News from the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI) Meeting in Tunis

WaterSan Perspective

George Mhango, Tunis in Tunisia
March 27, 2013

Over 150 delegates including, ministers, CSO leaders and experts in water and sanitation have converged in the Tunisian capital Tunis for the meeting to launch the Regional Coordination Committee of the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI).

RWSSI was launched in 2003 by the African Development Bank with an overall goal of universal access to water supply and sanitation services for the rural populations by 2025 with an immediate target of 80 percent coverage by 2015.

Delegates at the conference going on at Ramada Plaza in Tunis heard from various dignitaries including Bai Mass Taal, the Executive Secretary for African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW).

Taal noted that AMCOW had adopted RWSSI in recognition of the need to focus on this under-prioritized subsector.

While presenting the Terms of References for Regional Coordination Committee, Osward Mulenga Chanda, the Manager for Water and…

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Rural water supply for all, forever: Can Nicaragua become an example?

by H. Holtslag  J. de Jongh

Of the 780 million people worldwide without an improved water source some 80% live in rural areas. In sub-Saharan countries some 35% of the rural water points are not functioning. A country with a remarkable and sustainable increase in rural water supply is Nicaragua. This country has 6 million people of which some 43% live in rural areas. With development aid an innovative low cost hand pump was introduced in 1987.  By 1995 this pump became an integral part of rural water programmes of NGOs and government agencies. Rural water supply coverage between 1987 and 1995 doubled from approximately 27.5% to 54.8%. Of this  27.3%, rope pumps account for 23.6% (85% of the total increase). *

Now, 25 years later the situation is:

  1. Over 70.000 rope pumps on boreholes and hand dug wells. Cost /pump 70-150 US$
  2. Besides handpowered also pedal, horse, engine and wind powered models developed
  3. Some 10 workshops produce the pumps and another 8 outlets sell the pump
  4. 10 to 20% of the pumps are used for communal supply, the rest for self supply
  5. Even pumps that are given away in general remain working
  6. The scaling up is also thanks to the government who made it a national standard pump
  7. Most pumps are funded by Government or NGOs, some 30% is paid by private families
  8. Over 90% of the all pumps are working (Evaluation of IRC) ** This high % is explained by its repairability. (Simplicity, Low cost, decentralised production, spares available )
  9. The maintenance consist of replacement of the rope and pistons and oiling bushings
  10. The shift from imported piston pumps like Indian Mark 2 to locally produced rope pumps increased the rural water supply 3 x faster than countries without the ropepump
  11. The number of imported piston pumps has reduced to less than 2% of all hand pumps
  12. The rope pump is now by far the most used technology for rural water supply
  13. In some areas families now get piped systems or get electricity and buy an electric pump but most families will still use the rope pump for cattle watering or irrigation
  14. A market for 200.000 more handpumps (study Water & Sanitation Program, Worldbank)
  15. Even 8.000 $ boreholes of 70 meters deep are equipped with 140 $ rope pumps!
  16. All this goes on since 1998 without any NGO or external advisors involved
  17. A study of effects of water for rural families (5015 families studied) concluded

– a well increases incomes of small farmers with 30%

– a rope pump on that well increases again average incomes with $220/year **

The total investment in these pumps was USD1 million in training etc and some USD8million in pumps. The result is an increase of the GNP of USD100 million since 1990 due to family rope pumps.  There is much to improve on both pump quality and installation and some workshops make bad pumps but the pumps work and generate income for producers and users. The development in the rural area is notable and rope pumps are a step on the water ladder.

Nicaragua is an example that, where water levels are less than 50 meters and low cost wells can be made,  the rural water supply can increase drastically at investment costs of 5 to 15US$/capita.   What is possible in Nicaragua seems possible in many other countries.


* Alberts, H. 2004 The rope pump: An example of technology transfer. Waterlines 22(3), 22–25.

* Alberts. H.,Zee. J van der (No date). A multi sectoral approach to sustainable rural water supply in Nicaragua: The role of the rope handpump. Available on

** IRC 1995 Nicaraguan experiences with rope pump.

*** Zee. J.v.d Field study involving 5025 families in Nicaragua, CESADE/ICCO

Publication “Smart Water Solutions” of Netherlands Water Partnership. Other booklets in the Smart serie on

Sanitation, Water harvesting Hygiene, Finance and Disinfection , or

Promising solutions for Operations and Maintenance in rural Uganda

by Francis Mujuni, World Vision Uganda
One of the challenges facing the Water sector in rural areas in Uganda is the non-functionality of hand pumps due unaffordable hand pump spare parts and limited financial base for paying the hand pump mechanics (HPM) and hence a major hindrance in the  access to safe and clean water.
New Picture
Francis Mujuni,
Northern Region Coordinator,
Uganda Water Sanitation and Hygiene Project,
World Vision Uganda

Rural poverty, although not homogeneous, is deep and widespread. The widely cited “dollar-a-day” poverty measure conceals the fact that individuals in many rural Ugandan households handle cash sums much smaller than a dollar. Households and communities where income-generating opportunities are very limited simply cannot pay the tariffs required for hand pump operation and maintenance (O&M). Cash which is always scarce is used for very essential commodities like food and shelter but not for water which traditionally has always been seen as a “God given gift” to humanity to be enjoyed naturally by everyone, freely!
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Reflection on last week’s Sustainability Forum in Washington DC

water services that last

By: Harold Lockwood, Aguaconsult and Triple-S

Just back from the WASH sustainability forum in Washington DC and as the dust settles, it is time to pick up on the blog I wrote in anticipation of the two days of discussion, reflection, and sharing. How did it all go? Did the earth move under our feet? Well, perhaps predictably the answer to that one is ‘no’ – very few one-off meetings or events are earth-shattering in that sense – but all in all, it was a good meeting and a good week.


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World Water Day – Is the Hand-pump dead?

Broken India Mk II in Eritrea (Skat)

In this short blog series on the successes of India Mark II, Afridev and Bush Pumps, however the challenges and set-backs that were encountered by these designs shouldn’t be discounted. Nor should it be overlooked that there are also successful proprietary designs, and self supply options like the EMAS Pump and the Rope Pump. However it is worth highlighting the heroic efforts of those people from all the different countries and organisations and what they achieved for rural water supplies worldwide.

In today’s debate, the humble hand-pump gets the part the villain: the rusting carcass in the corner of too many villages, or the subject of frightening statistics about how many are probably not in use at any one time, and how long they are out of service for. Many of the problems, framed in that weaselly catch-all “sustainability” have remained – doggedly – since the 1970s and before: pump manufacturing quality is often poor, boreholes are drilled badly, supply chains for spare parts fail, pump mechanic skills are lost, not enough money is collected to pay for the maintenance and replacement costs.

Continue reading “World Water Day – Is the Hand-pump dead?”

How three handpumps revolutionised Rural Water Supplies: the Zimbabwe Bush Pump

The Bush Pump has been serving the people of Zimbabwe for 80 years.How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supplies

In the new publication “How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supplies” from RWSN, Erich Baumann explains how three handpumps, the India Mark II, the Afridev, and the Zimbabwe Bush Pump were developed and Sean Furey explores what lessons can be learned for scaling up WASH technologies today.

Unlike other handpumps used across the world, the Bush Pump has a long history. It was born in Zimbabwe in 1933, and designed by Tommy Murgatroyd, a Government Water Supply Officer in Matabeleland. Murgatroyd established the basic components of all later Bush Pumps – a wooden block, a strong pump stand and heavy-duty components.
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How three handpumps revolutionised Rural Water Supplies: the Afridev

1980 to 1990 was the International Decade of Water Supply and Sanitation and the greatest hand-pump project began.How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supply

In the new publication “How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supplies” from RWSN, Erich Baumann explains how three handpumps, the India Mark II, the Afridev, and the Zimbabwe Bush Pump were developed and Sean Furey explores what lessons can be learned for scaling up WASH technologies today.

As part of that UNDP and the World Bank established a joint Water & Sanitation Program (WSP, which still exists as part of the World Bank) and one of its flagship projects was the Hand-pump Project, led by Saul Arlosoroff, which rigorously tested all the hand-pumps around the world that they could get their hands on. Their final report “Community Water Supply: the Hand pump Option” (1987) is still the defining text in hand-pump literature.

The hand-pump project also defined Village Level Operation & Maintenance (VLOM), the concept of making hand-pumps easier to maintain by the users so that minor breakdowns could be repaired quickly.  The India Mark II was not a VLOM pump because it required specialist tools and some skill and strength to make repairs to the pump cylinder down in the borehole. This was addressed through a design revision, imaginatively called the India Mark III. However the hand-pump team throught they could still do better and so two handpump design projects began.

Continue reading “How three handpumps revolutionised Rural Water Supplies: the Afridev”

How three handpumps revolutionised Rural Water Supplies: the India Mark II

How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supply1974: UNICEF reviewed their water supply programme in India. The results were shocking: of the tens of thousands of wells drilled over the previous seven years, 75% were not supplying water.

In the new publication “How Three Handpumps Revolutionised Rural Water Supplies” from RWSN, Erich Baumann explains how three handpumps, the India Mark II, the Afridev, and the Zimbabwe Bush Pump were developed and Sean Furey explores what lessons can be learned for scaling up WASH technologies today.

In the mid 1960s, drought ravaged India, and the Government of India asked UNICEF for help with improving access to water through borehole drilling. In the following years, the emergency drilling campaign evolved into a broader national programme to improve rural water supplies, but the attention was focused on the drilling and the boreholes. No one gave the hand-pumps that went on them much thought. That all changed in 1974.

Continue reading “How three handpumps revolutionised Rural Water Supplies: the India Mark II”