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Can Chhattisgarh Further Equity, Prosperity, and Sustainability Through Solar Pumps?

Indications from a Beneficiaries’ Survey

Anas Rahman and Abhishek Jain
September 2021 | Energy Access

Suggested citation: Rahman, Anas and Abhishek Jain. 2021. Can Chhatisgarh Further Equity, Prosperity, and Sustainability Through Solar Pumps? Indications from a Beneficiaries’ Survey. New Delhi: Council on Energy, Environment and Water. 

Overview

This study examines Chhattisgarh’s solar pump programme - the Saur Sujala Yojana - to understand the profiles of its beneficiaries. Understanding who is benefiting from the government support would enable informed policymaking to improve the sustainability of solar pumps. The study is based on a baseline survey of 773 beneficiaries of the scheme, which captures information on irrigation options, cropping patterns and farm income before installing the pump. The study proposes measures to ensure equitable access and just economic support for marginalised farmers and sustainable groundwater use.

Key Findings

  • Chhattisgarh’s success in targeting Scheduled Tribes (ST) farmers, who are among the most marginalised in irrigation access, is a crucial lesson for other states. About 60 per cent of the solar pumps were deployed by ST farmers. Targeting strategies including village-level targeting and differentiated subsidy policies. However, failure to include other marginalised communities like Scheduled Castes (SC) shows that community-specific targeting strategies are needed.
  • The state has done remarkably well in ensuring equitable access, with  90 per cent of small and marginal farmers reporting better access to irrigation through solar pumps.
  • In terms of prior irrigation access, more than 72 per cent of the farmers either did not have any irrigation option or depended on costly options like diesel pumps. But almost 23 per cent of beneficiaries enjoy subsidised grid power.

About 72 per cent of the beneficiaries targeted under SSY Phase IV currently do not have access to affordable irrigation access.

About 72 per cent of the beneficiaries targeted under SSY Phase IV currently do not have access to affordable irrigation access

Source: Authors’ analysis of the survey data

  • Women continue to be excluded from the solar pump schemes. Keeping land title as the eligibility criteria for the scheme perpetuates the existing inequities in the ownership of agricultural assets.
  • Having access to irrigation affects the crop yield differently for different crops. Access to irrigation benefits paddy cultivators by mitigating risks from deficit rainfall. On the other hand, horticulture crops show a marked difference in yield with and without irrigation access.

Access of irrigation has significant impact on yields of less water-intensive crop.

Access of irrigation has significant impact on yields of less water-intensive crop

Source: Authors’ analysis of the survey data

  • Analysing the usage pattern of subsidised electric pumps, which has a very similar cost structure to solar pumps, we estimate that the annual usage of solar pumps would not be more than 100 days on average.
  • Accounting for the increase in the diesel prices recently, we estimate that the upfront contribution for solar pumps is just two seasons worth of irrigation cost. There is ample scope to reduce the current subsidy rate (about 90 per cent).
  • While the overall groundwater situation in the state is quite good, there are indications of irrigation intensity driving an increase in the pump capacities. In areas with lower water tables, the average capacity of solar pumps per acre is much higher. In future, this may lead to a vicious cycle of groundwater depletion.

Key Recommendations

  • Increase coordination between the implementing agency and other stakeholders like the discom and agriculture departments to improve targeting.
  • Make policies to specifically target women farmers and women self-help groups in order to overcome gender-related bias.
  • Promote solar pump use with less-water-intensive crops to unlock more benefits for the farmers.
  • Promote new models to capitalise on prevailing farmer behaviours to encourage the use of the asset to run other machinery such as those used for chaff cutting, grain milling, food processing, etc. . About 29 per cent of pumps are installed adjoining the pump owner’s homestead, making it easy to deploy such machinery.
  • Facilitate financing options in partnership with financial institutions to continue targeting low-income farmers.
  • Work with other stakeholders and promote holistic development of the scheme by focusing on crop diversification, water-efficient practices and groundwater recharging.
Women continue to be excluded from the solar pump schemes. Keeping land title as the eligibility criteria for the scheme perpetuates the existing inequities in the ownership of agricultural assets.

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