52 Pumps in 52 Weeks manifested late one night in Kedougou, Senegal at an appropriate technologies training facilitated by Peace Corps Volunteer David Campbell. Initially, we were there just to learn with no real plans for the future of the pump, but as usually happens when too many dedicated volunteers get together in one place, we started planning. Through these discussions we (Marcie and Garrison) found common interests in water issues in our regions of Senegal as well as similar hopes for the rope pump. Ultimately, we decided to work together on this project because we share an enthusiasm not just for extending pumps, but for doing so through a sustainable process that creates ownership of the system, from construction to installation, for those to whom the pumps belong, our Senegalese community members. We do not want to give hand outs and be the sole benefactors of our communities’ success, we want to be a catalyst for them to succeed on their own.
In the true zealous spirit of Peace Corps Senegal, we have designed an ambitious project whereby we will install 52 rope pumps in 52 weeks in the Kolda and Kaolack regions of Senegal; that’s one every week for an entire year. The process is simple: we find a group in need or they find us, be it a school, a woman’s group, or co-operative. They pay 15,000 cfa, which is the equivalent of roughly $30, only about a third of the actual cost, and we provide the rest. The villagers do the prep work for the well cap while simultaneously our team, composed of Senegalese counterparts, welders, and ourselves, come to the site and give a training on how the pump works and, more importantly, how to fix it if it breaks. Lastly, as a team of everyone involved, we do the installation.
Why Rope Pumps
The rope pump is remarkably simple, as one can see from the diagram. It has a sizable output and unlike many motorized or imported pumps, all of the materials are locally available, inexpensive, and easily repaired. Large scale production of such a simple technology ensures that not only are many people benefiting, but that our communities will have the infrastructure to maintain the pumps. They will also have the opportunity to expand beyond the scope of the original project, if they so desire, without further outside assistance. The community contribution goes to impart a sense of personal investment in the project helping to ensure that owners take advantage of this infrastructure to maintain the pumps. After constructing, installing and maintaining 26 pumps each, our metal workers will also be well versed in the process and will have capital to continue a lucrative and beneficial local business constructing and installing pumps at an affordable price. This project is the definition of an appropriate technology- a beneficial and economically sustainable product for all parties involved that can be produced and installed locally with minimal initial outside stimulus.
Why Water Projects
Almost all villages and many cities in Senegal rely on hand dug wells for drinking and irrigation water. While pulling a few buckets for everyday household needs is manageable, pulling enough water for a hectare sized community garden can be excruciatingly difficult. In Senegal it is almost exclusively women who pull water and this difficult, time consuming task is most certainly limiting their capacity to excel in other areas. The executive director for the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women said that “Women’s strength, women’s industry, women’s wisdom are humankind’s greatest untapped resource.” It is our hope that these pumps will ease the difficulty and increase the overall speed of pulling water, freeing women to either expand their agricultural production, thereby increasing their food security and economic independence, or allow them to engage in secondary income generating activities for which they may previously not have had the time to explore.
Too often development workers run around selling snake oil, yet endlessly praise their projects and processes in order to secure future funding. We aren’t here to do that. We believe wholeheartedly in this technology, but on this site we will talk candidly about the problems we face while working hard to find appropriate sustainable solutions. 52 pumps are helpful, but not nearly as helpful as the information we could glean, if we’re diligent in our count from 1-52, that might someday make it possible to scale up to 10,000 rope pumps in all of Senegal.