Improving livelihoods with the hydraulic ram pump in Muralibhanjyang, Nepal

November 26, 2012

Lack of power is a barrier to people being able to lift themselves out of poverty all around the world. When the choice is between spending what little money you have on food or educating your children, it is easy to see why so few children get to go to school.

Let me introduce you to Sumina. She is a mother living in the community of Muralibhanjyang in the Dhading district of Nepal in the foothills in the Himalayas. Two years ago, lack of access to water for farming meant that Sumina and her family spent much of their days collecting water and tending crops. School was almost unaffordable and all hands were needed to try to keep the family fed.

Sumina and her family were compromising on nutrition and spending precious, limited funds on seasonally high-cost foods from the market; a combination that created a cycle of decline in their quality of life.

A hydraulic ram (Hydram) pump was installed in Sumina’s community in 2011 by Renewable World partners Centre for Rural Technology Nepal (CRT-Nepal) and Rural Mutual Development (RMD). The Hydram is currently pumping 86,000 litres of water daily 45 metres uphill to a collection tank. The water then uses gravity to feed agricultural production through climate friendly micro-irrigation, as well as distributing to 14 households. These newly mobilised water resources are being used to grow a wide range of vital produce all year around; significantly increasing household incomes.

Sumina explained that her income is improving through growing and selling high-value vegetables. These earnings are making it easier to pay for her children’s education, and Sumina hopes to be able to save to continue to support their studies – she is pleased to have joined a local co-operative bank with a monthly savings scheme. With the time spent walking to the river and gathering water taken out of her day, she is able to be more productive and has more time to spend with her children. Here is a woman who is proud, informed and empowered.

There was some scepticism about the technology in the region, but this essential pilot has broken down the technology adoption barrier. In the words of one member of the community, Budhi Man Shrestha “seeing is believing, water flowing down the river can now be pumped back to the hills for agriculture”.

Community involvement has been crucial to the success and sustainability of the project. All the stakeholders have contributed with financial resources and labour. The community has a user group committee which manages the Hydram system, collecting a tariff to cover repairs and maintenance.

Director of local grassroots partner RMD, Sher Bahadur Bhandari, said:

“After seeing the benefits in Muralibhanjyang, members of seven other communities have shown great interest in utilising a Hydram in their communities”.

So what does the future look like for Sumina and the people of Muralibhanjyang? Heading into the dry winter – often called the hungry season – the Hydram will prove its true worth. The community are looking forward to growing winter crops and are now actively seeking further agricultural support services, such as soil testing to identify new cropping options; testimony to the empowerment that comes from small, sustainable improvements in livelihood options.

Sumina isn’t the only person gaining greater confidence; several other community members have recently expressed their interest in attending micro-enterprise training as they look to leverage their newly mobilised resources to support their families.

Renewable World continues to support partners like CRT and RMD, and communities like Muralibhanjyang, by facilitating appropriate, affordable technologies and business models, linked to livelihood improvements for some of the most marginalised groups in South Asia. Reflecting the collaborative spirit that is fostered in all our projects, the Muralibhanjyang community are looking forward to opening their homes to the BBC Lifeline team in January 2013.