Duck rice, water wheels and electricity from cow manure


July 30th, 2015

This is my third blog from Nepal, written at the airport in Kathmandu waiting for my flight back home. It’s always great to visit our programmes and catch up with our staff. Here in Nepal people are gradually picking up again after the earthquakes and life seems to be getting back to normal, at least for those who were not too badly affected by the events of April and May. Our staff all seem in good heart and very busy.

I was pleased to be able to talk technology and innovation with colleagues while I was in Nepal, and see some examples of it on the ground during field visits. Here’s a taster; although I’m pretty both of the following two examples have been blogged on by others, I can’t resist!

Ducks doing their stuff in a rice field

Ducks doing their stuff in a rice field

Duck rice (or rice duck, depending on your view point!). Practical Action believes in an agroecological approach to food production. That means finding ways of helping smallholder farmers boost production and maybe create surpluses for sale without having to resort to expensive and unsustainable inputs such as chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. This initiative is a great example of such an approach. The practice was originally seen by one of our staff during a visit to Japan, so he thought he would try it out here. Two ideas are involved. Firstly, planting rice in lines and a greater spacing than normal. Farmers in Nepal generally plant rice seedlings out in paddy fields in a random pattern and quite close together. Counterintuitively, spacing rice seedlings further apart increases the yield as the plants have more room to grow. Introducing small ducklings to paddy fields provides an added bonus, provided the lines are far enough apart to let the ducks swim around. The ducks graze on weeds and eat insects and pests while at the same time depositing their guano in the water, fulfilling the functions of fertiliser, weed and pest control without a dose of chemicals in sight! This is the third year we’ve been trying this out and 1000 farmers have now adopted the technique. Rice yields are up an average of 13% and incomes up 50% (because the ducks are ready to sell to market by the time the rice is harvested). Very simple but very effective.

Bio gas being cleaned (green cylinder) and then fed to generator

Bio gas being cleaned (green cylinder) and then fed to generator

Bio gas from cows has been blogged on many times on this website. But at one dairy cooperative farm in Chitwan District we’ve gone further and, by using a simple device to remove the sulphur and moisture from the biogas, we’ve been able to use it to fuel a generator to produce electricity top run a milking machine and lights. The cooperative is also taking gas from the plant to heat a boiler which produces the steam used to pasteurise the milk, saving thousands of Rupees a month as a result of not having to buy of firewood.

 

 

Water wheel irrigation pump under test

Water wheel irrigation pump under test

And third and finally, we’re testing out a new low lift water pump in the West of Nepal for irrigation. The pump is basically a modern waterwheel designed to be tethered in river and lift water from the river up to 20 metres into a storage pond, from which it can be sent by pipe to sprinklers or drip irrigation systems for high value vegetables and winter crops.

Three inspiring uses of technology or technical knowledge in our Nepal programme!

 

Leave a reply