Proximity Designs is a social enterprise in Myanmar that designs, makes and markets low-cost products and services to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of farmers, and boost incomes.
Their most recent development has been the launch of the Lotus, a ‘radically affordable’ solar irrigation pump. Offered as a complete package, the Lotus includes a pump, 260W of solar panels and stand, all for the price of $345. Most solar pumps are intended for large scale farming and will cost thousands of dollars.
The Lotus pump can yield more than 15,000 litres of water per day, and makes sustainable farming easy. U Myat Kyaing, the product’s first customer, describes ownership as ‘quiet and relaxing’. Proximity Designs estimates it will take farmers about 11 months to pay back the solar pump, with fuel and labour savings, when converting from a diesel pump. Farmers in dry zones of the country can expect this return to be even quicker.
USAID Ashden Award for Energy and Agriculture
Intended for local markets, it was a difficult challenge for designers to create a pump that fits neatly into the 2-inch tube well found throughout Myanmar. However it was necessary for the product to be accessible for rural farmers. In the Mandalay region for example, water levels are low and ever-decreasing, making it really important to have an alternative to increasingly expensive diesel pumps.
Interestingly, inspiration for the name ‘Lotus’ came from the unique design itself. “When you turn it upside down, you can see the inside workings of the pump. The curves reminded designers of the top view of a Lotus plant,” explains Fiona.
There are many parallels with the flower too –it lives in water, opens and closes in sunlight, is activated by solar energy. The Lotus hosts many positive connotations in Myanmar both culturally and symbolically. It is the perfect name for a local aquatic product powered by the sun.
The pump reflects Proximity’s dedication to working with farmers to supply the best products. “Proximity Designs is very focused on Myanmar farmers,” says Fiona. “Our customers are great at giving us honest, critical feedback to help us improve our products. To design well, we need to be close to our customers—hence Proximity Designs”.