Axial Flow Pumps: Climate-Smart Irrigation Technology for Bangladesh
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), with funding from USAID and Feed the Future, is working to solve the problem of costly and fuel-inefficient irrigation practices for smallholder farmers in Bangladesh. The technology has been scaled in Bangladesh by replacing less efficient surface water irrigation pumps and encouraging irrigation service provision business models, while aligning with the private sector to import, manufacture, and durably sell axial flow pumps in the Feed the Future zone. This project has impacted the lives of 38,045 people to date in Bangladesh.
Axial flow pumps (AFPs) are a climate-smart irrigation technology that delivers considerably more water while significantly reducing fuel energy use. AFPs are a reliable technology that lower the environmental footprint of surface water irrigation.
The development of the technology dates back to the 1960s in Vietnam and Thailand. Today, more than 1.5 million of these are used across East and Southeast Asia, serving as an energy-efficient and economically-viable alternative to traditional centrifugal pumps, especially in light of rising fuel costs and an increasing focus on utilizing surface water for irrigation in South Asia.
AFPs are widely referred to as ‘propeller pumps’ on account of their simple design and construction, which is basically a boat propeller inside a pipe. The pumps are easily powered with the engine of a twowheel tractor, mini-tiller (power weeder) or stationary engines and electric motors. They can also be powered directly by V-belts to external engines/motors as well as with engines/motors mounted to the pump via direct coupling.
While the initial cost of the AFP is 2-3 times higher than a centrifugal pump, their water discharge (within 3-9 feet lift height) can be more than double, using the same engine or motor. This results in enough fuel/energy savings to recover the initial added cost of the AFP in a single season. Further, when used for freshwater fisheries, drainage or irrigation, conventional steel sheets can be used keeping pump costs at approximately INR 13,000-20,000 depending on make, model and size. But if used for saltwater fisheries, AFP construction can require stainless steel that will increase the pump cost.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) is led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and implemented by a team of scientists and change-makers with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Operating across South Asia, CSISA works to increase the adoption of resource-conserving and climate-resilient technologies and improves farmers’ access to markets and enterprise development.