Pump Aid

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Pump Aid
Motto Beyond Water
Formation 1998
Type Non-governmental organisation
Legal status Registered charity
Purpose Water and sanitation
Headquarters Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London EC2A 4LT
Region served
Chief Executive
Michael Chuter
Main organ
Board of Trustees
Website www.pumpaid.org

Pump Aid is an international water and sanitation charity based in Africa and the UK. The charity establishes sustainable supplies of clean water and mechanisms to create safer sanitation, using innovative yet simple technologies that can be locally maintained. Pump Aid works to improve health and support the local agriculture and economies. Rural community members can utilise the clean water source for drinking, washing, and irrigation—which can lead to generating income from their vegetable crops.

As of 2015, Pump Aid had offices in Malawi and London, and employed more than 60 people,[1] most of whom are national staff in Malawi trained in well-digging and water-pump installation.

The charity's 2014-15 turnover was just under £1million.[1]


Pump Aid was founded in 1998 by three teachers working in a rural primary school in Zimbabwe. Two of their pupils fell ill from contaminated water and died.[2] Teachers Ian Thorpe, Tendai Mawunga and Amos Chitungo began working on a cheap and sustainable mechanism that could provide local communities with clean drinking water. They developed the Elephant Pump, a very simple design using natural resources from the communities.[1][3]

Elephant Pump[edit]

The Elephant Pump, designed by Pump Aid based on a 3,000-year-old Chinese design,[1] is built from rope, a plastic pipe, some rubber washers, and a winding wheel.[4] The name "Elephant Pump" refers to the device's strength, shape, and reliability.[5] The pump can lift water from depths of 30 meters (98 ft), and can produce 1 litre (0.26 US gal) of water per second.[3]

The Elephant Pump's design won the 1995 St Andrews Prize for the Environment for Pump Aid.[2] The World Bank awarded a Development Marketplace grant in the amount of 120,000 United States dollars to Pump Aid in 2006, funding 1,000 pumps and enabling the development of the Elephant Toilet.[6][7] The Elephant Pump has now provided over 1.35 million people in rural areas of Zimbabwe, Liberia and Malawi with clean, safe water.[8] Elephant Pumps can be maintained by poor rural communities without any assistance.[3] Pumps are built in response to grassroots demand and in full consultation with the local community. The local community come together to assist in the building process, providing materials such as bricks, sand, stones and unskilled labour. This means that they also have the skills to maintain and repair the pump should they need to. [9] The Elephant Pump can also supply water for irrigating nutrition gardens where communities can grow crops to improve their diet and sell the surplus.

The cost of an Elephant Pump is a combination of two elements: ‘Hardware’ and ‘Installation’. The total cost of providing the hardware for the Elephant Pump is around £900, with small variances on items such as cement. The cost of installation includes items such as survey cost, well digging, bricks, and in country costs of staff and fuel etc. As a benchmark these have averaged in Malawi, for example, at £3000 per Elephant Pump installation.

Elephant Toilet[edit]

Clean, safe sanitation is not available to 2.5 billion people worldwide who lack access to toilet facilities.[10] The Elephant Toilet was designed by Pump Aid to use locally sourced materials and provide a durable, sanitary waste facility. The user squats with their feet in two depressions, the "ears" of the elephant. A shallow duct, the "trunk", slopes forward, diverting urine to a straw-filled hole where it is converted to fertiliser. By keeping urine out of the excrement pit, the excrement remains dry and therefore rots faster, preventing the latrine from overfilling as easily. This improves the lifespan of the latrine, and thereby improves sanitation.[11] An internal chimney uses the perforated bottom half of a plastic bottle as a cap; sunlight heats air in the cap, causing it to rise and drawing odors and flies through the chimney. The flies are trapped by the chimney system.[12]

The Elephant Toilet was awarded the 2008 St Andrews Prize for the Environment.[13] The toilets use just one bag of cement in their construction, along with castoff materials such as ballpoint pens and plastic bottles. Sesal, a local plant with antiseptic properties, is grown outside each toilet, and users pick a leaf to use as soap.[12]


International musician Corinne Bailey Rae has been a Goodwill Ambassador for Pump Aid since 2007.[14] Corinne visited a Pump Aid project in Malawi in 2007. "I didn't realise just how amazing this organisation was until I went to Malawi in September," Rae told The Guardian. "We were brought up thinking of Africa as this dry, 'cursed' continent, but there is water—you just have to go down deep enough to find it."[15]


  1. ^ a b c d "Snakes in a well, poison water—all in an actor's life". This is Exeter. 19 June 2010. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Lavery, Mark (17 December 2005). "Water, the ultimate Christmas present". Yorkshire Evening Post. Leeds, UK: Yorkshire Post Newspapers. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c Alexander, Douglas (29 December 2008). "There can be no greater cause: dirty water kills". The Times. London: Times Newspapers. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  4. ^ Parris, Matthew (1 January 2009). "How a simple rope and pump turned me from sceptic to believer in overseas aid". The Times. London: Times Newspapers. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  5. ^ Sugden, Joanna (18 January 2010). "Live Earth picks the British charity Pump Aid to bring water to 3.5m people". The Times. London: Times Newspapers. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "Elephant Pumps and Digitization Help Reduce Poverty through Innovation". WBI in Action. World Bank Institute. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  7. ^ "Development Marketplace Grants: Three success stories—Zimbabwe, Malawi, Viet Nam, India" (Press release). The World Bank Group. 2010-01-05. Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  8. ^ Leitch, Luke (5 December 2008). "Water, water, but not a safe drop to drink". The Times. London: Times Newspapers. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  9. ^ Raath, Jan (16 December 2008). "Digging deep to give poor Zimbabwean villagers life-saving water". The Times. London: Times Newspapers. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  10. ^ "Our Work". World Toilet Organization. World Toilet Organization. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  11. ^ Parris, Matthew (13 December 2008). "Hundreds gather in Malawi to sing praises of Pump Aid". The Times. London: Times Newspapers. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  12. ^ a b Bennett, Rosemary (3 December 2008). "Justice is seen to be done as Elephant Toilet puts paid to the inconvenient courtroom". The Times. London: Times Newspapers. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  13. ^ "St Andrews Prize for the Environment Celebrates its Tenth Anniversary $135,000 in Prize Awards; Elephant Toilet Wins This Year" (Press release). The St Andrews Prize for the Environment. 2008-04-13. Retrieved 2010-09-26. 
  14. ^ "Corinne Bailey-Rae". Pump Aid. London: Pump Aid. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 
  15. ^ Wiseman, Eva (27 January 2008). "Corinne Bailey Rae: 'It's mad we think tap water isn't good enough for us'". The Observer. London: Guardian News and Media. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 26 September 2010. 

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