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.