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Solar Irrigation Pumps: A New Way of Agriculture in Bangladesh

Mehrin Ahmed Mahbub's picture
Solar Irrigation Pumps in Bangladesh
Habibur shares a content smile as he tends to his rice field. Photo Credit: World Bank

On a recent field trip to northern Bangladesh, the smiles of Habibur, a young man working in a rice field under the scotching sun caught my attention. Habibur, 28, looked content amidst the wide green vista of fields.  
I learned that his life had not been easy. His father died when Habibur was around four years old, and the family had no land. His young widowed mother started working as a day laborer to raise her only child. Habibur began working too in his mid-teens. Mother and son struggled, but they managed to save some money.  They first bought a cow, and later Habibur leased land for rice cultivation. This is a common practice in rural Bangladesh, where the yield is divided between the farmer and the owner of the land.

Still, life was hard. For rice cultivation, timely irrigation is vital – even missing one day can severely affect crop quality and yield. Habibur and other farmers in his village depended on expensive diesel generators for irrigation. Accessing these was a challenge. Sometimes, Habibur had to spend days in the local bazaar to get the pumps. On top of the rent, he had to pay for the transportation and the diesel fuel.  Often the diesel price hiked in the local market, and he had to pay more than the government approved rate. He had to transport the generator to the field and submerge himself in mud to make the diesel pump operational. The farmers had to stay at the field day and night to guard the pump, and to ensure the irrigation.

Solar Irrigation Pumps in Bangladesh
The solar pump near Habibur's land now covers around 12 hectares of land and provides 500,000 liters of water daily. Photo Credit: World Bank
In October 2015, solar-powered irrigation reached Habibur’s locality. The solar pump near his land now covers around 12 hectares of land and provides 500,000 liters of water daily.  Habibur and 28 other farmers share the cost of a single irrigation pump that waters their fields. Their irrigation cost has dropped almost by half.
But, the real benefit goes much deeper. Solar irrigations pumps are improving quality of life for the farmers in Bangladesh. They now have more spare time for other productive purposes. For irrigation, Habibur just notifies the lineman of the solar pumps, and water flows to his entire field. Gone are the days of uncertainty and hard labor to ensure the water supply. Now, he just checks the field twice a day to ensure irrigation, when he visits to collect grass for his cows.  With the savings, he has bought more cows, and he has time to care for his cattle. He also has more time to be with his eight-month-old daughter. Meanwhile, the private sponsor of the solar pump in Habibur’s village has identified other bottlenecks to a good crop. The sponsor provides a complete solution, also renting power tillers, as plowing the field is a prerequisite for irrigation.

Following Bangladesh’s success in expanding solar home systems to provide electricity in rural areas, the World Bank is supporting the government’s effort to install 1,250 solar-powered irrigation pumps by 2018. The low-cost technology is well suited for the country’s flat terrain and abundant sunshine.The Rural Electrification and Renewable Energy Development Project II (RERED II) is piloting solar-powered irrigation solutions using a public-private partnership model. The implementing agency, Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) channels grant and credit funding to the nongovernment organizations and private investors who install the solar pumps. So far, about 300 pumps are in operation benefitting more than 8,000 farmers. They are more affordable and easier to install than traditional systems. They have no moving parts, function without noise or pollution, and require little maintenance. Even better, the country will be able to reduce 5,000 tons of carbon emissions per year once all the 1250 pumps are in operation.
Today Bangladesh spends around $900 million each year for a million tons of diesel fuel for irrigation. Scaling up solar-powered irrigation will save foreign exchange significantly.
In addition to the World Bank, the Bangladesh Climate Change Resilience Fund (BCCRF), Global Partnership on Output Based Aid (GPOBA), and U.S Agency for International Aid (USAID) have provided financing for the solar irrigation pumps.


Submitted by Syed Hye on

Thanks for sharing this feature. Solar-powered irrigation solutions using a public-private partnership model is a fantastic idea. I think, electronic media needs to pick up such story and spread it to the farmers and beneficiaries. It needs to move in a larger scale (not pilot basis), This initiative is climate friendly and use natural resources.

Submitted by Saiful on

It's depends on water requirements & cultivation area. Dual system shallow 2000-3500$. 4 to 6 inches deep 15000 to 35000$

Submitted by Mohammad Anwer on

Respected Sir, Madam,

I the undersigned Mohammad Anwer Baloch from Pakistan Karachi city I am an agriculturist and also join school duty as a teacher. I want help for our farmers , because a lot of land available for cultivating but there is a big crisis of electricity, because our farmer and landlord want solar facility as a install .Can you Sir solve problem. I hope you will take action for solve for their problem.


Dear Anwar,

Thanks for your concern. Solar Irrigation is making a difference for farmers in Bangladesh. Farmers in Pakistan can benefit from it too. Please contact the Ministry of Agriculture in Pakistan.


Submitted by Deepak Dhungel on

Love to read a very diplomatic answer. This is an another irony that all the ministries in the third world are away from the reach of poor farmers in general. With some exception, this situation simply guarantee that the poor farmer will remain poor in a given situation. BTW best wishe's for the successful endeavors.

Submitted by Md Nazimul Haque on

GTS solar is innovative solar manufacturing industries of Bangladesh. We producing low cost solar irrigation pump for reasonable for farmer. We can supply this pump for your area.

Submitted by Dr. Abu Syed on

Dear Mr. Anwar, There is an excellent system developed by Dr. Bashir Ahmad and his team at
Climate, Energy and Water Resources Institute(CEWRI), National Agricultural Research Center (NARC)
NIH, Shehzad Town, Park Road, Islamabad, Pakistan, Tel: +92-51-9255806, +92-51-90763631,
Mob: +92-333-5487506. I know that Pakistan Govt. and ADB has already agreed to expand the system elsewhere in Pakistan. Please contact Dr. Bashir. he may be able to install the Solar pumping system there at your place from his program.

Submitted by Dheeraj Goyal on

Solar water pumps are quickly replacing the existing diesel pumps and are the new best friends of the farmers, especially in Asian and African countries. Costs of a solar pumping system depends upon a lot of variables like, (Total dynamic head, water discharge per day, solar irradiance data, hydro & geological conditions of the location etc.).

Submitted by md. Nazrul Islam on

আমি সোলার সিস্টেমের 7.5 HP একটি সেচ প্রকল্প তৈরি করতে চাই, আমাকে কত টাকা খরচ করতে হবে এবং কোথায় যোগাযোগ করলে সহজে পাব জানাবেন কি?
Trans:I would like the solar system 7.5 HP to create an irrigation project, how much money to I have to spend and who should I contact?

Submitted by Yennon Louis on

Thanks for your meaningful project. We are interested to use your solar irrigation. How can we benefit this project ? Our NGO MESAM, cares for more than 400 mentally ill patients, in our régions,Bouake and Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast, West Africa. We do farming to feed, cloth and buy medication for these patients but due to the lack of good seeds and agricultural materials, we cann't meet the needs of all of them.Thanks for you positive reponse,Yennon Louis Coordinator,+225.5810.6040.

Submitted by Vartika Jaini on

Very interesting to read about this project and experience. In what I have seen in India, solar pumps are not replacing but complementing diesel pumps or vice versa. This may well be true of the story above because otherwise 5 lakh litres for paddy cultivation in 12 ha may not be adequate. Impact of solar should not be seen as replacement of diesel... maybe then we will actually start getting stories and data of actual users by farmers.

Submitted by Tapas Dhali on

Dear Sir,
I have invented an auto irrigation device that will be operated automatically by the moisture content present in soil. I have a fishery project of around 13 acres of land. Now I want to irrigate my pondside vegetable plants through drip irrigation using my device by using solar energy. plz help me knowing the primary solar system cost..
Regards- Tapas Dhali, an Agriculturist, an investment banker.

Submitted by Wilhemina on

2 millimeter thick, polyethylene plastic, and clearly labeled.

Usually, the stainless steel pipe of type 304 is commonly used, because its chemical-and-corrosion-resistant. You may leave this part on your demolition contractor London, if you are hiring quite a reputed and experienced controlled demolition services provider company.

Submitted by Md. Gias Uddin Khan on

It will be very helpful to me if any one kindly let me know the area of Bangladesh (district) where it has already been installed. Thank You.

Submitted by Md. Enamul Karim Pavel on

You can find solar irrigation pumps mainly in the northern and south-western parts of Bangladesh. The districts are Rangpur, Gaibandha, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Kustia, Meherpur, Jessore, Satkhira and few others.

Submitted by Anonymous on


Submitted by Roy Gacasan on

Thnx for sharing. Please also share & post in your FB account the engineering plans & details of the solar pumps. Thnx again.

Submitted by নুরুল ইসলাম on

আমি বহুবার ইডকল এর সাথে যোগাযোগ করেছি কিন্তুু ইডকল আমাকে তেমন সাহায্য করে নাই যে মোবাইল নং দেওয়া হলো মি মতিন সাহেব উনি কোঅপারেশন করে না।

Submitted by Mpeli on

What is the head and suction of these pumps? What is the cost of such a system including cabling and panels for a requirement of some 12 acres?

Submitted by ak azad on

I want to install solar pump with 15kw panel . how I can buy all products of the pump. please help me.
My phone no 01925083672

Submitted by Tom Smith on

Thanks for this article. I am interested to know what technology enables a PV/electric pumping solution to have "no moving parts". All PV-electric pumps I am aware of have impellers or helical rotors. Is this a new technology?

Submitted by Arshad on

My name is Arshad from pakistan Province KPK and District Hangu. We want a proper mechanism and methodology for the installation of the systems of Solar Tube well for irrigation purpose. Solar Tube well is very beneficiary for the farmers in Pakistan. Pakistan is a country where electricity load shedding is an issue which causes lack of water for crops.

Submitted by Adourd Aleo Modhu on

It is my commitment to help to poor farmers in my area through using solar energy in order to reduce cost of paddy cultivation and make profitable agriculture. I am seeking fund and technical supports.

All are requested in the sector to help us regarding this issue.

Thanking for your kind and willing supports

Adourd Aleo Modhu
ED- Poverty Reduction Initiatives-PRI
Gopalgonj, Bangladesh

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Submitted by Femi on

Hi, I've enjoyed reading this article and very impressed with the development, installation and operation of a solar powered pump for emerging markets. You will appreciate that the cost of fuel, equipment maintenance takes the biggest slice of 55% of the cost of production for smallholder farmers particularly in Nigeria. I'll be happy if a pilot of this scheme can be implemented in northern Nigeria as a proof of concept towards reducing poverty, increasing take home income for smallholder farmers, food security and job creation especially during the dry season and complementary irrigation during the wet season as the rainfall averages about 600mm/annum. Its a sure way towards achieving sustainable development goals. Please feel free to contact me for a pilot project in Nigeria. Thank you

Submitted by Md. Rafiqul Islam on

I think it is a dynamic project for the agriculture development in Bangladesh. I am a NGO worker ,Working at Muradnagar Upazila of Comilla district,I would like to scaling up this project in my working area for the greater interest of our community farmers. what can I do

Submitted by Aminu on

The Bangladesh revolution in solar system application in small and medium farming is really desirable and suit our need for efficient and cost effective irrigation projects.

We are interested in rice irrigation farming of 10 -20 hectares and the major challenge we experienced is the high cost of pumping water with diesel water pumps, maintenance and manning of the pumps. We have been seeking for an effective solar irrigation system solution that would improve our efficiency and profitability in cultivating our irrigation farm. The Bangladesh experience and their solar irrigation project solution seems similar to our challenges and needs. We will like to know the estimated cost of the solar irrigation system and installation for cultivation of 10 - 20 hectares of rice farm; manufacturers and suppliers of the solar pump equipments and installation. We are also in need of technical support and partners to improve our capacity, efficiency and profitability.

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