Three days in Syangja with Renewable World

8th January 2016

In September 2015, Christin Herber, joined the Renewable World Nepal team as a short-term volunteer on our Solar MUS II project. Christin has a Masters in Environmental and Energy Management and a degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Flensburg. She has a background in renewable energy project management as large-scale solar PV projects. After 5 years as a consultant in that field, Christin was looking for a new challenge and a different approach to implement renewable energy systems and so chose to apply her skill sin Nepal, a country still recovering from the 2015 earthquakes.

“In my personal opinion energy should be accessible to everyone, everywhere, independent of geographical location or status to allow a solid personal and economic development. I believe small-scale, decentralized renewable energy systems are ideal in that regard, specifically in rural regions, where energy often is still scarcely available. This combined with Nepal being gravely impacted by the earthquakes in April and May 2015 drove me to take work leave and come as a volunteer to Renewable World, Kathmandu office.”

Christin wrote this blog following her trip to visit one of Renewable World’s existing Solar powered water pumping project sites as well as three Hydram project sites.

21 to 24 September 2015

Author: Christin Herber

I am Christin Herber and I joined Renewable World as a volunteer 10 days ago. Having worked for 5 years as a technical consultant for large-scale PV plants across the globe, I came to Nepal with the aim to do something different and was fortunate enough to join the Renewable World team in Kathmandu and give some support to the new Solar MUS (multiple use waster system) project.

After a day in the office, getting to know the team and an insight into the working life of RW, I was thrilled to hear that the coming week was all about site visits and hands on experience in the field – Was I allowed to join? Oh yes, indeed! I was happy. So on Tuesday morning I hopped on the early bus to Pokhara, where I joined Lata (RW), Baburam (RW), Bimala (freelance videography consultant for RW) and Balkrishna (iDE) at the iDE office late in the afternoon. From there we traveled together to Putali Bazaar for the night, starting early again the next morning to travel to Thuladi to inspect the status of the Hydram (Hydralic Ram Pump) installation there.

Figure 1: The team preparing for an interview with the Hydram operator

Figure 1: The team preparing for an interview with the Hydram operator

I learnt that due to monsoon season the Hydram installation was slightly behind schedule and not yet operational. The team took their time to patiently answer my questions, whether it was a technical one or one related to the community on the benefits the Hydram for their lives. I also had the chance to see the newly built vegetable Collection Centre, get an overview of the agricultural land (dominated by rice cultivation) and an insight in to one of the farmers’ property who cultivates quite a variety of vegetable. I was following Lata and Bimala who were carrying out a focus group discussion with the women from the village and interviews with the women of different households.

Even though I don’t speak any Nepali, to me the women appeared hopeful and quite informed on the potential benefits the Hydram could to bring to the Thuladi community. I learnt from Lata afterwards that further awareness raising and capacity building was yet to be completed with the community. This included marketing of the vegetables grown and exploring the potential for income generation as well as the necessity to save money for proper operation & maintenance of the Hydram for long-term sustainability of the system. So the team will be back once the installation is running to carry out interviews and discuss with the community further.

I was struck (positively!) by the hospitality (at each home we were offered chai along with fresh vegetables & fruits), the friendliness and the warm welcome we received from Thuladi’s inhabitants. We parted with blessings in form of “tikka” and “mala”. After reaching Waling in the evening, we met for dinner with representatives of Sun Farmer as well as Practical Action delegates, introducing each other, getting to know each individual background and agreeing on the schedule for the coming day. We started in the morning to the Solar MUS I project in Sirubari, starting with a meeting with the community and introduction of the team (thanks to Lata I didn’t have to learn Nepali, but introduced myself in English and Lata kindly translated). While Lata and Bimala interviewed the households, the local representative took a group of delegates, including Baburam and myself, to visit the solar PV array, the storage tank and the pump itself. Having a look around the pump and the storage tank, my main interest was of course the PV array, which I inspected, made some notes on the actual installation and also discussed with Baburam potential improvements to be considered in the elaboration of the tender and design documents for Solar MUS II. In doing so I also got a taste of the Nepali small bees…but that is another story. Through my walk across the village, I noticed tomatoes were the main vegetable grown in Sirubari, along with almost every household owning a buffalo or a few goats. I was also shown a small biogas plant fed by goat dung and connected to a few households. The village is equipped with tap stands, one shared between 2 households, which is fed from the storage tank with water pumped by the solar powered system. I got a really good overview on the distribution system and the benefits the community gained. I also enjoyed observing Solar Farmer carrying out video interviews with many different inhabitants of the village. A small child sweetly bid us farewell as we moved on to the next site, the Hydram in Dipka.

Figure 6: A man standing under the PV solar array in Sirubary which sits high on the hillside

Figure 6: A man standing under the PV solar array in Sirubary which sits high on the hillside

This site was of particular interest to Practical Action since the Hydram has been equipped with digital meters, allowing Renewable World to measure daily water pumping and consumption levels. Bimala and Lata completed further interviews, mainly with the women and I was heartily welcomed by the community and spoilt again with chai. The drip irrigation system was successfully implemented across the agricultural surface and I observed women watering cabbage, cauliflower and even a nursery with seedlings. The appreciation of this new equipment was visible, the benefit physically available.

In the evening we set off back to Putali Bazaar for one last night (at least for me). I could sleep a bit longer while the RW team had an early meeting with the local government representatives prior to our visit to the next site. By 10am (and as I understand after a successful meeting) we were off again with four other cars to Eladi. The delegation consisted of among others, local government employees, representatives for the women empowerment, experts for sustainable forestry and irrigation systems, iDE and RW staff. While Baburam explained the Hydram to the delegation as well as answered questions raised, also by the local community, the responsible pump operator (a woman) showed the mode of operation to everyone. Having climbed down to the river where the pump was located, we headed back up the path to where the storage tank is located before being invited to the welcoming ceremony. All beneficiaries from the community were waiting to welcome the delegation with a small ceremony, a delicious lunch had been prepared for our visit which was accompanies by a cultural programme including traditional dancing. Members of the delegation made speeches, along with several community members, related to the benefits of the project or expressing their gratitude on the installed system and emphasizing the potential for the community. Luckily Baburam, Tripti and Lata helped me understand what was said (otherwise, lacking the Nepali language, I could not really have followed the speeches). Once the programme was finished and Tripti, Baburam and Lata finally started their surveys/questionnaires I left with the iDE colleagues to head back to Pokhara for a hiking weekend.

Figure 7: A lady from Dipka in beautiful Nepali dress showing how the Hydram works

Figure 7: A lady from Dipka in beautiful Nepali dress showing how the Hydram works

These few days in the Syangja district allowed me to have a real insight into the work of Renewable World. Being out in the field helped me understanding the project sites and get a gimps of the meaning of the projects to each of the local communities and their individual members and groups, while at the same time having the chance to take in the beautiful landscape of Nepal. The RW team was so patient with all the questions I had about their work, and I gained a good understanding of the social, ethnic as well as technical challenges they face as well as getting a broader view on historical and present happenings in Nepal at the moment (speaking about politics and social development within Nepal). Last but not least it allowed me also to get to know the team quite well, particularly during the adventurous car rides cozily cuddled up next to each other.

Figure 8: True Nepali hospitality is shown with “mala” and “tika”

Figure 8: True Nepali hospitality is shown with “mala” and “tika”

I enjoyed every moment of that trip, be it observing the interviews carried out and video-recorded by Bimala, sitting with a cup of “chai”, inspecting the PV plant of the Solar MUS, learning about the functionality of a Hydram or dancing with the community of Eladi. Thanks to all the team of Renewable World South Asia for making this trip possible for me and being so open about sharing their views.

Dhanyabad to Anu, Lata, Baburam, Anita and Tripti for helping me settle for the trip and during the trip. I’d love to have the chance again one day to revisit the sites with the team!

“Dhanyabad” – Thank you for having me.

“Dhanyabad” – Thank you for having me.

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