Kolkata: On the occasion of Akshay Urja Divas or National Renewable Energy Day, SwitchON Foundation announced to launch the Strengthening Energy Water and Agriculture (SEWA) Network, a network of grassroot organisations working in these domains to create an ecosystem for the promotion of solar pump, micro irrigation, ground water recharge and other sustainable agricultural practices in Jharkhand, Odisha and West Bengal.
70% of India’s population depends on agriculture, who are currently threatened by adverse impacts of climate Change and natural resource depletion causing decline in agriculture incomes. The keynote speaker at the event was S. Suresh Kumar, IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Power, Government of West Bengal. He emphasised on the promotion of solar pumps in agriculture, lowering the dependency on fossil fuel and grid power at the tail-end.
Through the SEWA network, the members will collaboratively raise funding to seed projects, provide capacity building training to farmers and other stakeholders on sustainable technologies and practices, disseminate communication materials on schemes and subsidies and demonstrate proof of concepts in diverse agro climatic zones of and subsequently scale-up successful business models.
Manu Maudgal, Director of the Clean Power Programme at Shakti Foundation highlighted the importance of promoting distributed renewable energy solutions to address the issues of climate change.
Bijay Kr Sinha from Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency and Kishood Koner from Odisha Renewable Energy Development Agency talked about their initiatives for promotion of solar pumps in their respective states.
Stephanie Jones, Programme Manager of Good Energies Foundation noted that while promoting solar pumps, the groundwater extraction needs to be monitored and replenished before a water crisis arises.
“Practise of organic farming increases incomes of small and marginal farmers due to increasing demand and premium prices of organic products,” said Jai Prakash Tiwari, CEO of Organic Farming Authority of Jharkhand.
Some of the water conservation technologies and practices were discussed by Dr. Pennan Chinnasamy of IIT Bombay. Talking about just transition from conventional to renewable energy, Moutushi Sengupta, Director, MacArthur Foundation noted the importance of a streamlined model to achieve the same. Samrat Mukherjee, DGM, NABARD mentioned various initiatives taken by the agency to scale up and replicate sustainable agriculture technologies and practices in the region.
“The grassroot organisations and FPOs were enthusiastic to join, build and grow the network on ground. The network provides a holistic approach towards rural development by bringing together grassroot organisations working with small and marginal farmers to enhance incomes and build a sustainable ecosystem.” said Vinay Jaju, Managing Director, SwitchON Foundation.
A report on “Impact of solar pumps on small and marginal farmers” was published at the event. The report shows a 45-65% rise in farmer incomes after replacing conventional pumps with solar pumps. “Replacing a 5HP diesel or electric pump for 1 year is equal to replacing 1 car from the road for one year,” the report states. Various other economic, social and environmental impacts of solar pumps were reported in the publication.