In 2016, six farmers of Dhundi village in Kheda district of Gujarat had formed the world’s first solar irrigation cooperative. They called it “Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali” (DSUUSM). The cooperative was formed with the help of International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a Colombo-based non-profit scientific research organisation.
The farmers in this cooperative used solar power to run irrigation pumps for their fields and sell the surplus energy generated from the solar panels to Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Ltd (MGVCL), a leading power distribution company in the state.
It’s been two years since the cooperative started and the farmers of the DSUUSM have become solar entrepreneurs in their own right.
It has transformed life in the village as farmers now buy water from them at half the price they shelled out when they used diesel pumps.
According to The Hindu, Udaysinh Chawda, a farmer, had invested Rs 54,000 two years ago for solar panels, pumps and a micro-grid. Although it pinched his budget, he was enthusiastic about the experiment. It bore fruit and income jumped from Rs 30,000 a year to Rs 1,30,000 today.
Solar entrepreneur and DSUUSM Secretary, Parvin Parmar’s wife, Daksha, told the publication that even a few years ago she had to walk a kilometre every day to a canal to wash clothes and fill water pots from handpumps. “Now there’s always water at home,” she says, with relief. Even the television is functional. The family invested in cows with the profits they earned. Daksha now makes Rs 500-600 a day, selling milk to the Amul dairy cooperative.
A senior fellow at IWMI, Tushar Shah, says that the solar cooperative has impacted Dhundi’s economy positively. It has inspired a similar cooperative in Anand district’s Mujkuva village. There are 21 million diesel and electric pumps in India that can be replaced by solar pumps. “If these are connected to the grid, it would increase farmer incomes, reduce the subsidy burden on electricity distribution companies, curb over-use of groundwater, and reduce carbon footprints,” concludes Shah.
Solar power is a cost-effective and sustainable solution for water and electrical needs. The success story of Dhundi has inspired many villages to replicate the same.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)