Sustainable solar irrigation in East India

A sensitisation Program consisting of both men and women farmers organized for training on operation of solar pumps and subsidy schemes in East India. The group sits on the floor in a circle on a colourful blanket, wearing traditional Indian clothing and listening to a trainer sitting in the middle of the group.
  • Country: India
  • Organisation: Environment Conservation Society (SwitchON Foundation)
  • Support area: Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions
  • IKI funding: 80,017 euros
  • Project start: 01/08/2021
  • Project end: 31/07/2023
  • Website:

Despite the fact that solar water pumping systems have been promoted in India for over 2 decades their current share in agricultural production is only about 0.5-1%. The current use of mainly diesel-powered pumps leads to increased CO2 emissions.

The IKI Small Grants project aims to generate both awareness and demand for solar water pumps in order to provide small holder farmers with necessary and sustainable equipment. Awareness campaigns, training workshops and seminars are carried out to upscale the knowledge on solar pumps and micro irrigation across East India. The project mobilizes farmers, youth entrepreneurs, financial institutions, and policy makers to act as advocates for solar pumping systems. It supports the actual adoption of solar pumps, including local subsidy schemes.  Farmers are granted lower interest rates for purchasing solar water pumps that are provided by an innovative revolving fund system drawn with partnering banks.


Although India is socially and economically highly dependent on agriculture, small-scale farmers rarely have access to functioning and effective irrigation systems. Moreover, most of the irrigation systems that are available are diesel-fuelled. The use of diesel irrigation pumps in India has so far resulted in the release of large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers in East India have been sceptical of taking up solar pumps due to small land holding and higher initial cost.


The project targets small-scale farmers in rural areas and micro-suppliers of water, with special attention to female farmers.



SwitchON aims towards a renewable energy shift in the agricultural sector of India by raising awareness and making solar pumps more accessible.

The advantages of solar-powered water pumps are threefold: They provide clean energy access while at the same time reduce CO2 emissions. Through their innovative micro irrigation systems solar pumps also increase agricultural production and thus farmers’ income levels. Lastly, the pumps are sustainable and are already paid off after the first year of deployment.

The IKI Small Grants project focuses on trainings and awareness creation for solar-powered water pumps. It provides information on the use and acquisition of solar pumps and envisions an increasing demand for solar pumps on the policy level as well as on the grassroot level. Also, it promotes a sustainable, market-oriented business model for solar water management.

SwitchON carries out large awareness rising campaigns, including print and media campaigns. Trucks with solar pump mascots and logos are driving on the streets of West Bengal.

The project trains especially marginalized and female farmers in small workshops to gain knowledge on the advantages of solar pumping technology and subsidy schemes. In the long-term they will be able to further disseminate their knowledge to other farmers in peer-to-peer learning sessions. They also visit sites with solar pumps and participate in a training on available subsidy schemes and the process of loan applications. As immediate outputs, the project installs 150 solar-powered irrigation pumps.

The project improves the financing of solar-powered water pumps through (insured) microcredits for small farmers with established banks. So far, bankers have not considered solar pumps to be an investment ready technology because of their lack of exposure and experience in the renewable energy sector. To tackle concerns, SwitchON offers a Guarantee Fund to build confidence in lending among financial institutions. Partnering banks are informed by exposure visits, to model farmers, who have seen good agricultural productivity over the years and are able to pay back their loans. SwitchON further conducts due-diligence of farmers before the finalization of loans.


IKI Small Grants supports the SwitchON Foundation with capacity development measures on an organisational level regarding:

  • Project Management
  • Communication Skills/Lobbying
  • Quantitative and Qualitative Data collection/ Research
    The capacity development measures for SwitchON are accompanied by GIZ India.


Established in 2008, Environment Conservation Society (SwitchON Foundation) is a registered non-governmental organisation dedicated to work towards equitable and sustainable development. It promotes clean energy access, sustainable agribusiness and capacity building to enhance rural livelihoods and holistic wellbeing of marginalised communities across Eastern India.


In May 2022, SwitchON presented its project and some of the current project highlights in a virtual meeting with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. After sharing background information of their work, SwitchON team members gave insights into the practical implementation by visiting some female smallholder farmers with their newly installed solar powered waterpump. For the implementation of the project, SwitchON is working closely with GIZ India office, which is providing technical and organisational support.

Here you can find further information about the project:

  • Report on Powering Agriculture – Community based Solar Pump: here
  • Micro Solar Pumps for Women Farmers (MSP4WF) on International Water Management Institute (IWMI: here
  • Farmers of the state are all-praise about solar-powered pumps which have redefined agricultural work for them in a cost-effective manner: here