Thursday, November 03, 2005

PUMP AID : A Promise Honored

Pump Aid was was founded in Africa and is now a registered charity in the UK. The organization was founded by Ian Thorpe together with Tendai Mawunga, Amos Chitungo and other members of the rural community in Mutasa District of Zimbabwe. At the time Ian, Tendai and Amos were all teachers at a poor rural school in the District. Ian traveled from the UK to teach at this school. And when he arrived, like everyone else, he had to walk a mile to collect water in buckets from an unprotected source.

Most of the people in the area did not boil their drinking water. This was due to a shortage of firewood and the high cost of paraffin. But it also led to an outbreak of dysentery when a snake fell into the water source and decomposed. Three deaths resulted from this incident, two of the dead were children at the primary school and the other was an elderly teacher at the secondary school.

As Ian integrated into the community, he learned Shona, the local language, met and became friends with Chief, Abisha Mutasa, who was the Paramount Chief for the whole of Zimbabwe.

Chief Abisha Mutasa's direct ancestor had been the only chief to negotiate a real agreement with Cecil Rhodes. Through this agreement, Rhodes was given land in return for a promise to assist the local people in various ways. Rhodes did not honor his agreement and no assistance was forthcoming. The Chief traveled to England to meet with Queen Victoria and redress his grievance with her agent Rhodes. In doing so, Chief Abisha Mutasa's ancestor became the first Zimbabwean to visit London. Ian was told by Chief Abisha Mutasa that the promise made by Rhodes had still not yet been honored by the British. Nonetheless Ian was given a place to build his house and a position of responsibility among the Shona people. And Ian, like Rhodes was told that there was the expectation that Ian should in turn help the people to develop and break out of poverty.

One of the areas of particular concern that Abisha identified was the need for clean water and sustainable systems for irrigation. Chief Agisha also tasked Ian to help record the traditional Shona culture in order to preserve it. Much of it could be lost in a single generation if precautions were not taken.

A solution to the problem of sufficient clean water was partially solved when Ian met Bobby Lambert, who was working to introduce simple rope pumps for the purpose of irrigation in Zimbabwe. The people that were to become the Pump Aid team realized that the rope pump concept they redesigned what they had learned from Bobby Lambert and came up with what they call the Elephant Pump.

The Elephant Pump was field tested for two years and 100 pumps were constructed. By the year 2000 it was clear that the Elephant Pump had great potential as a "sustainable and appropriate technology."

Partnering with volunteers from the Universities of Cambridge and Durham, members of Pump Aid in Zimbabwe conducted three research expeditions. The expeditions collected data from the field trials and helped to generate the background of research needed for Pump Aid to expand its operations in Zimbabwe and also move it into Mozambique.

The last expedition was in 2000 and at that time ten demonstration pumps were built in the Manica Province of Mozambique and information was gathered for expansion of Pump Aids operations into that area.

Subsequently a grant was received from the National Lottery Community Fund, and that along with revenues from general fundraising in the UK and an additional grant from the Oak Foundation in Zimbabwe, Pump Aid was able to embark on a program to build 400 more pumps by the end of October 2002. This brought the number of Elephant Pumps in Zimbabwe to 500. Currently Pump Aid is building approximately 30 new pumps every month.

So now I guess you know that "Pump Aid tackles poverty by working with local communities to establish sustainable supplies of clean water for improved health and increased agricultural production."

The reason they do this is because they believe that "to break the cycle of poverty in Africa, access to clean water for drinking and water for irrigation must be improved."

The Elephant Pumps that Pump Aid designed provide clean drinking water and can also be used to sustain crops during the dry season or through periods when rains fail, as they have done this year. They are also technologically appropriate for the communities that they serve because they can be maintained by poor rural communities without any outside assistance. The pumps can also be built substantially by the local communities.

The concept of the Elephant Pump is based on a 2000 year old, very simple Chinese design and it is constructed from basic materials. In addition to that, it is very durable.

- The Elephant Pump is built by first digging a well, which is usually done by the local community.

- The well is then lined with bricks that prevent the walls collapsing while simultaneously allowing for the infiltration of ground water.

- A cement ring is placed at the top of the well to prevent burrowing animals entering and contaminating the water.

- An axle is then supported above the center of the well by two treated poles and a rope guide, which will be placed at the bottom of the well is assembled.

- After this, a nylon rope, with washers every 70cm, is threaded through the rope guide and PVC pipe. The choice of the washer size can allow for a large margin of error in the design, which will make the pump easier for the community to repair.

- A concrete housing, is assembled over the well, separate from the working mechanism of the pump, to further protect the source of water from contamination. A concrete slab with a removable lid is also employed to cover the top of the pump.

- Finally, the rope guide, PVC pipe, and nylon rope are lowered into the well, the two ends of the nylon rope are tied together before being looped over the central wheel on the axle and the concrete cover is put into place.

Pump Aids states that the "Elephant Pump yields about one litre of clean water every second for an average well depth of 20 metres." They estimate that about 50 new pumps can be built each month, mostly appropriately at poor rural schools. With each pump serving an average of 200 people 10,000 more people, mainly children, benefit from a sustainable supply of clean water each month.

If you would like a visual interpretation of this process there are pictures on Pump Aid's web site at: How It's Built

And if you are mechanically challenged like me, there is also a page on the web site that demonstrates graphically how the Elephant Pump works. How It Works

Pump Aid's operations seem to be going very well, and while they work mainly in Zimbabwe, they are expanding into Malawi and Mozambique. Additionally they have also been requested to provide assistance in several other African countries

Pump Aid does have an Urgent Schools Appeal in an effort to raise £100,000 that is needed to bring clean water to an identified 250,000 children at 500 schools in Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

During this time of famine, "many children have died due to water-related diseases. Nutrient powder "mahewu" is being delivered to schools under the emergency feeding programme in an effort to keep children alive. When this powder is mixed with dirty contaminated water however, it can result in potentially fatal diseases such as dysentery and cholera. Already some schools have been closed down due to severe water problems and the education of thousands of children is being disrupted."

At the risk of overrunning my self imposed limit to each article, I would also like to point out that Pump Aid states that it "costs just £200 to install an Elephant Pump at each school. £200 means a sustainable supply of clean water for around 500 children, 12 teachers and more than a dozen families living close to the school." The school children and their parents make some materials such as bricks and they also collect sand and stones as their contribution towards the building of the pump. Teachers and children are involved in the process of pump installation and they write letters and draw pictures for those who have sponsored the pump by way of thanks. Pump Aid is particularly keen to link Zimbabwean schools with schools in the UK.
More about this appeal can be read at: School Appeal

I have to close now, but I also have to say that presently Pump Aid operates in the Eastern Highlands province of Manicaland in Zimbabwe and has a field office at Watsomba in Mutasa District. A

Now, you have to give these people at Pump Aid Some LOVE, because Unlike Rhodes, Ian kept his promise to help the people of Zimbabwe. Where else can you provide 500 a sustainable supply of clean water for £200?

Pay Pump Aid a visit at PUMP AID .

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