Zimbabwe – Elephant Pump prevents water contamination

Zimbabwe – In 1999, when Ian Thorpe was teaching English in rural Zimbabwe, two pupils at his primary school died of dysentery after drinking water from a local well into which a snake had fallen and decomposed. The shocking incident drove Thorpe – with two former teacher colleagues, Tendai Mawunga and Amos Chiungo – to develop an inexpensive (US$400) contamination-proof pump.

Thorpe’s team adapted an ancient Chinese technology that used bamboo for pipes and sisal rope and discs of leather to bring buckets of water from hand-dug wells. The “Elephant Pump” has a concrete casing protecting water from contamination. It is simple enough for a five-year-old to use.

Winning a Development Marketplace grant of US$120,000 in 2006 allowed Thorp’s PumpAid – a U.K.-based international charity – to expand its nascent program beyond a few schools and villages and install 1,000 pumps that benefited 250,000 Zimbabweans.

Development Marketplace funds were also used to create the Elephant Toilet, an innovative, low-cost, low-maintenance approach to sanitation.

Below are links to “Elephant Pump” and “Elephant Toilet” videos:

6 responses to “Zimbabwe – Elephant Pump prevents water contamination

  1. Thank you for bringing the Elephant Pump to your readers’ attention.

    Currently over 80 Elephant Pumps are built each month, which result in 20,000 additional people benefiting from access to clean water. Over 5,000 Elephant Pumps have been built across Zimbabwe, Malawi and Liberia giving clean, accessible water to over 1.3 million people.

    Our Elephant Pumps cost a tenth of what other pumps can cost and are just as effective. Approximately 90% of Elephant Pumps are in operation at any one time – this compares to 50% of piston pumps.

    Furthermore, when a Pump is built, beneficiaries receive a training workshop so that they can maintain the Pump using easy to find materials such as plant fibres.

    To improve health further and provide a source of income generation alongside every Pump, Pump Aid establishes a nutrition garden which is irrigated using overflow water from the Pump. These nutrition gardens can be used to grow vegetables so the people can enjoy a healthy diet and grow enough produce to sell at local markets. Productive trees are also planted to combat deforestation, improve soil cover and increase re-infiltration rates when rains come, ensuring the long term sustainability of ground water supplies. Agricultural training is given when planting the nutrition gardens, ensuring the gardens are maintained by the communities themselves.

    Pump Aid has recently been chosen as the UK NGO partner to Live Earth 2010. On April 18th 2010 Live Earth returns, turning its attention and significant influence onto the global water challenge. The Live Earth Run for Water global events on 18th April 2010 will be the single biggest fundraising effort for water causes in history. Nearly 1 billion people across the world do not have access to clean water impacting on poverty and increasing disease – around 4,000 children die every day from dirty water. More than 100 countries across the globe will participate in raising money for water causes by staging 6 kilometer run/walk events. London and Manchester will be hosting the UK events with all the funds raised going straight to Pump Aid projects.

    £500 is all it takes to build an Elephant Pump which can give 250 people a continuous supply of clean and disease-free water for life. Our goal is to get at least 14,000 people in the UK taking part in Run for Water. If everyone could raise £500 in sponsorship, Pump Aid could help 3.5 million more people – that’s the size of the population of Liberia.

    The potential is massive so please get involved.

  2. well needed to ask if you are manufacturing the elephant pump on your own or are u buying the parts and installing.. please assist

  3. Please supply me with a e/mail address of your Zimbabwe Pump Aid Manager so that I can apply for a Pump for Kaswa Primary School in Burma Valley near Mutare, which needs piped water.

  4. Hands down to Ian Thorpe for being cost-effective in developing contamination-proof pump. There are so many things that we can still learn from ancient technology. They are so wise to adapt it from ancient Chinese technology. Wow I am so amazed that they were given a grant and install a thousand pumps that benefitted 250,000 people. Now the “Elephant Pump” will not be forgotten, it will be always in our history.

  5. Vitalis Tanhamira

    Hi were can i get the rope of the elephant pump in Zimbabwe.need to replace the one that was there it just cut off due to aging.mu name is vitalis Tanhamira frm mutoko.

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