1980 to 1990 was the International Decade of Water Supply and Sanitation and the greatest hand-pump project began.
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.
The Afridev started life as being called the Maldev, because it was developed in Malawi, but its potential was seized upon as a community deep well hand-pump for Africa. As with the India Mark II, a collaborative team from different organisations came together and rigorous developed and tested it as a true VLOM pump that would require only one tool to take apart and used components that could nearly all be manufactured locally. Like the India Mark II and III, the Afridev was a public domain standard, meaning that anyone could take the plans and make them. This had some drawbacks in terms of quality control, but the uptake by manufacturers was rapid. However it did not spur a new industry in Africa as was anticipated and hoped for. In only a few cases could new African enterprises make headway against the already formidable Indian manufacturers, who already had the tools, the skills and the business infrastructure to quickly add the Afridev to their portfolios.
Over the last two decades the Afridev has become second only to the India Mark II in uptake and scale.
Another pump project of the 1980s was the Tara of Bangladesh. “Tara” means “star” in Bengali (but also means “lazy old bum” in the colloquial Spanish of Bolivia, so had to be renamed in that region!). Unlike the India Mark II and the Afridev, it was a direct action pump, meaning that the user got no mechanical advantage from a lever. This limited its pumping depth to about 15m. However, in Bangladesh where groundwater was generally shallow, this was not a problem. In this context what was needed was a VLOM pump that was cheap and robust and could replace suction pumps that could only be used where groundwater was less than seven metres from the surface. UNICEF and the WSP team worked with the Public Health Engineering Department and other partners on a series of organised stages, tested and refined the Tara. Even before the test was finished, the pump design had been adopted by the Indian pump manufacturers with gusto. By the 1990s they were being manufactured and installed in their tens of thousands
Tomorrow: the Zimbabwe Bush Pump