The Elephant Pump in malawi

The same elephant pump that launched our work in 1998, is still a core part of our work today.

It is based on a traditional rope and washer pump which was first used in China 2,000 years ago.

This pump is ideal for the smaller villages we work in, which are excluded from larger projects due to their small size. Cheap to build, easy to install and using local materials, it has proved a successful piece of kit.

How does it work?

It sits above a well, which is dug by hand by local workers. This means it is easier to install on remote areas, where bringing in mechanical diggers would be costly.

Using local workers also gives them a sense of ownership for the project and ensures they have the skills to build and repair these pumps. 

The water from the well is lifted to the surface by a rope with small washers attached. This is guided through a pipe and around a wheel, which rotates when a user turns the handle to collect water.

Watch a video of how the pump works:

The pump is then encased in concrete to ensure that the water is not contaminated. The elephant pump is made up entirely of locally manufactured parts, which contributes to the local economy. This also means that communities are able to replace broken parts easily. Learn more about our community pump repairs.

What makes the elephant pump different from other technologies?

The elephant pump produces water that meets all safety standards, and is more reliable and is easier to repair than more expensive mechanical pumps. It is very simple to use and  to maintain. The pump has been internationally recognised in 2005 when it was awarded the St Andrews Medal for the Environment and again, in 2006, when it received the World Bank Development Marketplace Award for Development Innovations.

What are the benefits of installing an elephant pump?

For every water pump installed, there are more children in school and fewer people are sick from water-related illnesses. There are also more economic opportunities as people spend less time travelling to access water.

A protected water source prevents contamination from faecal matter, which leads to illnesses such as diarrhoea and, in some cases, death. These pumps transform lives forever.

Clean water is just the beginning.

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