The unrelenting heat of the summer afternoon sends us scurrying for cover under a large tree as we reach Dhundi village in Gujarat’s Kheda district. We are making our way to Udaysinh Chawda’s home.
It is a spacious thatched hut with mud walls and floors smeared with cow-dung. There are people winnowing and sifting grain, buffaloes chewing cud. Adjacent to the hut is a two-bigha field lush with bajra and maize crop. And conspicuous amid all the green are gleaming, evenly-spaced, ground-mounted solar panels. Chawda is a solar farmer. The blazing sun that’s making us wilt brings a smile to his face — to him it means power, copious water, and income.
Exactly two years after the launch of the world’s first solar irrigation cooperative here, the Dhundi Saur Urja Utpadak Sahakari Mandali or DSUUSM, nine famers, including Chawda, have become successful solar entrepreneurs: they harvest solar energy as they would a remunerative crop. They irrigate their fields using solar pumps, and they earn by selling surplus power to the Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Ltd., and by selling water to other farmers in the area.