28 Apr 2017 News and stories

Small Scale Irrigation

Hydraulic Ram Pumps are not only ideal for pushing up drinking water but are also perfect for upland farms where sources are lower situated.  Unfortunately, it is a forgotten technology.  When AIDFI was ready, after some years of developing its perfected ram model and had it proven in the field, it was trying hard to promote the technology.  This because it remains a ‘mystery’ why such an amazing technology of pumping water to high elevations with just the power of water never really spread (the world).  AIDFI had to spent on a marketing and sales staff in order to introduce the ram pump.  Imagine a room full of engineers in which only one or two had heard of the ram technology…..  We called this period of trying to introduce the unknown: shouting in the desert.

The first irrigation system was set up by Auke Idzenga, one of the four founders of AIDFI, before AIDFI was existing.  It was a system with three 4” ram pumps placed behind a dam, supplying water to Tuburan, a training farm in Bacolod City, Negros.

The second system was in Tara, Himamaylan, Negros Occidental which was partially constructed (dam) by the Office of the Provincial Agriculture and by AIDFI (with finances from the Province).  From the dam a ferro cement irrigation canal was partly embedded in the slope of the river and partially constructed as an aquaduct.  At the end of the canal a big catchment was supplying six 4” ram pumps parallel placed from each other.  The water was lifted to several ferro cement tanks spread over the rice and vegetable areas.  This project functioned as a demo site by the LGU of Himamaylan and stairs were constructed to make visits possible.  Many people came to see the system.  At that time the biggest pump was a 4”.  The site was filmed for the Ashden Award and AIDFI spent a part of the award price to install an additional 5” ram pump it just had developed.

Under the previous administration one of our friends and in the same time installer of AIDFI ram pumps in the past, was appointed before he was appointed as the Usec for Operations, the  director of the department’s High-Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP). He knew that the areas higher situated than the source and where high value crops could have a big impact, could be served by Hydraulic Ram Pumps.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) already had formulated new strategies on decentralization of irrigation systems.  One of the programs was and is the Small Scale Irrigation Systems which is under the HVCDP.  Through the suggestion of then already Usec Delima, the Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM) came with a delegation headed by Engr. Tess Sandoval.  AIDFI explained the uniqueness of its ram pump model and in the same time its approach around the technology in order to make the systems sustainable. We showed the delegation the shop in which the ram pumps is produced and a working model at the back of the shop.  This was 2011.

AIDFI had just won the Ramon Magsaysay Award that year and signed a contract with Coca-Cola and Earth Day Network on a big program for ram pumps called AGOS.  The BSWM invited AIDFI to be a resource person to explain and demonstrate on the ram technology to a group from the BSWM.  According to them they felt the sincerity and commitment on our end and they became convinced that the ram besides solar and windmill pumping would be an option for their Small Scale Irrigation Systems.  Then the BSWM through Engr. Sandoval came back to AIDFI with the question if we could implement 24 ram pump sites. With the Coca-Cola program we had however our hands full.  But AIDFI was so happy that the advocacy had paid off and that the ram technology became accepted, adapted and institutionalized, we couldn’t just say no.  We decided to contract twelve sites which we installed in Leon and Alimodian (Iloilo), Davao, Makilala (North CCotabato), Upi (Maguindanao), Sto. Tomas (Davao del Norte), Manuel Roxas (Zamboanga del Norte), Opol (Misamis Oriental), Kalilangan (Bukidnon), Lumbaca Unayan (Lanao del Sur) and Butuan City (Agusan del Sur).

The available budgets at that time per site was Php 500,000.- and everything had to be done within that budget (transportation ,hauling, materials and labor).  As a first step AIDFI would survey the site and come up with a technical study.  Then ‘play round’ or rather puzzle on how to maximize the available budget towards the biggest system possible.  Our system would often include a weir or min dam, diversion pipes, ram pumps, delivery line and a reservoir.  Many engineers and other people couldn’t believe that the whole system was done for that price.  AIDFI uses the ferro cement technology which are used for its structures like catchment,  housing for the ram pumps and circular reservoirs.  With circular tanks the thickness of the walls can be around 2 inches.  This had many advantages: less materials, less hauling, quick construction time, perfect sealing and earthquake proof.

The other twelve sites became somewhat problematic since there was no direct taker of the projects and the funds had to go to the LGU’s.  This would implicate bidding with contractors participating who had no or not much knowledge on the technology.  In some instances there were no takers at the LGU level and implementation much delayed.  BSWM expressed that they would have preferred AIDFI as the installer for the reason that we are highly committed to the technology and communities and maximize the budget into the system.  As a solution, AIDFI introduced also its trained installation teams from General Santos (NGO called PASALI), an engineer from Bontoc and the NGO IDEAS from Palawan.

All in all AIDFI has done itself some 23 ram pump systems all over the country and heard that lately 25 new sites were approved where AIDFI ram pumps will be installed.   Engr. Sandoval expressed her contentment and excitement over the technology as follows: “ram pump has emerged as one of the most sought irrigation systems nationwide.  This is because we have demonstrated your efficient technology coupled with acceptance by the recipients.”

One of the systems was unique in the sense that the newest (biggest) 6” ram pumps were used and that the system was done through counter parting from the farmers’ association in DAMA, La Castellana, Negros Occiddental.  The system taps a river with a 200 plus meter big iron diversion pipe of 14” ending in a catchment from where two 6” ram pumps are operating under a head of 2.63 meters and lifting the water to a 50m3 circular reservoir 51 meters higher than the pumps.  The output per pump is 56 liters/minute.  Compared to average ram pumps which pump at around 67% efficiency, the AIDFI 6” ram pumps at 77%. The water is used for flooding on a sugarcane field for muscovado sugar production and vegetables.  The system is so successful that the association has planned for another exactly similar system to augment the volume.   

In the meantime more and more people and groups or programs became convinced of the technology.  For example the Coffee Road Map (2011-2016) stated as one of their ideas Irrigation Development Services with installation of small scale irrigation system with alternative irrigation system.

Ram pumps are actually perfect for plants, trees and crops which don’t need massive flooding as type of irrigation.  A ram pump can be directly coupled to sprinklers since it always builds up enough pressure to operate the sprinklers or via a reservoir for drip irrigation. In short perfect for High Value Crops.

There are challenges on how to ensure that all systems implemented will be set up and work properly over time.  BSWM prefers AIDFI to do the job but also knows that AIDFI is very busy.  One option is to train more installation teams and have the projects negotiated on the national level rather than let the projects trickle down through the LGU’s.  The technology is too specific to find enough skilled people or teams to install.  But then who can provide the budget for training on ram pump installation and ferro cement construction? AIDFI would be happy to see a national government agency or program sponsor a training.

AIDFI plans to develop bigger ram pump sizes and hopes that financing institutions will absorb the ram pump in their loan programs.  The idea: serve more farmers and help the country get increased production and closer to self-sufficiency for certain crops. The ram is a perfect technology already described in the ‘Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997’ were it was mentioned that: Appropriate Technology shall be used to protect the environment, reduce cost of production, improve product quality and increase value-added for global competitiveness.

Article: Harnessing Renewable Energy Sources for Pumping Water by Engr. Jerson Pagador and Kriztian Renz Briol - September 17, 2012