staple. “I faced from my neighbor upon leasing their water pumps to plant rice saplings even waiting in queue” shares Ms. Santa in dismay. She had to pay NRs 500 for five hours per day when using the water pump. During one bad stretch of weather, she had to bear the cost for 4-5 days. Santa Kumari was forced to pay for the water pumps at least 3-4 times a year.

Manual pumping of the hand pump was tiresome for her family, often leaving their hands full of blisters. “I used electric pumps and it cost me NRs 1100 in utility bills each month to plant staple, grow vegetables and water livestock. I was very cautious in using electric pumps and even compromised to limit the expense” she mumbles.

With sheer excitement, Santa Kumari shares the multipurpose use of solar pumps with its benefits. She is thankful to Winrock International and SAHARA Cooperatives for unlocking credit to help her install the solar pump. “I am a member of Sahara cooperative with 20 women members. I was heavily fascinated to install solar water pump when Sahara introduced it to our group” smiles Ms. Santa. She is no longer concerned about electricity bills to use water. After the solar pump installation, her utility bill has been reduced from NRs 1100 to NRs 300 per month. She saves NRs 800 per month and is now confident in paying a monthly installment of NRs 2000 over the next 24 months until fully owning the solar pump system.

It's because of solar pump, I am able to plant additional mustard for my bee grazing and I am hopeful to harvest superior quality honey this year.

Her husband was reluctant to install the system. However, he now rejoices its uses for farming and livestock management. “I am satisfied with its financial benefits and I appreciate my wife for her decision”. The low-cost solution ensuring year-round water availability has encouraged Ms. Santa to explore avenues of diversified income generating activities. She has planted mustard twice this year because beekeeping has opened new avenues to her income. “It’s because of solar pump, I am able to plant additional mustard for my bee grazing and I am hopeful to harvest superior quality honey this year”. Additionally, more mustard will reduce her expense of buying cooking oil.

With joy, she advocates her neighbors and relatives to install solar water pumps and reap its benefits. “Three of my relatives have installed similar systems and are grateful to me for introducing solar water pumps replacing electric motors”. In addition, her daughter in-laws are happy to have easy access to water for sanitation. Continuous water supply in toilets, use of water in household for cooking, regular bathing has saved their energy and time.

Santa Kumari Mukhiya, honey farmer with her Sunflower solar pump

Renewable Energy and Microfinance for Increased Profits

In 2014, Ms. Sabitri Devi Chaudhary of Saptari district learned about the income earning potential of poultry farming. That year, she, with her two daughters and son, started her poultry farm with 500 chickens.

But her first year would prove to be a difficult one. The lack of reliable electricity resulted in huge losses to her income. Vision is incredibly important in poultry behavior and welfare. The lack of light, because of unreliable electricity, leads to increased mortality rates. This was the case for Sabitri, who lost nearly 200 chickens in her first year. She needed a solution. “I never wanted to compromise my profitability. I had dreams to scale up my business” she says nervously.

I discovered a permanent solution for unreliable electricity. My poultry receives reliable electricity and generates good profit. What more shall I ask for?

The grid connection would face indefinite power cuts during rainy and windy seasons. “It would take at least a week to fix the problem and by that time, nearly 200 chicks would die out of 500” she recalled in despair. Finally, a solution was presented when Nirdhan Utthan Bank oriented her on solar home systems and the micro-financing support to help her afford it. “I was overwhelmed to find a sustainable solution to the power cuts. I found the loan payment in installment option enticing” she smiles.

The installment of solar home system continuously lights her chicken coop. The chicken mortality has significantly reduced to 70 compared to the 200 losses she had to deal with due to the absence of reliable lighting. “A mature chicken weighs 2.5 kg and is sold in NRs 325” she happily shares. With a healthy coop of chickens and reliable electricity from the solar home system, Sabitri can regularly and comfortably pay the installment from the profit earned.

“I discovered a permanent solution for unreliable electricity. My poultry receives reliable electricity and generates good profit. What more shall I ask for” she giggles.

Sabitri Devi Chaudhary and her chickens

Sewing a Better Future with Solar

“I have been living my passion in tailoring since 2066 (2009). With my new solar home system this year (2017), I now receive the most orders in all my eight years in business” giggles Ms. Juwala Majhi, 31, from Pathari of Sanisare in Morang.

Since she was 15, Juwala knew she wanted to start her own tailoring business. “I used to keenly observe my neighbor sewing blouse and kurta salwar (traditional Indian garment)” she recalls. Ms. Majhi started her Juwala Boutique tailoring shop in an alley of her village when she was 23. She rented a room in a bazar for her boutique but soon ran into a major problem. The lack of reliable electricity hindered her ability to take on many orders. “Due to unreliable electricity, my shop was dark with hardly five orders and very few visitors a day” she sighs. Without reliable lighting, potential customers would not visit her store; it was too dark for them to see Juwala’s designs. As soon as darkness would arrive, Juwala would have to stop working, which meant shorter hours and fewer orders to take on.

Due to unreliable electricity, my shop was dark with hardly five orders and very few visitors a day.

During blackouts, she had to use the light from her mobile to complete her orders on time. She often missed deadline of delivery. Juwala was then approached by a representative from Jeevan Bikas Samaj with the solar home system financing solution. “It came as water to a dying fish” she laughs.

She now employs seven sewers and her shop is filled with customers from 7 am to 7 pm. “In no time, my designs glow bright and the orders tripled. The orders are almost unmanageable during wedding seasons!” she says with pride. She comfortably pays the 24-month installment fee of NRs 2490 from her boutique and will then fully own her solar home system to drive her business.

Juwala Majhi in her tailoring shop

Solar Commercial Farming for Increased Income

The community of Salang in Dhading district own 90 ropani (4.57ha) of land for joint commercial farming. This community farm uses a canal irrigation system that relies on a nearby river. This canal system was not able to reserve water for use during the dry season. As climate change intensifies the dry season, water level from the river has decreased. This means less water capacity to irrigate the community farm. As a result, communities have seen their income earning opportunity decline.

We are happy to receive continuous irrigation from the solar water pumping and the water reservoir is a bliss during the dry season.

In 2074 (2016), the Salang community learned about the benefits of installing a solar water pump with a reserve tank for increased land productivity. The community agreed to install solar water pumps using an energy loan supported by UNCDF CleanStart. Now, over 140 families have the opportunity to earn higher incomes by carrying out seasonal and off-season commercial vegetable farming. “We are happy to receive continuous irrigation from the solar water pumping and the water reservoir is a bliss during dry season” says Mr. Ram Prasad Silwal, one of the beneficiaries.

Solar water pump usage in Salang in Dhading

Each farmer in the community earn approximately NRs 50,000 per month from commercial vegetable farming. These farmers expect to increase their income further through off season farming during the dry season, made possible with the solar water pump and reserve tank. “Our field is lush green even in the driest season of the year. The credit facility removed the financial burden of direct purchase and we now pay the installment with ease from the profit earned” laughs Mr. Silwal. The community will own the system after paying 5 installments over a 15 months term.

Related News & Events: 
Oct. 19, 2018

In Kenya, over two thirds of the population work in agriculture. Most are smallholders, and they produce 60% of the food eaten in Kenya. Frequent droughts make irrigation a necessity, so Futurepump found a sustainable and inexpensive way for farmers to be productive, even in a dry climate.

Oct. 11, 2018

Sukuma wiki (kale) is a tasty and popular part of Kenyan cuisine. It's in particular demand during the dry season, when fewer farmers are growing it. Using Futurepump's solar irrigation pump technology means that farmers can grow kale year-round, which is both profitable and delicious.

Jul. 4, 2018

Futurepump is promoting "future-proof" farming in Mozambique, where smallholder farmers are facing increasing temperatures and less predictable rainfall. Solar irrigation helps farmers to make the most of every growing season, giving them more security in a changing climate.