The Playpump IV – Playpump vs. AfriDev

The fourth in a series of posts on the playpump. (Posts 123, 4, 5, 6)

I’ll start this post with a quote from the old Playpump International website FAQ (before they changed the website and made it into a blog):

Can the PlayPump system be operated by an adult?

The PlayPump system is very easy to use. Children can play on the merry-go-round, or adults can spin it by hand. The more people involved, the greater the production of water. The system requires less effort than the usual type of manually operated pump.

…less effort than the usual type of manually operated pump.” Based on what I’ve seen, this is flagrantly false. In fact it is so false that I don’t think anyone associated with Playpumps even makes this claim anymore. Still, it’s an important one to investigate.

When children don’t play enough to fill the watertank on a Playpump, women are left spinning the wheel manually to draw water. For many women, this is frustrating – especially, like in the below example, when their community used to have a simple AfriDev handpump, which was taken away in order to install the handpump.

Last week my friend Duncan McNicholl and I set off to investigate just how easy or hard it is to operate a Playpump manually. The challenge? How long would it take Duncan, an athletic 22 year old, to fill a 20L bucket manually with a Playpump. Just for fun, we repeated the same experiment with an AfriDev handpump. See the results for yourself (big shout-out to Josh Workman back in Canada for editing and uploading):

On a more serious note, after goofing off with our Playpump v. AfriDev race, we sat down with some of the head teachers at the school we were visiting to ask them a few questions about their Playpump. Here is their message for anyone thinking of installing more of these:

Hopefully someone will listen.

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24 responses to “The Playpump IV – Playpump vs. AfriDev

  1. Pingback: The Playpump « Barefoot Economics

  2. Pingback: The Playpump II « Barefoot Economics

  3. Great series on the playpump. Thanks for sharing your insight. I worked in Malawi few years ago with another Canadian NGO. They also do water projects in Northern Malawi. When I was there, talk of playpumps were just beginning, but after reading your blog I would definitely advise against it. Keep up your good work!

  4. Pingback: Playpumps « Water Wellness

  5. Nicely done boys. I wonder what Playpumps will think of this latest barrage.

  6. Really interesting post. I’d heard criticisms of these pumps, but the videos definitely drive it home!

  7. No two wells are the same, all have different depths, static water levels, yields etc…. making this excersise pointless, any engineer should see this!

  8. Here’s an experiment.

    Let’s all turn off the water in our respective homes and install a playpump and a handpump beside eachother at a nearby school. Then we’ll keep track which one we prefer using.

  9. I’d hardly call this pointless – pumping water 7m higher than you need to is wasteful at any well. Likewise, I think most people would choose to operate a lever rather than run in circles no matter where the well is.

  10. The Playpump is for lots of children to play on at a school, thats why merry -go-rounds exisit in every playpark in the world, because children LIKE playing on them ……
    Only one or two children can opperate ANY hand pump weather it is an Afridev, mono, orbit, india mark one or whatever and that is child labor!the comparison is pointless! there are over two hundred PlayPumps here in Lesotho and the kids love them, i cant see Malawi being that different.

    • It’s not that kids don’t like them. At most schools kids do play on Playpumps (except maybe where too many of them have gotten hurt) – just not enough to pump a significant amount of water.

      If you want provide schools with playground equipment, install playground equipment. If you want to supply them with water, install a pump…

  11. I would rather listen to Malawians to hear what they think of PlayPumps than assume that they are the same as people in Lesotho (or at least the same as how you see people in Lesotho). No two people, villages, or countries are the same. Also, if you look at the earlier posts regarding the PlayPump, you’ll see Owen’s discussion on how “outsiders” can get a very biased look at how well a community likes to use the PlayPump.

    Owen and Duncan – thanks for posting the videos and your further thoughts on this!

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  22. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to
    be really something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to
    get the hang of it!

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