In July 2016, GRID Alternatives’ International Program volunteers installed a solar-powered drip irrigation system on the small farm of the Cruz family in Jinotega, Nicaragua. Volunteers installed a solar-powered water pump that moves water from a water source into a tank, and then gravity moves the water through the tubes to the plants drip by drip.
GRID volunteers worked with farmers Boanerges and Luisa Cruz to mount solar panels to power a water pump, along with installing the entire irrigation system including preparing the water storage tank, digging trenches for the irrigation tubes, wiring the load controller and mounting the PV modules. The drip irrigation system provides water for fruit and vegetable crops to help improve the lives of the Cruz family by increasing crop production, saving time, and increasing income.
Small farmers in Nicaragua face a number of challenges. Many farmers rely on diesel-powered or gasoline-powered motors to pump water to their crops, which is very costly, polluting, and time consuming for the farmer to travel to obtain fuel. Those who cannot afford a generator, irrigate their crops by hauling water in buckets by hand from a well or nearby river. In both cases, watering crops in the dry season is difficult due to the hot climate and lack of water accessibility, limiting the farmer’s annual yield.
Connecting to grid electricity is not an option for most farmers either because the electric grid is not nearby or because the electric company charges farmers a higher commercial rate if the electricity is used for irrigation.
By using solar-powered drip irrigation systems, farmers can save money, use water more efficiently, increase crop yields, reduce local pollution, add more locally produce to the market, improve the quality of their lives by having more disposable income to send their children to school, make improvements to their home, and get their crops to the local market faster.
While in the rural community, the group participated in cultural activities to better understand the “campesino” way of life, such as learning how to make tortillas, or rosquillas, a popular corn-based desert. Before and after the installation, volunteers traveled to other cities and regions to experience aspects of Nicaraguan food, music and culture.
To see photos from this project, click here.