Anantapur is the largest district of Andhra Pradesh. It is hot, rocky and arid, with the second lowest rainfall in India (542 mm per year).
Several government and private initiatives have made inroads into resolving the predicament of the farmers who are always fighting a perpetual drought as far as farming is concerned. Recognizing the potential of solar energy here, the government and non-profit organizations like the Rural Development Trust (RDT) have dipped into technologies offered by Tata Power Solar (TPS) and other renewable energy providers to alter the conditions faced by the rural community here, as they are off the electricity grid.
In 2005, TPS began supplying the solar water pump range to the villages that came under RDTís scheme, to facilitate pumping water for drip irrigation. Usually, 2-3 farmers share a pump with families pooling their land and resources. Each pump powers drip irrigation for 10-15 acres of land.
Dorigallu VillageIn 2000, 43 families from this village approached governmental and non-governmental agencies to help them improve their yields and come out from under the burdens of debt and poverty. 10,000 mango saplings were distributed among the families, with an intercrop of groundnuts and red gram in the 30 foot area between the mango trees. To grow these crops, the farmers had to bring water from long distances and water each plant separately. By 2004, there was no water for an area of 5km around the village, and by 2006, even the reservoir of the small Yogi Vemana project was not enough for their needs.
Tata Power Solar supplied 7 solar pumps to draw water for the drip irrigation systems donated to the families. The mango trees are now 10 years old, and their yield is bountiful.
From barren browns to refreshing greens, the colour of Dorigallu village has changed with solar enabled irrigation.
Sriram Reddy and his brothers, Gopal Reddy and Ramakrishna Reddy take turns to clean the solar equipment they share. Now, the Reddysí combined income is Rs 2.5 lakhs per year from just their mango crop.
Mallay reaches out for a mango, among the many trees that have flourished on his land.
Chinna Venkatappa clears weeds in the patch where his precious solar panels reside on his 14 acres of land, upon which he grows a thousand mango plants.
Apart from growing fruit, the agrarian villagers herd goats and rear cattle for a living.
There was a time when the people of Dorigallu would stop to look at these strange blue panels with wonder. Now they walk confidently by.
The solar panels are the villageís most valuable asset. At night, villagers take turns to sleep in stilted bamboo huts to protect the panels from thieves and themselves from snakes and foxes.
Channarayunipalli Village30 years ago, the government gave nine landless families about 25 acres of land and fruit saplings. But the land was stony, hilly and dry. In 2007, TPS supplied them with a solar pump set to facilitate the drip irrigation system donated by RDT. In 2011, the first crop yielded a total of Rs 9,000. By 2012, the villagers were earning Rs 20,000 between the nine families. The simple addition of a TPS pump instead of a diesel generator not only turned the fortunes of the families around, but did so with zero fuel expenses.Community and progress
Mr Sardanappa, RDTís social technical organiser, meets the villages of Channarayunipalli regularly to discuss new methodologies for farming, offering advice on the upkeep of their indispensable solar panels.
Less than a decade ago, the land was rocky and arid. Today itís a picture of hope.
In the shade of her mango plantation, Nagamma looks ahead to a future of certainty.
Groundnut is the perfect intercrop for the land that bears fruits like mangoes, sapota and jamun.
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Shekshanipalli VillageThe landless families who live in this village had been granted 5 acres of land each by the government but were finding it difficult to make a profit from its yield. In 2011, they were supplied with solar pumps, of which seven were from TPS. This helped tremendously to increase their crop yield and profits.
A farm in the region that is yet to embrace solar power pumps and drip irrigation.
Villagers walk to the village pump every day to collect water for their homes.
Prasadís family was among the first few that benefited from solar pumps, which they share to irrigate their combined 9.8 acres of land. Besides growing mango, sapota and jamun, they have a one acre banana plantation and half an acre of vegetables. In between the fruit planting, groundnuts are grown as a supplementary crop.
Maruthamma, Prasadís wife, holds up the home front, including taking care of her three daughters, the youngest of whom,Pallavi is just 7 months old.
Pullamma is Prasadís mother. Besides him, she has two daughters, both of whom have married into good families since their fortunes began to change.