Most problems in development are not due to a lack of available knowledge or technology. The information is out there and most of the necessary inventions have already been made. The biggest problems are those of scalability and appropriateness within given circumstances. One technology which may work perfectly well in one instance could be utterly impracticable somewhere else or inappropriate on a larger scale. Because of this developing countries are littered with abandoned broken down projects or unequal distribution of working ones as good technologies are sadly not expanded beyond their initial areas. The rope pump is no exception.
Just 1 kilometer outside my village I was amazed to find several women’s groups with about 10 pumps each. These pumps were produced in one of the regional capitals for 6 times the price of our pump which makes them unthinkably expensive for any village to purchase on their own, hence why they were brought in by an NGO. The price difference is partially due to the fact that they are considerably more complicated than our pump and also because they are not produced locally. Both of these factors make this pump utterly inappropriate for this particular situation.
The complexity of the pump along with the lack of local producers means that when it breaks down, it doesn’t get fixed. The picture on the left shows a broken piece of one of the pumps which after several months still hasn’t been fixed. This means that during most of the gardening season this pump was unusable. Most of the pumps have rusting ball bearings and other parts which will soon need replacing, but there is not currently a system to maintain them at a local level. Even though the pumps are wonderfully successful right now, they will not last. Ensuring sustainability takes time and requires more than just an outright gift. It requires setting up local technicians, training villagers, and most importantly requiring that they contribute to the cost of the technology. This is absolutely essential to long term progress as it increases local accountability for maintenance and develops local capacities for organization, money handling, and long term planning.
We want to change the status quo: development work should increase local capacities rather than just provide noble gifts. Our pump is simple, cheap and locally produced which, while not guaranteeing longevity, certainly gives it a better chance of surviving past our time in Senegal. The key is creating profitable local markets. By establishing local businesses which can survive without outside influence there will be an incentive not only for quality control but also to maintain the pumps in order to ensure future business. Our project heavily subsidizes 52 rope pumps thereby helping to spread the technology and jump start the pump producers. Insha’Allah (god willing) after we’re finished these pumps will be available in numerous cities and towns at a price that individual people can afford.