Solar pumping for agricultural production

The problem

Because of climate change rainfall has reduced in this region of Bolivia. So, despite living close to close to Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, local farmers were struggling to grow successful crops.

Practical Action has helped this community build an irrigation system, with a high powered pump that uses both solar and grid energy. This means water can be pumped for irrigation over a wide area throughout the year at low cost. 

What we’re doing to help

Objective: Access to powered irrigation for improved agricultural production

Solar pumping for irrigation in the Lake Titicaca region of Bolivia

Location:  Huatapampa, Manco Kapac province, La Paz, Bolivia
Project date: July 2016 to February 2017
Partners: Green Empowerment
Principal funders: Christadelphian
Funding: $40,096.00

The objective of this project is to improve the living conditions, economic opportunities and nutrition of the Huatapampa community through access to irrigation and training in agroecological practices.  This will be achieved with the installation of a hybrid system for pumping water.  This will be used to irrigate their traditional terraces.

The project has installed the following equipment:

  • A hybrid pumping system with a 900 watt photovoltaic array and a submersible pump with an average pumping rate of 0.5 litres per second,
  • A 5.7 metre deep shallow well with a recharge flow of 2 litres per second
  • A gravity irrigation system with storage tank with a capacity of 20 m3 to reach 1 hectare
  • 14 shunting chambers with water meters
  • 40 square metre greenhouse with a drip irrigation system.
  • Backpack spraying kits and garden tools and seeds

In additon to training in maintenance for this equipment, members of the community have undertaken training in:

  • Crop diversification
  • Organic fertilizers
  • Vegetable production
  • Installation, maintenance and use of greenhouse drip irrigation system 

As a result of this project farmers have increased the yields. They are also trying out new crops such as carrot, pumpkin, tomato and broccoli, to improve their diet and to sell.

Community greenhouse

Hilda Pucho looks after the community greenhouse.  She underwent horticultural training with the project and, with the support of her colleagues, makes sure the crops are healthy and well watered.

The greenhouse has drip irrigation and the soil is enclosed in planks to hold in the water. Here they grow the seedlings to plant out on the terraces.

Others in the community have been trained to operate and maintain the pumping system to ensure that it keeps working. Using the profits gained from selling their new crops, the community intends to install a second pump that will help yet more people cope with the changing climate. 

Community Association president, Zenobio Pucho explained that the community are keen to share their new expertise:

“Surrounding communities are already asking about this.  I am not selfish, I want other communities to be able to work the same way we do. I think it's an example for the communities of the lake. If someone asks us we are going to give them all the information they need of how we did it.” 

Local government departments in neighbouring municipalities are now investigating how they might replicate this system.

Find out more

Solar Photovoltaic Water Pumping

Outlines the advantages and disadvantages of solar water pumping

Find out more

More information on this project on our Latin America site (in Spanish)

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