Constant electricity fluctuation and irregular power availability for irrigation are daily problems faced by many farmers for a long time.
If one travels through the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, especially during the early morning or late night hours, one can see farmers sitting next to their motor pumps waiting for electricity, to irrigate their crops.
Though many farmers use diesel operated pumps, a suitable alternative, which requires neither diesel nor electricity and yet meets their irrigation requirements, may be welcome.
Mr. N. Sakthimainthan, paddy farmer of Nannilam village, Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu, says that a simple hand-operated water-lifting device developed by him may be helpful to small farmers who are looking for a suitable alternative.
“With zero installation and running and maintenance cost, this is a very useful product for marginal farmers. Being portable to fit at any site, and simple to use, it is best suited for their routine work in all seasons and requires just one person to run the equipment,” says Prof Anil Gupta, Vice Chairman, National Innovation Foundation (NIF), Ahmedabad.
The farmer grows paddy in his one acre and to0 meet his irrigation needs, he used to laboriously collect overflowing water from nearby fields and well using a bowl like structure made of discarded tyre tubes. As this work proved cumbersome and required additional labour to lift and pour the water into the fields, he decided to build a hand operated water-lifting device to irrigate the field from a canal or pond and drain out excess water from cultivated land.
First, he developed a machine using a wooden propeller and an iron rod to rotate but this mechanism did not work well, as the water flowed back.
He started to think up ideas to modify it and used an old air-blower to create vacuum suction for inflowing water and placed the impellers inside the suction.
But operating it proved difficult. So he fixed a chain and sprocket mechanism to overcome the trouble but still some water used to splash on the face of the operator while rotating the handle. To address this problem, he made a two-drive system with four impeller blades.
"But difficulty in operating the handle with this integration of impeller and air blowing device made me think of using iron frames, tin box, and cycle chain and sprocket mechanism," he says.
He demonstrated his product at the Aduthurai Agricultural College in Kumbakonam and the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University appreciated his efforts in developing this pump from locally available materials.
“But the farmer is still working to improve it as some aspects of the current product need attention.
“Since the discharge pipe is kept immersed in water continuously, it gets corroded over time and needs substitution by stainless steel pipe. Operating the unit by hand is difficult for long periods, and hence, a pedal operated version with provision for sitting is also being considered at present,” says Prof. Gupta. The farmer plans to build new lighter versions using engineering plastics.
How has the reaction been from his own village for his invention?
“Absolutely damaging, especially during the initial stages. Financial difficulties and ridicule from my fellow villagers sometimes depressed me but determination saw me through,” he says.
His hardship continued for a period of fifteen years. During which, he made five different versions of the machine to get it right finally.
The farmer says that “technologies existing today which are claimed to be farmer friendly but in reality benefit only big farmers. Marginal and small farmers are still deprived of basic needs and good technologies.”
Apart from the water-lifting device, he has developed a low cost rope-making machine, which uses paddy straw and a self-operating irrigation pipe device to open and close canal pathways in the field according to water levels. A patent has been filed for the innovation by NIF.
Fore more details readers can contact Mr. N. Sakthimainthan, At No. 13, Sarkarai Kullath Theru, Nannilam, Thiruvarur, Tamil Nadu 610 105, mobile: 9345042176 and the foundation at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone: 079-26753338 and 26732456.