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Improved Irrigation in Central Uttar Pradesh, India

focusgroup_interviewThe northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India produces just enough food for its population of 190 million. The local government is seeking to increase agricultural production by bringing more lands under cultivation and increasing production intensity. The improvement of irrigation technology and practices is one strategy that could increase statewide agricultural production.

UC Davis D-Lab students Curran Hughes and Dylan Keith carried out a research trip to conduct preliminary background fieldwork on the potential for low-cost irrigation systems in central Uttar Pradesh and to make recommendations to the development company, Mera Gao Micro Grid Power (MGP) and their parent company Value Development Initiatives (VDI), regarding the potential to profitably enter the irrigation market in central UP. The students interviewed several farmers and merchants who supplied inputs to farmers and several state-level government officials and representatives from local and national level development organizations in the region.

Based on the fieldwork and interviews, the students found that there is a great potential demand for low cost irrigation supplies from smallholders in UP. There were noticable differences in business models followed by the low-cost drip and sprinkler supply companies and the level of training and after sales support they offered varied. Government subsidies,training and support provided by extension and these companies and demonstration plots would make it easy for the farmer to switch to these low cost irrigation solutions, however the specific benefits of low cost irrigation systems remain unclear. A study at UC Davis would recreate a study (Keller.J., J.N.Ray, et al. (2011). Leveraging Renewable Small-Plot Pumping Energy with Drip Irrigation) by Jack Keller and J.N.Ray, two of the engineers behind IDE products comparing different IDE-India drip systems against traditional flood irrigation techniques.

The UC Davis initial study conducted by graduate students in D-Lab 2011 compared IDE-I, Driptech and Jain irrigation technologies against traditional flood irrigation techniques.  The students later went on to design, build, and test in the field the technical and engineering parameters of gravity-driven drip irrigation systems for small-scale producers. They considered the system pressure requirements, plot layout, distribution uniformity,  water filtration mechanisms, system durability, slope, soil texture, cropping rotation, emitter type, and equipment cost. The idea was to provide both qualifiable and quantifiable results comparing different low-cost drip systems with respect to yield, labor for weeding, water requirements and overall performance. These statistics once developed will be used by MGP/VDI in order to recommend specific products to farmers.

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