Solar-power project brings sunshine to the lives of farmers, curbs migration

L N Revathy Coimbatore | Updated on June 20, 2019 Published on June 20, 2019

Representative image   -  PTI

When farmers in the Jawhar block of Palghar district in Maharashtra started to migrate to eke out a living, a majority of them believed that they would never be able to develop their farm lands as rains became scarce and temperatures soared for most part of the year.

However, with the the intervention by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch along with a local NGO Pragati Pratishthan, farmers now seem to think twice about leaving their home.

“We focussed on providing energy access by installing solar-power grids and connecting the unconnected. The rationale was to go beyond lighting (using solar power) by providing access to a host of other services, such as helping women use energy to draw water, using drip irrigation to water the fields and so on,” said Neha Kapoor Bharadwaj, India lead, Environmental, Social and Governance, Bank of America-Merrill Lynch.

Chandar Balu Jadhav, a farmer in the village of Mokhada, said that he used to travel to cities to seek contractual employment after the rains. But the micro solar-power grid project by Pragati has helped bring water to his field from a nearby source.

Sunanda Patwardhan, Secretary, Pragati Pratishthan, said that nine farmer groups from Mokhada had initially moved from a single paddy crop cycle to one paddy and two groundnut crop cycles.

“Now, 57.6 acres of land are irrigated across 10 farmer groups. This can be extended up to 90 acres. Water to irrigate fields is available for almost 8 months, and there is huge reduction in seasonal migration,” she said.

Other projects

According to Bharadwaj, over 400 households have benefited from the project in Jawhar and Mokhada alone.

The bank has also supported micro-grid projects in other areas such as Melghat in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Sundarbans.

As of September 2018, the bank has backed 49 micro-grids with a total capacity of 311.8 KwP, reaching 1,420 households and 38 public institutions, such as government schools and hostels. “We have partnered with Pragati only for the Jawhar and Mokhada projects by investing on the grid and pump, and leaving the NGO to source agri-inputs through grants,” said Bharadwaj.

Patwardhan said that the farmer groups have tied up with a factory in the vicinity for buyback of groundnut.

“We are planning to put up a crushing unit in the village. But for a project of this size, funding requirement would be huge,” Patwardhan added.

Published on June 20, 2019
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