Meet the team: Ganga Acharya
In Nepal, Renewable World has installed 29 Solar-powered Water Pumps (called Solar MUS) in rural villages across districts that lack access to water resources. Often community members had to carry water from its source up hill to the village – an extremely strenuous journey. With the installation of Solar MUS, water was pumped directly into the village, cutting back on the time and effort needed to collect water, and providing surplus for irrigating crops during the dry season.
Renewable World has two Regional Officers who are based in our project districts and work at the community level to deliver the Solar MUS projects. One of them is Ganga Acharya from Chitwan. Ganga has a degree with diploma in Civil Engineering from the Western Regional Campus of Nepal and 20 years of working experience in the field of renewable energy as well as with several NGOs. He joined our team on the 19th January 2015 (he actually remembers the exact date!), where he worked to help deliver our Solar MUS, Biogas, Hydraulic Ram Pump and other water pumping projects.
As Regional Officer, Ganga is responsible for seven to eight projects at a time and moves to each region depending on where he is needed. After working in Syangja, he is currently again located in Surkhet near Nepalgunj in the Midwest of Nepal 106 km far from Southern border where Ganga has worked for nearly two years when he joined the Renewable World team. In Nepalgunj, temperatures can reach 46 degrees, he told us last year, making sleep impossible.
“After two o’clock in the night we could sleep slightly”, he said, laughing. In a more serious manner he added – revealing his enthusiasm and how focused he is –: “But I was fully devoted to the work, I did not think about that.”
Ganga works with many different local NGOs (LNGOs) at the field level, helping us to deliver the project. His area of responsibility is wide-ranging, including several tasks for each project. As a first step, he must mobilize and convince the community; explain the project, the technology, the duties as well as opportunities this encompasses. For this to work, Ganga must get to know each community.
Our project in Nepal follows an innovative financing approach supporting communities to raise their own funds. Household users pay a monthly fee for water based on their metered use. A water user committee is established to own and manage the Solar MUS going forward, and is key to ensuring the whole community is actively involved in the project. An essential part of Ganga’s job is the facilitation of the tariff setting in a community – a difficult process. “It takes time”, Ganga told us. It is important to educate the community on why a certain amount of money needs to be collected and what the benefits of solar energy are. Community members do not have any previous knowledge of solar technology; hence it is crucial to explain members how to use it properly. Ganga provides the community members with the necessary training, so that they feel adequately prepared. He also holds public audits with the community where members can talk openly about concerns and the work they have done. There, Ganga keeps record of how much members invested in money, labor, material and, generally, time.
As Regional Officer, Ganga monitors the whole project, makes sure everything works smoothly, and is always ready if a problem occurs. He is the connection between our local partners and the Renewable World’s head office in Kathmandu. Ganga constantly reports back to the head office and gathers relevant information to help the project team making decisions such as the use of the most appropriate and effective technology for each village.
Ganga is incredibly passionate about new and eco-friendly technologies. He told us that he always wants to improve his knowledge and get better at what he is doing. No surprise he was especially excited when we tested the Papa Pump for the first time as a pilot project. The water pump is based on a valve system, using no fuel, powered by kinetic energy only.
Working as Regional Officer in Nepal, one of the key features you have to bring with you is to be very flexible: Ganga travels a lot – leads a life on the road. In a week, he travels two to three sites at least. Some of the villages, however, cannot even be reached by train or bus. In these cases, Ganga has to walk up to 10 hours. Always with him: his camera. “I always take pictures of everywhere I am.” Due to his projects being spread all over the Midwest of Nepal, Ganga cannot see his wife and two sons all too often. He sees them once a month, it became a ritual, he told us. Talking about his work with his sons, he, in fact, speaks in English with them: “I want them to keep practicing.” When asked what his most enjoyable part of the job is, his answer is rather simple:
“When the water is [finally] pumping, and people are happy.” Ganga is convinced that the projects are making a difference for the communities. When talking with Ganga, it is striking how energetic and motivated he is all the time. “I’m always thinking how to make a project efficient and sustainable in the long run.”