What does a team of young people—the oldest being 32-years-old—working in the Netherlands have in common with poor farmers in the shadows of the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal? Everything.
They represent a future of clean energy, solving irrigation issues in far-flung regions which have limited water supply by utilizing a technique originally envision in theory by a Nepalese student named Pratap Thapa.
“I was teaching entrepreneurship and telling students they should come up with solutions to problems,” said Thapa. “That got me thinking about my own contribution and what I could offer.”
Thapa, whose parents own a farm, was acutely aware from the first-hand experience that Nepal suffered from a scarcity of water for crops, livestock, and drinking water.
“In many cases, the farmland has rivers and streams that flow right next to it,” said Thapa. “The question became how to get the water to the crops efficiently. I believed it could be done without an electric or diesel pump.”
Hence, the origins of the Barsha Pump, a word meaning shower or rain in Nepali.
Thapa, who was in graduate school pursuing his masters in Nepal, first presented his idea to a professor. “He thought it was interesting,” said Thapa, who later went to further his studies in the Netherlands. “That was encouraging.”
All that is needed for the Barsha pump is flowing water. The faster the flow, the more water you can pump.
While in the Netherlands, he posed the question to the other students on a business network, LinkedIn, about whether his idea had merit. It caught the attention of Fred Henny, who later became one of three founding partners in launching a business focusing on the Barsha Pump.
Thapa was more of a business developer than a designer, and so product design of the Barsha Pump was left to Henny. The other co-founding partner, which became known as an aQysta, was Lennart Budelmann, managing director.
“During our studies we began experimenting with the pump, making various prototypes,” said Thapa. On graduation in 2013, the young entrepreneurs started their company.
Today, aQysta’s products have reached to 18 countries. In the beginning, they focused on Nepal, but using satellite technology to identify a need; they have expanded to Indonesia, India, Malawi, Colombia, and other dry areas with water issues. The staff of aQysta has expanded to 30.
“We are getting inquiries from various other places, and we believe the Barsha system has global potential,” said Thapa, who returns to Nepal often. He met his wife, an Indonesian while exploring possibilities there.
Thapa describes the Barsha system as difficult to design but is simple to use in that it has no electronic components and does not need any fuel other than water that passes through it.
“If the wheel is not rotating, you would know why,” he said. “It’s purely a mechanical device.”
Other competitors are diesel and solar pumps. However, one takes fuel and produces greenhouse gases, and the other can only work during daylight hours. “The Barsha pump is active 24-7,” he added.
To date, with about 300 units have been distributed, the company is profitable. However, this is aided by various grants from such groups as the global Securing Water For Food program, supported by USAID, and the governments of the Netherlands, South Africa, and Sweden.
“All that is needed for the Barsha pump is flowing water. The faster the flow, the more water you can pump,” said Thapa. “However, it doesn’t need to be a fast current, but should be flowing the year-around.”
“We have proven the technology,” added Thapa. “To show scalability, we need to sell 10,000 units a year. We’re not there. We need to make the world more aware of the product and its benefits. We have no organized lobby for our product. It’s just our efforts.”
Each unit costs $1,200, which is more than a diesel pump, but less expensive to operate than a pump needing fuel.
“The initial idea may have been pointed out by me, but it is not just my story,” said Thapa. “It’s the story of a young, team, a team that got excited about doing what I am doing, improving the lives of people in Nepal, and others around the world.”
USAID, Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), and the Governments of The Netherlands and South Africa invested $34 million in Securing Water for Food (SWFF) to promote science and technology solutions that enable the production of more food with less water and/or make more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.
This story was developed through the SWFF Social Impact Storytelling Initiative which was established to document innovator journeys and social impact as they work to improve the way water is being used for agriculture. #socialimpact #innovation #agriculture #water