A group of farmers in a small village of Gujarat's Kheda district are no longer dependent just on agriculture for livelihood, they are now members of unique 'solar cooperative society' set up with the efforts of an international research organisation.
Secretary of Dhundi Solar Ujra Udpadak Sahakari Mandali, formed last year in November in Dhundi village of Kheda, Pravin Parmar said monthly income of about 16 farmers, members of the society, will now increase by nearly Rs 4,500, thanks to solar power plants installed in their farms.
Non-profit organisation International Water Management Institute (IWMI), headquartered in Colombo, Sri Lanka, under a pilot project installed six solar power panels at fields of six farmers in the village with a population of about 1,500, its senior fellow Anand-based economists Neha Durga and Tushaar Shah said.
Under the project, they said, the power generated will be sold to state discom, Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Ltd (MGVCL), besides use for irrigation purposes.
IWMI has installed the six panels in the last six months and simultaneously persuaded some farmers, including Pravin Parmar, to form a cooperative society to get optimum benefit out of the project, they said.
"A large number of farmers in the village don't use electricity in their fields as diesel pumps are very costly. There was a greater readiness among farmers to participate in this. They were also willing to contribute their hard-earned money for the project," Durga said.
Parmar said that IWMI has invested Rs 6 lakh for the panels, adding that a power purchase agreement (PPA) has been signed between Dhundi Solar Ujra Udpadak Sahakari Mandali and MGVCL under which farmers have started selling the power generated by the solar panels at the rate of Rs 4.63 per unit from today onwards.
"As per government norms, a cooperative society should have a minimum of 11 members, while our society has 16," he said.
Chairman of Mandali, Laxman Parmar said, "We are small farmers, we took the risk as we believe in cooperative model like successful Amul. Earlier, farmers spent about Rs 750 per day on fuel to electric pumps. Many of them gave up on using pumps as it required huge money.