It is a hand-to-mouth existence at the best of times, but in the dry season, when temperatures soar to 46C and his land is reduced to little more than a dust bowl, he faces a stark choice. Either he must hire an expensive diesel pump to irrigate his land, or move his family to the city, where they will live on the street while he looks for labouring work.
But that changed six months ago when he bought a treadle pump. This cheap, remarkably simple device, invented in Bangladesh, enables Dyal to farm his land all year round. Constructed from bamboo, plastic and steel, it operates like a step machine in a gym and draws groundwater for irrigation from a depth of 30ft, even in the height of summer.
These pumps are revolutionising subsistence farming in India - thanks, in part, to airline passengers from the UK. For farmers such as Ram Dyal, the benefits are simple: more produce to sell and no need to go to the city. But for Climate Care, the British firm that has helped to distribute some 500,000 treadle pumps in India, the added environmental benefit is the decline of the polluting diesel pump."
Below is a design detail description from the Ashden Awards website:
"The treadle pumps are manufactured under the name 'Krishak Bandhu' (meaning 'farmer's friend'), and are simply designed for people of all ages to operate. The operator stands on two bamboo or metal treadles, and pedals them with his or her feet in an action similar to using a step machine. Bamboo is usually used for the treadles because it is strong enough and cheaper than metal. The treadles operate two metal pump cylinders which are connected to a tube well or the surface of a body of water. The tube well is a length of robust, flexible plastic pipe which is sunk into the ground until it reaches an aquifer. To begin operation, water is poured into the cylinders to 'prime' the pump. The user then starts pedalling, and water flows directly onto the land or into irrigation canals. The pedalling action is easily mastered and most members of a household, including children, can take turns at it. Typically, the household will pump for two to eight hours a day.
IDEI has developed five models of pump for commercial production, to suit different water conditions and different incomes. The pumps are designed to raise water through a maximum vertical distance of either seven or eight metres, and with maximum flow rates of up to 6,000 or 5,000 litres per hour.
All components of the pumps are manufactured locally, and IDEI has successfully developed a supply chain to produce and distribute them. The pumps are produced under the Krishak Bandhu (KB) brand by 17 licensed manufacturers, who sell through 284 distributors to around 1,850 dealers and 4,625 installers. Mechanics with expertise in tube wells are trained to install the pumps. 510,000 pumps had been installed by March 2006, bringing benefits to over 2.5 million people. There are no concerns at this stage that this will adversely affect the level of the water table, because it is replenished each year by the monsoon".
Image credit: Ashden Awards site.