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How Bihar's Women Farmers Are Winning with Solar Energy

On a journey to Muzaffarpur, Bihar - my colleague Aastha and I set out to witness the transformative impact of Rang De loans on the solarization of irrigation. In partnership with our Impact Partner, AKRSP(India), we explored how women ran thriving solar-based irrigation systems, fundamentally altering the agricultural landscape.


solar pumps conference


Our Impact Partner - AKRSP(India) champions the use of solar energy to power irrigation, offering a sustainable and cost-effective alternative to traditional methods. Through their innovative approach, they have facilitated the installation of solar irrigation pumps across Bihar, a state with a vast expanse of cultivable land yet challenged by inconsistent irrigation solutions.


The initiative not only supports the environmental ethos by using clean energy but also promotes gender empowerment by entrusting women with the management of these enterprises.The venture operates on an entrepreneurial model where the groundwater, pumped using solar energy, is provided to farmers for a nominal fee.


Rang De Social Investors have provided affordable loans towards installing solar panels, pump houses and underground pipelines and the boring process.The total cost of the Solar Irrigation Pump system comes around 6-8 lacs. A grant covers 3.5 lacs but the rest of the amount has to be arranged by the entrepreneur themself.


solar irrigation pumps set on field

The available option if not for Rang De Social Investors are moneylenders. Their interest rates are exorbitant starting at 60% per annum. The high interest rates charged by moneylenders not only cripple the financial stability of these farmers but also endanger their livelihoods.


These women have become a driving force behind sustainable farming practices. Their solar irrigation pumps are used by several smallholder farmers to irrigate crops, ensuring the sustainability of agriculture based livelihoods in the face of climate change. The farmers have to pay a nominal fee of ₹100/hour for the usage of the irrigation pumps.


We also met a Rang De Investee - Ladli Khatoon. She comes from a very modest background. Her husband drives an autorickshaw. Her life took a transformative turn when she learned about the solar irrigation project in a meeting.


solar entreperneurs in bihar

She utilised a loan of ₹1,80,000 from Rang De for the construction of the pump horse and is currently saving money for an underground pipeline, demonstrating her commitment to further enhancing agriculture practices in her community.


Her Solar irrigation pump was installed in September 2023, Until now she has earned ₹4,650 with a total of 58 hours of run time. With the pump 7 farmers have been benefited and 3 acres of land has been irrigated.


The Solar Irrigation Pump is cheaper than the existing diesel pumps. It also eliminates the use of electric pumps that drillegally draw electricity from the grid. The farmers also have to pay less fee for using solar irrigation pumps.


Irrigating an acre of land using diesel pumps would cost ₹4400, while an electric pump would cost ₹1100 surprisingly the solar pumps are way more efficient at ₹700 per acre.


AKRSP(India) has been working on Solar powered Irrigation in Bochaha block of Muzaffarpur District since 2020 with more than 46 Solar Irrigation pumps installed so far. All of these pumps work in an enterprise model where the entrepreneur/owner sells water to nearby farms.


Until now, 346 Rang De Social Investors have funded ₹15,40,000 in affordable loans for 19 women entrepreneurs in Muzzafarpur and Samastipur to set up irrigation pumps.


AKRSP(India)'s broader vision encompasses renewable energy solutions beyond irrigation, reaching over 70,000 rural households. Their initiatives span solar lighting, cooking, and energy-efficient appliances, aiming to uplift the rural populace by providing sustainable and accessible energy solutions​​.


The story of solar irrigation in Bihar is one of innovation, empowerment, and sustainability. It is a vivid illustration of how targeted financial support and technological intervention can transform

Every Rang De Social Investor plays a pivotal role in propelling this mission forward, enabling more women entrepreneurs to lead their communities towards a brighter, more sustainable future.


You can Invest towards sustainable climate action by backing women entrepreneurs of Muzaffarpur. Visit rangde.in to invest in fellow Indians today!


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Guest
Apr 06

Mr Ramachandran

Thank you for this informative blog post.

I hope you can describe to me how one solar pump is able to provide water to several farmers.

Does the water pump discharge the water into a tank which has pipes connecting to the fields of other farmers?

Or perhaps the water flows into a channel that then splits into multiple channels that lead into the fields cultivated by other farmers.

Or perhaps there is another mechanism to send the water over long distances.

I would really appreciate getting this information so that I can understand how funding one pump can improve yields for so many farmers.

Meenal Mamdani

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You mention boring, so I wonder if this means installing a bore well.

India's ground water is becoming depleted alarmingly.

Unfortunately there is no significant attention being paid to recharging the ground water.

I went to the AKRSP website to learn more about this project but did not find any more information.

While I am glad that the women are improving their economic condition, is this coming at the cost of problems in the future?

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