In Bangladesh, water scarcity threatens agricultural production and the livelihoods of farmers. Inefficient irrigation practices cause huge water losses that deplete underground water reserves. In addition, the excessive use of fossil fuels in running irrigation systems leads to environmental pollution that contributes to climate change and ultimately affects the livelihoods of farmers.
To prevent water scarcity and save energy in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working with farmers to improve irrigation practices and crop production by using solar powered buried pipeline irrigation systems.
Conventional open waterways have been replaced with buried pipes to reduce water loss along transportation from water source to the fields. As a result, water reserves are less at risk of depletion and agricultural production increases.
Excessive use of fossil fuels in running irrigation systems often lead to environmental pollution. Solar powered irrigation systems have been adopted to provide reliable and affordable energy, particularly in rural areas, where cost of fossil fuel is high or where frequently occurring energy shortages cause disruption of water supply needed to irrigate fields.
SOUNDBITE (English) Rajib Mahamud, Senior Forestry Specialist, FAO, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh: “Here, we have utilized solar irrigation system which is incorporated with the buried pipe. So, the idea was to use the solar irrigation to reduce the dependency on the conventional system which depends on the fossil fuel run pumps and it contributes to climate change and contributes to the carbon emission.”
Mohammad Islam, a father of three, is cultivating more vegetables after FAO built the solar powered irrigation system. FAO provided Mohammad also with five types of vegetable seeds and training on vegetable cultivation and how to run an agribusiness. Mohammad is growing nutritious food for his family and the market, including aubergines, beans, cabbages, different varieties of gourd, radishes, red amaranth and tomatoes on previously uncultivated lands.
SOUNDBITE (Bangla) Mohammad Islam, a FAO supported farmer in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh: “Before, we had to keep a huge area of land uncultivated as vegetable or paddy cultivation was not possible. Now with the solar irrigation system, we have brought those lands under cultivation again.”
Mohammad is one of the many farmers to benefit from the first solar powered irrigation system installed by FAO. Seven more systems will be operational soon. On average, each installation will support irrigation of approximately 50 hectares of land benefitting about 100 farmers. FAO and Bangladesh’s Department of Agricultural Extension plan to replicate this initiative across the country.